My professor has not and will not hand out a syllabus (I have asked as well as others). I have a very vague idea about how grades will be calculated and no idea what the class schedule looks like (I don't believe the prof knows until the day before, either). He has also said that he has no office hours and will not answer email. I have no idea how to handle this because I have to have this course this semester and cannot drop it, but I also cannot that I will make a bad grade because of lack of preparedness on the prof's part.

Any suggestions?

  • 5
    I've been in a similar situation. Just don't panic. Stay focused. I would ask him/her for a textbook and every session, after the class, I'd ask what chapter of the book s/he taught. S/he might also tell you that there is no textbook and s/he gathers the lectures from different sources. That's OK. Just talk to your classmates and create a study group. In the group, you can have weekly meeting and help each other to review whatever he taught in that week. I think collaborating with others in learning is the most efficient way to solve the issue. Commented May 31, 2016 at 3:02
  • no idea what the class schedule looks like I think you do need to talk to the department about this. Not only you will have problem with this class, but also other classes as well. What if the schedule of this class conflicts with other classes you need to take?
    – Nobody
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 3:09
  • @scaaahu OP can elaborate, but I take "no idea what the class schedule looks like" to mean that the course outline/topical coverage has not been relayed to the students.
    – Mad Jack
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 3:20
  • 6
    Document. Document. Document. You will need documentation to make any sort of a formal grievance and have any chance of it succeeding. Also, you should update to note what country you are in, because that will, I feel, change answers due to different cultural expectations. In many US universities, for instance, syllabi must be filed with the department before the start of the semester or soon thereafter. Commented May 31, 2016 at 3:22
  • 1
    Just to give you a french point of view. In my country, syllabus are more about just saying "this course will speak about electronics, Mems, and so. Examinations will be like that" end of it. So don't panic, just go to every course and you will succeed.
    – Gautier C
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


I suggest going to the department secretary. In every department I have been involved with, this is the person who handles the mechanics of things like getting profs to submit a syllabus, grading scheme, calendar, and so on. Simply ask

Do you have the [missing item] for [course] by [prof]?

If you thus receive what you want, mission accomplished. If the answer is "no, I understand [prof] was going to hand them out in class" or just "no" you can go on to

We didn't get them in class and I have emailed and asked for them but no reply.

Typically at this point the secretary will swing into action. I've seen profs called while students are standing there, I've seen heads visited, emails sent, all kinds of things. This is what this person does and the ones I know all do it very well indeed.

If the secretary just kind of stares at you in a "sucks to be you" way, you could try

Is this something I can raise with [head] because I have no idea what the class schedule looks like and only a very vague idea about how grades will be calculated.

You will now get a yes or a no, if it's yes the secretary will set you up an appointment, if it's no then you need to ask why, take notes, say thank you and leave. After you leave the office check to see if you have an Ombud or someone in Student Services who can help you. But I actually doubt it will come to that.

  • In my department, there is no secretary that would be involved with any of these things. (There is no central repository where these things would be deposited; but if there were, it would be submitted online rather than coordinated by a secretary.)
    – Tom Church
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 20:53
  • Thank you for this, I am a transient student at this school so I did not realize they had a department secretary but they do and I will make an appointment to talk with them and see if we can get something sorted out.
    – tay
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 23:36
  • 1
    +1 Most department admins are awesome and highly organized people who are really good at knowing how to handle the eccentricities of their faculty.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jun 5, 2016 at 3:48

Let's give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the professor you are talking about is in fact a "bad" professor. You have two choices, each of which will give you experience in claiming your rights as a paying customer (via a student loan or from your family paying the expenses).

Contact Student Services: First, you can go to the student service of your university, and ask for help. Don't drop all the information on them, just in general terms tell them that you are not happy with a professor and ask them who you should talk to. Then take it from there. They don't have the power to talk to the professor but they might point you in the right direction.

Contact the Head of Department: Many people here might not agree with this, as it might look like 0 to 60 for no reason. However, I beg to differ. If people like you didn't pay for the courses, no one at the university would have a job. So, you can send a polite email to the head of department or his/her secretary and ask for a meeting. Then, go there and express your feelings about the professor in the question. You can also ask for a solution as well, like changing or dropping the course.

  • 1
    Assuming he has to pay: is this the US the OP is talking about, or some other fee-based uni? Commented May 31, 2016 at 17:40
  • 3
    I agree, although I imagine it's redundant to ask student services when they will likely just guide you to the head. I am uncertain as to why you have to give OP the "benefit of the doubt" when they are laying out what makes him a "bad professor": refusing to give out a syllabus, communicate with his students, or make time for them. Do you believe they're creating excuses to cover up bad performance and lying about what materials they actually have? Commented May 31, 2016 at 18:23
  • Thank you for the advice (although, like Sergio commented I don't know what the combative "benefit of the doubt" addition was about, especially since this is the first two weeks of class and I haven't had any assessments to do badly on and am simply worried about his lack of preparedness for this course). I may try contacting the head -I am a US student who is paying but I doubt I will make any headway through student services - if I do not have luck with the secretary, which was recommended by another user.
    – tay
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 23:40

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