I am taking a graduate-level summer course and have observed several problems. I would like outside opinion on whether these observations are valid grounds for an official complaint, or whether I am the one being unreasonable.
First, the professor canceled one lecture entirely and cut short another 8 lectures. (There are 18 scheduled lectures of 1 hour, 50 minutes.) In most cases, the early endings were by more than 50%. All told, there were supposed to be 33 hours of lecture, but we received only 24 hours. This is an approximate 27% shortage. All of the lectures are recorded as part of my university's distance education program so there is a trail of indisputable video evidence here.
The professor is also the director of an academic program at the university. His most frequent reason given for the class times being cut short was that his other duties as director created schedule conflicts. Little if any advance notice was given about the canceled or reduced lectures.
In every class I had ever taken, from elementary school through graduate school, if the teacher/professor/lecturer could not attend for any reason, some alternate arrangement like the following was done:
- Substitute lecturer
- Recovering the lost time through alternatively scheduled class meeting. This "make up" session was recorded and made online to the entire class, so students having conflicts could still watch it.
- With student approval, extending the duration of the remaining lectures
However, in these cases, the professor did not do any of those.
I might be willing to understand a 5-10% reduction in received lecture time as part of random noise or "stuff happens", but 27% seems ridiculous to me.
My university's faculty handbook states:
For brief absences, faculty members shall make appropriate arrangements subject to the review of the chair or dean as requested and according to University and school policies, so that absences interfere only minimally with their normal teaching and other responsibilities.
No arrangements were made in these cases, and 27% seems to me far beyond a "minimal" interference.
I consider this first issue to be the most egregious. It seems like a flagrant dereliction of the professor's job duties. This course for several thousand dollars in tuition. Is it fair to say I have not gotten my money's worth? Would a university ever issue a partial refund in such a case?
Second, the homework assignments were not graded according to the written instructions. For each of the assignment for the course, the professor posted an "instructions" document that said what we were supposed to do.
The first assignment's instructions had language along the lines of "You must implement these visual features...". The second through fourth assignment documents had no language whatsoever about look or feel. The fourth assignment grade is still pending. But I was penalized on the second and third assignments for look/beauty/aesthetic reasons.
Only after I questioned the TAs did they give me a grading rubric that showed how exactly we were to be graded. In most cases, there was a correspondence between the instruction documents and the rubric documents. However, the rubrics had additional criteria relating to aesthetics and beauty that are indisputably absent from the instruction documents. This "beauty" aspect varied between 10-12.5% of the grade. These are the exact words in the grading guidelines: "Grader subjective score of look and feel." Again, this was not documented up front. Only after my assignments were graded did the TAs send this document, and only because I specifically asked for it.
I emailed the professor about this, and his response was: "I thought I made it clear on the first day of class that you were to [make visually pleasing products]". However, assignments 2-4, in direct contrast with the first assignment, had no documented requirement for this. It seems completely nonsensical for an instruction document to be only "partially" complete. We ought to be graded by only what the documentation says, and exactly what it says. Or am I being overly "grubby" by insisting that we only be graded by exactly what the instructions said to do?
Should documentation not trump everything? Is this a valid grounds for making an official dispute/appeal of the grade to the department chair?