Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When A Quasi-Admin's Kid Fails a Class

So, recently a quasi admin's child failed a class in my department.  Last semester, actually.  The professor e-mailed me to ask what I thought she should do about the fact that someone she works with closely had asked her a favor, to allow the kid to make up work from last semester to get rid of an "F" grade. 

Apparently the poor little crumb cake had disappeared after week six, and did not respond to the many e-mail attempts at contact the professor had made on account of the fact that she knew the kid's parent.  And worse, the poor little crumb cake is now going to get kicked off financial aid (the kid is biologically at least an adult and independent, hence the financial aid).   She did not mention that it was a quasi admin, nor that the person actually worked at our college (alas, this prof works at a lot of places). 

I told her that this was NOT something I would allow and she could put it all back onto me.  Heh.  I really did not see this one coming.  Even when the quasi admin person told me (s)he had something personal to discuss with me.  Did I have a minute?  No, not really, I said.  This is important, (s)he said.   Oh, well then.  Okay.

Quasi Adminflake:  "Professor Bella, I have a really small little request.  A professor last semester mistakenly gave my little crumb cake a grade of "F" when a grade of "I" had been promised.  Even though this professor has absolutely no problem correcting this error and allowing my crumb cake to make up the work, she says you are not allowing it.  I know the deadline for making up an Incomplete has passed, but surely this is something that can be overcome."

Professor Bella:  "Actually, when a grade of F has been assigned, it cannot be changed without a full explanation of the extenuating circumstances.  Have your little crumb cake prepare a full grade appeal, gathering all the backup information and proof of your claims, and I'll take a look at it.  And let him know he has to copy his prof on the appeal, with all the backup."  Big smile. "It's good we are such friends, Quasi Adminflake, so that we can discuss this like chums.  Hard, isn't it, to let the crumb cakes be adults? "

Quasi Adminflake:  "The professor assured me she had no problem making this change."

Professor Bella: "Yeah, I admit I am the one who feels uncomfortable with it.  If this professor did assign the grade in contradiction to what was warranted, there will be no problem, like she says.  We can extend the deadline for you, sure.  But I just have to see proof of the error."

Quasi Adminflake:  "I really don't think my crumb cake is going to be comfortable putting those accusations against the professor in writing. "

Professor Bella:  " _______," crickets chirp in the distance.

Quasi Adminflake:  "I was hesitant to pull rank on this one, or to remind you that I have worked closely with you for years....."

Professor Bella: "Yes, QA, I know you'd never feel comfortable doing NOTHIN' LIKE THAT."

Professor Bella smiles and leaves Quasi Adminflake staring in a confused way into the void.

Who knows what Act II will bring?


  1. I suppose it's too much to hope that Act II will bring Bella kicking QA's ass on the quad after the latter makes an attempt to "pull rank."

  2. On Hamsterology final exam day, we had a city-wide power outage and my colleague (let's call her Mama Lez) happened to mention that she was wondering if the Hamsterology exam was still going on that afternoon. I asked why, and she said, because her son- Lazy Lez, who was in my (n=350) class wanted to know. I asked why she had never told me Lazy Lez was in my class and she replied "I didnt want him to be treated any differently from the others." I was impressed, and forgot about it. Till Lazy Les failed the course. I looked at his grades and there was no way I could pass his lazy ass and still sleep at night. Well, Mama Lez tried every trick in the book to get me to pass him, then went to our Chair, then our Dean. Finally she threatened to sue, and my Chair passed him to make it go away. I still dont speak to Mama Lez when I see her in the hallway.

  3. On several occasions I've had the son or daughter of a senior prof, chair, or dean threaten to "go to daddy and he'll sort you out!" if I didn't pass them. Daddy never showed up, so they either never followed through or Daddy was always competent to tell their kid to shut up and be an adult.

