Thursday, April 13, 2017

Student demands

I am not sure if students are feeling more entitled, feeling less intimidated by authority, have less tolerance for BS, or are just plain ruder, but the number of unreasonable demands I am getting via email seems to be going up each year. It is not all of my students. In fact, I think the demanding students have just gotten more demanding, not that more and more students are being demanding, if that makes sense.

For example, grade grubbing is probably as old as grading. That said, this is the first year I received outright demands for higher course grades without an accompanying sob story or other justification, just the statement that they really want/feel like they deserve a better grade. Most of the sob stories were probably BS, or at least not a justification for a higher grade, but still, there is something much more off-putting and self-centered about "please raise my grade because I want a higher one."

More and more students (in fairly large courses) have been asking for individual meetings to discuss course material rather than attending office hours (which are often sparsely attended anyway, especially when far from exams). I always ask what other class they have during my office hours so I can consider the timing for my future scheduling, and many of them don't have a conflict, they just want to meet me one-on-one, and don't see why I shouldn't be able to accommodate them. If I press them, they just want to meet me alone, again with no justification other than that they want to. 

Many students ask if my classes are recorded (which I really don't like doing), and get upset if the answer is no. I really dislike recording classes--attendance ends up much lower, people get very upset when there is a technical glitch that ruins the recording (often out of my hands), and a decent number of students end up binge watching the lectures a night or two before the exam, which does their education no service. But I've been hit in course evaluations about not caring about my students for not recording lectures, and I fear that this will be the new norm.

Students also don't seem to understand that prerequisites are required not just as hoops to jump through for a degree, but are in fact a guide to what knowledge they are expected to have before coming to a class. I teach a physical science (at the sophomore level right now), and I have had many students surprised that I expect some skill with math, even though calculus is a prereq for my course. I had a student tell me they don't integrate, and another tell me that it was so unfair that they lost points on an exam for not remembering how to manipulate exponents, since this is a class in science not in math. I've had many students tell me that expecting them to remember things from freshman science courses is unfair or unrealistic, never mind that my course builds on that material.

In addition to being demanding, I find that more students are falling on the disrespectful side of informal. I've been addressed as "Hey Prof", as "Yo!" and by my first name, all of which I find fairly disrespectful for an undergrad taking a class with me. I generally like the relationships I have had with students in my courses. The students who attend class, and come to office hours generally do well, and I have had good interactions and conversations with them. I am not super-formal with my students, but I am also clearly not their friend or peer. I am not the kind of person who demands respect for my authority, but quite frankly, disrespect like this won't translate well into the wider working world. This is one aspect I struggle with, since I also don't want to spend my teaching time teaching email and professional etiquette.


pyrope said...

OMG - I'm going to start telling people that I don't integrate. That is awesome. Also, I think that multiplication is beneath me...and don't even get me started on addition.

prodigal academic said...

I know! Wouldn't it be awesome to just not do stuff you don't like or find boring? I wonder how these students think the world works. Do they think people only do things they enjoy once they are done with school?

Funny Researcher said...

This is common in my experience. I had a student this semester who was calling me outloud with my last Hey Researcher. I told him firmly after 2 such instances that he can either call me Professor or Dr. Researcher.

There was another student who had the audacity to say "...but I am paying you for this class". To which I said that "You are not paying me you are paying to the University...If you don't like the rules go and talk to an administrator". I also went on to remind him that I as a professor bring hundred and thousands of dollars for the University and that is why they can do all the cool stuff that they are doing right now.

I just think that students don't do this deliberately but they have to be reminded. They just don't get how difficult it is to get to a TT position and then to Tenure and we are the authority on the subject and I fucking demand respect.

prodigal academic said...

I am not an "I demand you respect my authoriteh" kind of person, but I do expect to be addressed according to the norms in the situation I am in. At ProdigalU, professors are normally addressed as Dr. Lastname or Professor Lastname, and students are usually addressed by first name. If someone asks me to call them something else (often a nickname, but sometimes a name other than what they are enrolled under), I comply, since that is the respectful thing to do. I do remember when I was an undergrad and tried not to refer to my research supervisor by anything, since I was never sure what to call him (we normally called our professors Dr. Lastname there too). I tell students who join my group they should call me "Prodigal" so they don't worry about it, but some of them call me "Dr." anyway, which doesn't bother me. When I am mis-addressed by a student from class, I usually say something like "I prefer to be called Dr. Academic or Prof. Academic, thank you" and it is really annoying when that is ignored.

It is particularly annoying when I am called "Miss" and my male colleagues are called "Dr.", which happens a lot more than one would hope, including in emails in co-taught courses. Grrrrrr.