Jerk Professor

So here's the story.

This past year was my first time back to school after my cancer diagnosis. Thanks to suggestions from many of you, I contacted the services for students with disabilities office (sswd) and got accommodations that made my transition back to school much easier. All my professors have been wonderfully understanding and helped me to do the best I could. All but one. My organic chem professor.

I was taking his class two years ago when I was admitted in the hospital for two months and diagnosed with cancer. During my hospitalization I missed exams for several of my classes. After telling my professors the story, they allowed me to make up the work at a later date. This guy, though, replies to messages telling me "as the syllabus states, there are no make-ups". At that time, I was too sick to fight over it so I dropped the class and started chemotherapy.

Now, I decided to retake the class this summer. I gave him my letter from the SSWD Everything was going fine, until I started getting sick again with a whole mess of problems (including severely burning my hand two days before the final). Again, I messaged him explaining my situation (yes, I was stupid enough to think he'd be more understanding now). His reply (again) "As the syllabus states, there are no make-ups". According to his syllabus, if you miss the final you get a zero unless you have a "Valid and verifiable reason such as serious illness and hospitalization". I messaged him again asking him what counted as a serious illness because apparently cancer doesn't count.

This was his reply (copy pasted from my email):

"Thank you for your e-mail. Seemingly you have the strength, effort and time to write several paragraphs. Students frequently encounter a wide range of situations or problems, including flat tires to lost books to headaches and other medical conditions and I understand their situation. Faculty are always sympathetic but it is impossible to evaluate which situation is more serious than another. I have had a student claiming to have a traumatic event by having a flat tire 3 days before and exam and sought a posteponement. It is impossible to evaluate every situation with respect to which situation being worse, flat tire versus lost books, and therefore deserves special consideration. Students who encounter serious illness requiring hospitilization can seek a medical withdrawal from classes."

1. Did he seriously just compare cancer to a flat tire??
2. Writing an email does not require the same amount of strength and energy as taking an organic chemistry exam does.
2. No way I am dropping this class, I refuse to take it a THIRD time.
3. Why did he accept my letter from the SSWD, which clearly states that I may require alternate exam dates due to the nature of my disability, saying "I've dealt with students coming from the SSWD and know how to handle this situation", if he thinks " it is impossible to evaluate which situation is more serious than another". And last time I checked, cancer trumps flat tire. Always.

I have no other choice but to take the final tomorrow, but I am not done with this clown just yet. There is no way I am letting him get away with this. I don't want future students to go through what I did. Any advice on how to take this battle on? I'm going to speak with the SSWD office and my advisor as well to see if they can help me. He needs to change his ways, because students who require special assitance should get and should never be compared to someone getting a flat tire! :mad:


  • 7 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Wow. What a douche. That's about all I can say about that. I do NOT understand what his deal is. I can see your, at the very least, frustration. The flat tire comparison is appalling. I'm not sure what other avenues you can take besides what you've already decided to do-talk with your advisor and the SSWD office. This is definitely not the battle you want to be having right now. You've got a bigger one to fight at the moment! I hope he can come-to and realize this. Good luck!!!
  • does your university have an ombudsman for students? mine does not, but many do. I would immediately haul my butt to disability services. they can force compliance if he is refusing to accommodate your illness. they may want a statement from your doctor regarding your current condition. both of those avenues should be able to handle your situation.
  • As the parent of a former college student (he just graduated last month) - you should immediately contact the Dean of Student Affairs and the Chairman of the Dept. This prof is an ass and deserves to be repermanded
  • I agree with jaredsdad, that professor is an ass and he should be called out by the Dean of Students. Good luck with everything!
  • akay83akay83 Community Member
    Definitely an issue for the dean of students. It's SO great that you have all of these exchanges in writing.

    Not only is he legally in the wrong, but he's belittling your condition. I imagine that the school's administrators will be embarrassed by his behavior and that the situation will be fixed quickly and quietly.

    But if you do have problems resolving this, don't underestimate the pressure that bad publicity will put on the school. An article or TV news piece would draw a lot of support and outrage.
  • as for the belittling part...some people just have no idea. I had a prof who was irritated that the students were upset by low scores for the first exam of the semester. And rightfully so, IMO. He said, in front of the class, "it's not that big of a deal. it's not like you were diagnosed with cancer or something." I was bothered by my test scores, too, and he very well knew that I HAD received a cancer diagnosis, so it felt to me like he was trying to belittle what I had been through.

    I spoke to him directly in his office later that day, and pointed out that even though I knew exactly what it felt like to receive a cancer diagnosis, I was still unhappy with the exam (IMO, it was not terribly well-written and this is to be expected, since it was his first semester as a professor). He gracefully accepted my complaint and apologized for his statement. This was a couple years ago, and we still remain on good terms. He also made an effort to improve the clarity of his exams. And keep in mind, this was graduate level stuff. We were not all whining that we wanted more multiple guess and fewer essay. Believe it or not, we actually asked for MORE essay questions and fewer "list x number of ..." type questions.
  • kayleedkayleed Community Member
    What an ass. I had a professor do something similar to me when I missed a test for surgery. I was forced to write a 10 page make up research essay in place of a test that happened to take people 20 minutes to complete. Other issues arose from that same situation, as well. To him, that was fair. I was so tired and stressed out, that I decided not to take this issue to the dean, but I really should have. All of my other teachers were accommodating.
    Apparently, the word "cancer" doesn't resonate with some people. I had a few teachers offer me their support, because they have been through something similar or have connections to it. Your professor...and my professor...obviously don't have those connections.
    I would definitely take that issue to the dean. The flat-tire comparison is mind-boggling. How unfair for you and for any other student that comes across him.
    Best of luck!