Monday, December 26, 2005

The Spider Effect

You know that saying about spiders, how they are as afraid of you as you are of them? Similar dynamic seems to be going on with students complaining about their fall semester grades.

My inbox is starting to fill up with complaints from students. I have discovered that the most effective way to deal with them is to quote the University guidelines and tell the student that the first step in appealing the grade is to talk to the course instructor; I provide a link to the official policy.

These students are still so intimidated by their instructors that this tends to bring things to a close pretty quickly. At this point the student decides to meet with me anyway, but instead of meeting about a grade appeal, we instead meet so that the student can complain about the instructor "just so the math department knows." I will dutifully take notes on the student's complaints, and I will look into specific concerns for which there is a paper trail. If the same instructor is complained about repeatedly, then that name goes on my watch list.

But it's definitely much easier to do this than to try to explain to a freshman that "hard work" may be necessary to do well in this class but it is not always sufficient.