Author Topic: Polite Complaining About Instructor? - update post #46, final post #65  (Read 12527 times)

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GSNW

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I am A N N O Y E D and I'm hoping I can phrase things firmly but politely to extricate myself from this situation. 

Here's the issue:  I finished my graduate degree in December, now I am taking another few classes at the same university to add another endorsement to my license.  The school I attend is a private university but until this point I have found it to be money well spent.  Some classes are all online, some all in person, some are a hybrid.  Both classes this semester are in person, three hours one day a week.  My first class is from 4pm-6:50pm and the next class is from 7pm-9:50pm.  Same campus, and this way I knock it all out in one night.

My 4pm class is awesome, the instructor is killing it.  My 7pm class is where I'm having the issues.  The instructor (Dr. Flake) announced the first night of class she would be canceling four of our classes right out of the gate due to "previous commitments" she has.  Dr. Flake told us that she is allowed to cancel a maximum of three, so the fourth cancellation would be made up through a community-based instruction (basically touring a facility that relates to our coursework) on a Monday at 9am.  Most of us in the class work for the same school district, so Dr. Flake picked the Monday of our scheduled spring break.  Many people stated that this doesn't work for them, Dr. Flake replied that in order to make up this class, they will be required to write a paper.

That struck me as unfair, but I wasn't going to argue the point in class.

Dr. Flake also stated that she feels the 7pm start time is too late, because "then we'll be in class until 10pm!" (well yes, that's the time we signed up for).  So in polling the members of the class, she discovered that out of 30 of us, about 25 have the same 4pm class (NOT my 4pm class, I'm one of five who are either in a different 4pm class OR do not have a 4pm class).  So Dr. Flake announced that class will start at 6:30pm from here on out, and if you're late who cares, but the instructor that the majority of people have has agreed to "work with" her and end the class in time for Dr. Flake's to start at 6:30.  So during the second week of class, I walked in at 6:55 and the class was already in full swing.  Awkward, embarrassing, and I missed 25 minutes of the lecture.   So did four other people. 

Today I received an email from Dr. Flake stating that next Wednesday's class is being moved to another location (about 20 minutes from the campus) and will begin at 5pm instead of 6:50.  I emailed her back and let her know I have a class at 4pm so "that will not be possible."  She replied, "The Muffy class is canceled next week," with the "Muffy" class being the 4pm the majority of my classmates have.  I replied to tell her that class is NOT my 4pm class, now she wants to know, "What is your class and who is your instructor?  I will email him/her."

Uh, no.  I have stopped replying at this point and I am going to email my advisor.  So, sorry about the lengthy background, here is the email I am working on:

Dear Dr. Advisor,

I am having some trouble adjusting to the cancellations and class time fluctuations in my SPED588 class.  Dr. Flake has canceled four class meetings, with one cancellation requiring our attendance at a make-up session outside of normal class hours.  She has also decreed that class will start 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled time, causing those of us who cannot leave our 4pm classes early to be late and miss instruction.  Finally, she has moved next week's class to another location and decided that it will start at 5pm.  When I explained to her that this is not possible for me due to my SECD541 class, her reply was to ask for the name of my instructor so she can speak with him.

Up until this point, I have felt that the considerable tuition I pay at (institution) is money well spent.  However, I am not okay with paying for a class that I cannot attend due to the instructor's continuing decisions to deviate from the schedule I signed up for.  If I have to drop the class at this point, I feel a full refund is fair.  I am also open to taking another class in this area beginning with the March sessions.  Please let me know how we can resolve this.

Sincerely,
GSNW

So, I don't want to be a brat but I'm angry that I'm paying for this class.  I feel like this is an extreme circumstance where exceptions to their normal add/drop and refund policies should be made.  Am I expressing this appropriately?
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 11:55:49 PM by GSNW »

Eden

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2014, 01:49:29 PM »
I think your letter is perfect. Not inflammatory. Just factual and transactional.

deadbody

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2014, 01:53:35 PM »
looks fine to me

mich3554

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2014, 01:54:35 PM »
I agree....your letter is perfect and I'd be furious beyond all belief if an instructor announced right off the bat that 4 classes (out of around 12 that are taught each semester.....that's 33%!) she was not going to be able to teach. 

Jacking around the the starting time/class location would be the cherry on top of the sundae.

I would not only send this to your advisor, but CC it to the registrar's office and the chair of the department that Dr. Flake is a part of as well.

FWIW, when I was working on my PhD, I had those very same class times and it was a struggle to get halfway across campus with only a 10 min break.  It made for a VERY long day.

MrTango

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2014, 02:00:10 PM »
I think your letter is perfect.  Send it to your advisor with CC to the dean's/registrar's office and the head of Dr. Flake's department.

Knitterly

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2014, 02:21:13 PM »
Agreed.  Your letter is perfectly polite, states the problem and offers a solution.  Send it as is, today, and please let us know what happens.

Coley

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2014, 02:23:47 PM »
Perfect. Straightforward and well said.

As an adjunct instructor myself, I cannot fathom making these kinds of scheduling changes. This simply would not be acceptable at my institution. In fact, the instructor may be violating the terms of her adjunct contract by cancelling these class periods and changing the schedule after the fact.

