One of my friends is now living in North America. He was enrolled in a Social Science-related program in one of the most reputed universities in North America.

Right now, his degree is hanging in a balance as he attended and completed the semester but the department says that he hasn't. Further investigation tells that, his teachers were adjunct teachers and they submitted their grades to the department and the department administration lost them. Repeatedly contacting the administration resulted in banning him from entering the campus, and reduction of some of his grades.

He wanted to get enrolled in a Ph.D. program but he was not allowed because his religious denomination was different. The people who were accepted had lesser grades or performances.

According to him,

  1. GRE and grades do not play much importance in Ph.D. admission.
  2. Personal relationships with teachers are the key to achieving good grades.
  3. Ethnicity and political alliance are important in determining someone's grades.
  4. The ability to pay money solves 90% of the problems.

To what extent are these three points true?

From my personal experience, I found that his thinking and perception are not fully untrue. For instance, my teachers are totally lying to me that a retake cannot be offered. I just discovered that retakes are allowed on the basis of teachers' discretion. I accidentally received one of the teacher's e-mail and it seemed to me that grading is done on the basis of perception, not on the basis of exam papers.

Dear Chairman!
I received the following email from Mr. 'Student'.
I rated part of it as follows:
Mr. 'Student'
Task one: */* (*%)
Task two: */* (*%)
Task three: */* (*%)
TOTAL: */* (*%)
How did the other parts go?
I don't see him as an outstanding student
 - hardworking, but not that knowledge/learning experience.
What is the department's policy in this respect (consultation, review)?
Mr 'Teacher'

---------- Forwarded message ---------
     Date: Day, Month Date, Year at hour:minue
     Subject: Regarding exam.
     To: Mr 'Teacher' <mr_teacher@university.edu>
     Dear Sir,
     My overall score is 3.5 which is unsatisfactory.
     Could you kindly offer me a Zoom session to discuss this?
     Kind regards.
     Mr 'Student'.

Do politics and perception play a role in higher education?

  • 2
    "He wanted to get enrolled in a Ph.D. program but he was not allowed because his religious denomination was different." — Different from what? Is this a religiously-run school? – jwodder Jul 3 '20 at 3:49
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    @jwodder, No. But, the research was on the religion. – user366312 Jul 3 '20 at 3:56
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    Where in the world? France, United States, Iran, Russia? – henning -- reinstate Monica Jul 3 '20 at 5:42
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    Is this really "your friend"? – Azor Ahai -him- Jul 3 '20 at 15:36
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    (1) Also, I'm really confused about how your title relates to the body, what politics, what perception? (2) Are you really claiming that a professor cc'd you, a random student on an email to the chair? (3) Those are four points. (4) Edited tags because this has nothing to do with grad school. – Azor Ahai -him- Jul 3 '20 at 15:38

I am willing to believe that your friend is not lying in the sense that he believes that what he is saying is true. However, that does not mean that that is the whole story. University is a tricky place to navigate. It is a huge bureaucracy with lots of rules that many people who work there are so used to, that they consider them self-evident. It is very easy for someone with a different background to break such rules. Now university employees have a bad impression of the "rule-breaker", while the rule-breaker does not know what (s)he has done wrong and is angry at being punished. It is easy to see that the rule-breaker misinterprets the punishment as evidence or racism or religious discrimination, while that is not the case. There is still a problem, but it is not discrimination. You can imagine that such a misunderstanding can get out of control very quickly. You don't have to be a foreigner to experience this situation, being born in the "wrong" social class will have the same effect: https://www.asanet.org/sites/default/files/attach/journals/feb15asrfeature_0.pdf .

Since the conflict escalated to the extend that the police got involved, your friend is in real trouble. What he could do is try to find someone withing the university he trusts (e.g. has the same religious denomination, since he perceived that to be part of the problem) who can help him "decode" the problem: what actions did your friend do, that was perceived by the university as problematic. With that knowledge, your friend and that trusted individual could try to de-escalate the situation.

  • Does the question say the police got involved? Ctrl + F "police" turns up only one result. – Allure Jul 3 '20 at 9:52
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    @Allure one comment by the OP makes it clear that the "friend" was arrested - that is usually the police... – Solar Mike Jul 3 '20 at 10:22

In main stream higher education, your friend's beliefs would be considered unreasonable and possibly paranoid. Most universities consider bribery to be very serious misconduct. Racism and nepotism are at least frowned upon, and often forbidden.

There are certainly corrupt universities which do all sorts of bad things. But your question is about higher education as a whole.

  • how would you explain the incident regarding his grades? – user366312 Jul 3 '20 at 2:03
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    I don't believe him. You do not get banned from campus for "repeated contacts." – Anonymous Physicist Jul 3 '20 at 2:14
  • He is telling 100% truth. I saw it myself. – user366312 Jul 3 '20 at 2:43
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    I worry that his "repeated contacts" were perceived as abusive or threatening. That will get you banned. – Buffy Jul 3 '20 at 14:35
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    @user366312 I wouldn't put much past US police right now, but one doesn't simply get arrested for attending a seminar. – Azor Ahai -him- Jul 3 '20 at 16:05

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