Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fighting City Hall: Grade Inflation in Higher Ed, Part IV

By Nicholas Stix
June 4, 2001
Toogood Reports

At all college campuses today, but especially at public “Asphalt League” campuses, where the majority of faculty is comprised of adjunct professors, a regime of intimidation is marshaled against adjunct, especially white male adjunct professors, to ensure that they give students the “right” grade.

Increasing numbers of students, especially the growing numbers of those known as “Students from Hell,” are aware that any number of campus authorities and advocates will join forces with them against any professor (or at least, any white, heterosexual, able-bodied male — WHAM — adjunct) that refuses to give them the grade they demand. Affirmative action officers, minority student advisors, officials from Offices of Disabled Students’ Services, vice-presidents for minority student affairs, department heads, and even elected officials stand poised to put uppity WHAM adjuncts in their place.

One Student from Hell I encountered was a thirty-something, white, female student at William Paterson College who showed up for philosophy class only twice in the first five weeks of the semester. The first time she attended, she flirted with me; the second time, in front of my largely Catholic class, she screamed that I was engaging in Catholic-bashing.

The student complained to my chairman, John Peterman, that I was harassing her, but Peterman was that rare academic male, a man. I had no desire to meet with the woman, but Peterman wisely suggested we all meet together, so that the student could not play “He said, he said.” When we three met together, and the female still sought to twist our words, I told her, “My class is not a democracy .... If there is a repeat performance of your disruption, I will show you the door.” Peterman was possessed of a gentle style. And yet, unlike my female academic bosses, who apparently never met a Student from Hell they didn’t like (as long as the student wasn’t theirs), he supported me.

But my student wasn’t done. Making only cameo appearances in class, and doing none of the course’s required reading or essays, she got only two out of a possible 100 points on her mid-term, and a zero on her final, respectively. And yet, when I flunked her, she filed a complaint with the school’s affirmative action officer. I only heard about the complaint the following semester; I was never shown it. To my knowledge, that was one “F” that stuck.

Note that while in the fantasy lives of most tenured instructors, instructors and students implicitly agree that the latter may terrorize adjunct professors to their hearts’ content, as long as they show respect to tenured faculty, fewer and fewer students are sharing in this fantasy. In 1994, while I was teaching at William Paterson College, a cadre of radical lesbian students fabricated charges of homophobia, in order to terrorize the painfully, politically correct, white male head of the Sociology Department, Vincent Parillo.

Parillo’s tenured, department cronies were so morally lost, that their idea of a defense of their friend, was to write a letter to the student paper, The Spectator, arguing that gay students should leave Parillo in peace, because of his wonderful track record of showing “sensitivity” to issues of homophobia, and initiating programs in “diversity.” It was like an upper-middle-class crime victim telling the mugger beating the daylights out of him, “But I support you! You should be out mugging Republicans!”

And the muggers increasingly enjoy the sanction of the political leaders who were elected to protect us from them.

Former City University of New York adjunct Professor Richard France, had the nerve to publish an essay in New York’s Daily News, on July 15, 1999, exposing the institutionalized corruption he saw during his brief attempt to teach at CUNY’s City College Center for Worker Education.

The Center serves “non-traditional” students — people who postponed their college education. When France, who was teaching a film appreciation course, assigned his class of 30 students to write a take-home paper, only 17 bothered doing the work. Half of those who did try to complete the assignment, “bordered on being illiterate.” France also observed plagiarism, hostility to his painstaking corrections, and rampant cheating.

“Cheating, as I would learn, was widespread at the center. So many students came to exams with blue books already filled out with the answers that the center’s administrative director issued a memo instructing the faculty to withhold these books. But he expressed no concern about students being given the questions before their exams.”

France told of his dean’s response to his concerns: “It’s a different kind of teaching.”

France’s whistleblowing did not result in his being given the key to the city. Au contraire. In a letter to the Daily News, New York State Assemblyman Edward Sullivan (D-Manhattan), then chairman of the State Assembly’s Education Committee, ignored all of France’s points, and sought to bury him:

“In his July 15 Op-Ed piece concerning the Center for Worker Education, Richard France showed clearly that he knows grammar and spelling better than he knows his students, whose efforts he looks upon with such disdain. What he apparently doesn’t know is that for a teacher to ridicule a student’s paper in the public press is a betrayal of trust. Go back to school, Mr. France. You’ve still got a lot to learn.”

In his letter, Edward Sullivan also ignored the fact that Richard France, a veteran college educator, was himself a high school dropout who was “inherently sympathetic” to the purpose of a college center for non-traditional students.

So now, when you attack academic corruption, you’re not only taking on a criminal academic establishment, but fighting City Hall, as well!

Next column: Part V: Smoking Guns

No comments: