The professor for this course was, according to every one of my classmates (only 7 of us total so I could get all the opinions) a nightmare. To illustrate, in the last week of class, after we present a final assignment (no instructions other than the title of the assignment in the syllabus), he asks us if we'd been getting any of his emails for the whole semester. We said no. That last class was a sizable part of the grade but obviously no one had instructions or any knowledge of the percentage of the assignment relative to our grade.

Each week people in our course were confused about material and procedure and we all thought we were fools that should have known better. But we all had realized, in this last class meeting, that there was a reason for the disconnect: the instructions were not going through to us via email.

There was a discrepancy in my grade vs the other classmates grades, even though there is no discernible performance gap. I got the lower grade. The classmates I spoke with were surprised, for the same reason I am - namely they did not perceive a noticeable performance gap. My skin is crawling at the thought of asking the professor what the reason for this low grade was, but should I do it? Or can I go elsewhere (i.e. a Dean or something) first? I know for a fact other students are willing to attest to this professors disorganization and other bad qualities (some already have). I also suspect this professor has had complaints lodged against him in the past for similar reasons.

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    in my opinion is the key phrase here. Chanches are, your opinion is not correct.
    – padawan
    Jan 16, 2018 at 1:07
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    @Jazzie3 quite often what students think is equivalent work, and what actually is equivalent work are different. I've had students come to me with a friends paper for comparison (math); all of the broad strokes were indeed there, but none of the same detail was. It's possible that you learn something important by just asking what it is that the prof felt was missing from your work. Who knows, maybe they missed something as well.
    – Scott H.
    Jan 16, 2018 at 1:16
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    +1 to Scott H's comment. I'll add that you shouldn't assume the worst. The professor has no reason to want to fail you - "I thought a class in ____ and half the students failed" is not something to be proud of. Ask the professor why you received a low grade. Do it in a non-accusatory way, and odds are they'll be willing to discuss it.
    – Allure
    Jan 16, 2018 at 1:33
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    @Jazzie3 Remarking that it seemed like a long semester doesn't sound snarky to me. It sounds like how I and pretty nearly every instructor I know feels by the end of every semester. Teaching is a lot more work than you may think! Jan 16, 2018 at 2:02
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    @Jazzie3 Okay, how is it possible your whole class went the entire semester not knowing what the assignments were because you weren't getting email? No one went to your instructor's office hours and said, "I don't understand this assignment", and the instructor didn't ask if they'd read the email and wasn't told they hadn't seen any email? You make it sound like it's all the instructor's fault but there are too many loose ends in your story. Jan 16, 2018 at 2:28

1 Answer 1


Easy answer: Go talk to your professor at office hours. You should escalate to your department chair or the dean only after you've tried in good faith and failed to resolve the problem directly with your instructor. Don't escalate unless it's genuinely serious.

Try to be open-minded toward the possibility that there were deficiencies in your work that you may not have spotted that explain why your grade was lower than you think it should be. Your fellow students' opinions are not reliable indicators of anything nor is it helpful to cite their complaints or opinions as justification for yours. Go with the expectation you will learn something, not with the sole goal of getting more points.

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