In addition to your adviser, I would recommend sending the letter to your adviser's supervisor. I'm not sure what the administrative chain is at your institution, but at mine, there is a director who has oversight of the evening program. That director is the person who is responsible for hiring instructors and managing contracts. The director also oversees the advisers, so most likely, your letter would end up in the director's hands anyway. Depending on the institution, there also may be a specific dean who is assigned oversight of the evening program. At my institution the level of involvement of department chairs with adjuncts is very limited, so the department chair wouldn't be useful to involve. But YMMV if your institution is structured differently than mine.

Good luck with this. I'll be interested to hear updates.

Lynn2000

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2014, 03:27:04 PM »
I think that is a great summation of the problem, and probably a lot shorter than I would come up with. :) In your third sentence, I might take out the word "decreed" and replace it with a more neutral "decided," but if you've already sent the note I wouldn't worry about it. I think your complaints are fully justified and if you don't get a satisfactory reply, I would keep going up the chain.

Actually I would probably drop the class at this point, because I doubt Dr. Flake is going to change things back or if she does, she'll be unprofessionally unhappy about it. So, I would be fighting to have my tuition payment for that class returned, and the dropped class expunged from my record so it wouldn't make me look bad.
~Lynn2000

bopper

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2014, 03:30:30 PM »
Maybe also talk to the Dean of Students about this.
Say that you specifically signed up for the 7:00pm class because it fit into your schedule. That you have plans for spring break because that is when it is according to the university calendar.

ellebelle

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2014, 03:36:31 PM »
FYI.....dean of Students has nothing to do with faculty performance at most colleges or Universities. You need to inform the program chair and Dean of the department.

However, that being said let me just forewarn you that if you cannot show that you have first tried to address this problem with the faculty (I actually wouldn't consider the communication you shared with us as addressing the problem) you may hit a wall.

These are one kind of issue my department deals with and because their are potential disciplinary or instructional concerns they will want to make sure there was every attempt by the student to provide the faculty an opportunity to rectify the situation.
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Margo

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2014, 03:42:10 PM »
the only word I would change is 'decreed'. I would change this to 'decided' or 'announced'.


Amara

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2014, 03:47:10 PM »
I program certain non-credit classes at my college, and if an instructor pulled even one quarter of what you have detailed above that instructor would be brought back into line swiftly for the remainder of the term and then never used again. In other words, no instructor has any right to change anything without going through us and certainly not without an excellent reason.

OP, your letter sounds good. I would want to clarify if the instructor really does have the right to cancel three classes. That seems off to me. Wouldn't she have known about her commitments ahead of time--or shouldn't she? And if she feels the start time is too late that is something that she needed to discuss with her programmer while they were scheduling the term. It is not on the students to accommodate her, and I would have gone straight to her supervisor when she began the changes. All of you picked her class because of the time and hours; changing them without excellent reasons is unacceptable. So be strong and hold your line.

Lynn2000

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2014, 03:58:26 PM »
However, that being said let me just forewarn you that if you cannot show that you have first tried to address this problem with the faculty (I actually wouldn't consider the communication you shared with us as addressing the problem) you may hit a wall.

These are one kind of issue my department deals with and because their are potential disciplinary or instructional concerns they will want to make sure there was every attempt by the student to provide the faculty an opportunity to rectify the situation.

I think this is a good point. I would still send the email to sort of get the problem on their radar, but if they say, "You need to show that you've spoken to the instructor first," then you can send a similar email to Dr. Flake. At my university, the semester just started three weeks ago, and won't end for maybe 13 more weeks. So, if Dr. Flake is responsive, there would probably be time for you to make up anything that's been lost (the lecture that started early, which you missed for example). Or, there might still be time for you to drop the class and get your refund automatically; after which, you could explain why you dropped, and ask that the note be removed from your record if you think it will make you look bad. (Here, lots of students drop and add classes before the final deadline, and no one seems to worry about how it looks, though.)

To me, it's more a question of timing. IME, to get a faculty member to do something they don't want to do is rather difficult and painful for everyone involved, and no one wants to get into a confrontation (I mean like the head of the department ordering Dr. Flake to hold the class at 7pm). So, you could complain through all the proper channels, but see no changes in the class structure for weeks, and have the extra stress for those weeks, and perhaps not be doing well in the class; and if you finally decided to drop it then, it'd be much more difficult to get your refund and the grade cleared.

That's just the structure I see at my university, which is obviously no universal standard. But from your description Dr. Flake seems like she might dig in her heels, especially because she seems to have the majority of the class "on her side," so if this isn't a class you need to take now, I would consider dropping it now just for my own sake, and pick it up again with another instructor, if that's possible. But definitely let people know why you're doing it.
~Lynn2000

Ceallach

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2014, 04:03:15 PM »
I don't understand why you would think it was bratty, it's a more than legitimate complaint, I would be shocked if you didn't raise the concerns.  Your wording is fine.

The instructor is appallingly unprofessional.
"Nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something"


mich3554

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Re: Polite Complaining About Instructor?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2014, 04:09:37 PM »
However, that being said let me just forewarn you that if you cannot show that you have first tried to address this problem with the faculty (I actually wouldn't consider the communication you shared with us as addressing the problem) you may hit a wall.

You mean to say that an instructor that comes in and say that they need to cancel 4 classes out of the semester is acceptable to ANY curriculum?  That moving a class to an earlier time without the consensus of the entire class is an acceptable action by a faculty member?