  4. So, let's try to understand the equations Bella unearthed here, via a little IF...THEN proof:

    IF a = (Crumb Cake + Financial Aid) = (QA + Mo Money) = CC is ADULT

    AND b = (CC + no-show + derp) = FAIL = CC is HELPLESS NONADULT

    THEN QA = Slimy Flake willing to commit Acadademic Fraud to further perpetuate Financial Fraud


    THEN QA = Cheap-ass d-bag, too proud to let CC be accountable b/c it might reflect poorly on QA (and willing to engage in Conspiracy to Commit Academic Fraud)

    Viva Academe!

    1. Please please please use this logic on future conundrums!

  5. I had the child of a senior prof (not in my dept.) while I was TT. Child was smart but flaked out midway through, and failed. Senior prof stopped by to see me much later, mentioned that child-flake had moved to southern desert state. Mentioned how much child-flake had enjoyed the class, even though CF had flunked it. I held my breath. Senior prof chuckled and said "They've gotta grow up sometime." I exhaled. Lucky. Or just, dealing with someone with a sense of ethics.

    I wish you much luck and good juju in your dealings with this horribly unethical person in your life. Is there someone above hir you can make aware of the pressure being brought to bear?

    1. I do----I can turn hir in to someone who HATES hir. I'd like to avoid doing that. It's a card I might need more later, and I don't want to be the person who complains about others all the time. I will wait to see how this plays out. Part of me thinks the kid will wimp out on lying about his professor right to her face by copying her on the lies via e-mail. That is the first step (the formal complaint), and I don't think this QA has the nuts, or the friends, to step around that step. I just need to wait and see....

  6. I pull the FERPA card when this happens (it has only happened twice that I can recall), and then I request that the flake in question be present if the parent-admin actually does want to discuss a case (even if the flake has waived hir FERPA rights). This means the flake privy to the discussion (in one case, I had a faculty parent lobbying on behalf of her daughter and the daughter was appalled that her mother had approached me to discuss the matter and apologized profusely on behalf of her mother).

    1. This is a good idea that I am going to use if it comes to the in person part of the complaint. I could have/should have pulled out FERPA from the beginning, but it is not too late to begin. The kid might just puke at the sight of his parental guide being such an ass on his behalf......

  7. I'd wait for Act II. I'd also record Act II. If Quasi decides to try to "pull rank", a quick trip to HR and the Ethics Committee will end shit PRONTO.

  8. The closest thing I had to something like that was being reminded that the parent of a certain student owned or worked for a company that hired many of my department's graduates. I took that as a subtle hint that I should pass the kid or else. I failed some of them and, to the best of my knowledge, the firms in question continued to hire our former students.

    On the other hand, I taught several students who had at least one parent teaching at the institution. Never did any of those colleagues try to intervene but many of those students, though, behaved as if that would happen.

    One of them was a real PITA and, if he wasn't behaving like a smart-aleck, he was whining about something. I remember him marginally passing my course and I wasn't optimistic about his prospects. Several years later, I heard that my former department hired him as an instructor, but it's my understanding that he had a brief teaching career.

    I read a comment about him on the website that shall not be named and someone suggested that this former student was completely incapable of teaching. I wasn't surprised when I saw that.

  9. Brilliant Mary Poppins approach, Bella.* I admire you for coming up with it at the moment, instead of hours later as I usually do. I hope the issue resolves itself without forcing you to play your card.

    I've been very lucky, I guess, in regard to colleagues' progeny. Maybe I'm naive, but if they'd been flakes, I wouldn't have had qualms about issuing Ds and Fs, and it wouldn't have occurred to me that their parents would try to intervene.

    But they all made their deadlines, did A and B work, and didn't grub for grades. I attributed these refreshing habits to having parents in academia. The only pressure I felt was more internal pressure than usual to keep my websites up to date, return grades promptly, and stay on target with the syllabus, especially when a student was the child of a dean.

    To quote Ballistic Noter, I thank my underwater sparkly fairy godmentor for these estimable colleagues.

    * Mary Poppins used preemptive high expectations, as in the movie when she told Bert, "You never think of pressing your advantage; / Forbearance is the hallmark of your creed. / A lady needn't fear when you are near; / Your sweet gentility is crystal clear." Dick Van Dyke's puzzled dismay is one of my favorite parts of that movie.


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