Thursday, April 19, 2007

In My Role as Heartless Bitch of the Math Department

  1. A senior who is failing math again needs the course to graduate. His instructor explained that in order to receive a passing grade in the class that he must demonstrate mastery of the course objectives through the assessments described in the syllabus. He wants to talk to me about whether there is some way for him to complete his math requirement this semester. (I believe that the standard argument used in these cases is, "I should pass this class because I don't need to know the material.) Today he contacted me via email, and I am 95% sure that I know him (his name is common enough that there might be another student at the university with the same first and last name). I am almost certain that he was in my gen-ed class three years ago and dropped it because he was experiencing math anxiety. When we meet, it will be my job to describe the limited options available to him according to the University's rules as described in the Undergraduate Catalog. Long story short, I'm not going to tell the instructor to give him a grade that he doesn't deserve; he may want to see if his College will waive the math requirement for him under the special senior loophole.

  2. The University has established deadlines for dropping with and without a W. These were ratified by the Faculty Council and the Faculty Senate and are spelled out in the Undergraduate Catalog. The only exception to these deadlines, officially, is to appeal to the Undergraduate Council for a retroactive withdrawal. The Council will consider a wide range of factors as grounds for granting a retroactive withdrawal -- anything from a serious medical condition to just being a dumbass freshman who didn't know any better. A decent fraction (but not all) of these requests are granted. The nice ladies in the registrar's office don't like to say no to the poor dears who come in asking to drop after the deadline, so the registar's office tells the students that they will let them drop after the deadline if the instructor says that it's OK. The instructors send the students to me. I get to tell them no, that we are following the stated university policy.

  3. In our self-paced algebra class (pass/fail grading) the students need to hit certain milestones by certain dates. Some of these tasks must be completed in person in our testing center. Others can be done online (either at home or else in the Math Lab during business hours). The course syllabus clearly explains these rules and permits students to miss one deadline without penalty. A student facing difficult circumstances has not satisfied the requirements of the course, and will fail as a result. This student wants me to intervene with the instructor.

  4. The last exam in my gen-ed class is tomorrow. A student just emailed me today asking about one of the topics on the review sheet. Really what I want to say is, "We talked about that in class on one of the days you weren't there." However, it will probably be easier for me to provide the two-sentence explanation of the issue. Shocking, I know, but sometimes we do things in class that are not in the textbook!