Bella recently brought us details of her deck and the story of Outraged Oscar. While I have certainly encountered my share of Oscars, Unqualified Ursula is a new (and growing) demographic.
From my recent experience being force-fed the recipe for the compliment sandwich, I was predictably panicked when I started getting Ursula's work. Not so many spelling errors, but deep, structural flaws in sentences and paragraphs. Big words in places they didn't belong. Homonyms flying this way and that. You could feel the effort being expended, but the outcome was incomprehensible.
I tried to be encouraging. Early grades were heavy on "A for effort, but D for execution" manipulation of the rubric. Still, Ursula pressed on and the repetition of many of the easily correctable errors began the queasy feeling in my gullet. At one point, in response to an EMail where I expressed concern and offered assistance, Ursula attempted to argue that this was a matter of cultural dissimilarity and I shouldn't be penalizing her because she knew she understood the material even if she shouldn't actually convey that understanding in an assignment.
Finally, an assignment was submitted that simply was incomprehensible. I contacted the Writing Center, attaching Ursula's name redacted assignment. "WTF can I do?" I asked, "Reviewing this assignment, the underlying issues would appear so severe that remediation simultaneous with course work seems implausible." I feared the answer.
As I waited for a response, Ursula began to notice her quickly falling grades and the delay in returning this one. "Are you saying I don't understand the materials?" she challenged, her disdain palpable even in an EMail. The bear trap in to which I had stepped began digging deeper into my leg. "Well, it certainly seems you are putting forth significant effort," I grasped for complement sandwich bread, "but the problems in presenting your thoughts make determining your understanding immensely difficult."
As the latest salvo went back-and-forth with Ursula, the Writing Center let me know they agreed about the significant challenge presented and that it surpassed their usual supportive role. But they forwarded the inquiry to the International Student Office. A few days later, the ISO essentially concurred with the Writing Center - big problem, sorry, we can't help beyond giving this standard handout of basic skill building webinars.
At this point, everything points to having to move up the academic ladder. Meanwhile, Ursula is getting angrier. The list of webinars was dismissed in hand. Reminiscent of Contingent Cass's work-study-time conundrum, "I am much too busy with family and work obligations to complete a series of workshops," Ursula asserted. But then she fires both barrels, "And why are you involving the Writing Center? Why aren't you, the instructor, helping me? Shouldn't you be instructing me on how to get my point across? I guess I misunderstood the role of the instructors here."
I was still waiting for admin's response. Remember that queasy feeling I was getting as I saw Ursula making the same mistakes? Yup ... when I reminded her that I had, indeed, provided copious feedback on all her early assignments (along with several general guidance announcements and my own library of helpful "Make your life easier by not making these common mistakes" presentations) she admitted to having never seen them before.
But here's the coup de grâce ... all admin could say was "perhaps we should have a conference with the student to reinforce the importance of good writing?"
After three different people read this paper and saw the same deep fundamental problems shouldn't the pressing question be: "Is Ursula prepared to work at this level?"
I wholeheartedly support giving a student who is struggling with whatever challenge -- language barrier or inflexible work schedule -- some support and flexibility. But when you get 75% of the way through a quarter and the student's work barely earns a D because it is incomprehensible, WTF will a meeting accomplish?
I can see the writing on the wall, regardless of the student's problems, their causes, possible/probable resolution, etc. ... this will all become *MY* responsibility.
Because, wouldn't you know it, once I demonstrated to Ursula that she had been getting feedback all along, now she's asking to redo her unacceptable work. No remediation has been undertaken. But she will be able to do a quick re-write of several short assignments while she is finishing the course and (let's not forget) her final paper!