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What if your professor was really bad? watch

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    Hi,

    This is my situation:

    I'm applying for a few MA programmes at Oxbridge, LSE and UCL.

    I already have a bachelor's in biology but with a quite mediocre gpa.
    This year, however, I'll be graduating with a second bachelor's degree (in sociology) with very good grades except for two courses. These two courses were taught by the same lecturer who is exceptionally incompetent.

    I know it sounds like an excuse, but her syllabus is filled with statements that are historically inaccurate, interpretations of other academics that do not at all correspond with what they actually wrote and lines of reasoning that are logically false. I really couldn't get myself to just reproduce nonsense on her exams.

    Now, would it be necessary to explain these two bad marks in the light of my previous track record? And if so, is it absolutely not done to say that your professor is incompetent even if she clearly is? I have never before blamed a professor for my own shortcomings because I knew the shortcomings were my own. But this situation is very diffferent.

    Are there any people here with similar experiences? If so, how did you handle it and how did it work out?
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    How can someone who is incompetent be a professor in the first place?

    I thought you need a lot of internationally-ranked publications in order to be in with a shot? Hmmmm...
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    In my opinion, saying that the lecturer was incomptetent is not a great idea.

    I think that it would be more acceptable to say that your views differed on some issues and that she was not always objective.

    Maybe someone else will have a better idea... but I really think that you should skip the 'she was incompetent' part..
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    Now, would it be necessary to explain these two bad marks in the light of my previous track record?
    I don't think that's a good idea. Coming from you, this will only make it sound as though you're making excuses. Unless those two modules are massively important to the sort of stuff you'd be doing on your MA courses, and / or your grades for them were seriously bad by your standards - i.e. thirds or low 2.2s as opposed to middling 2.1s - I'd just not comment on this at all if I were you.
    And if so, is it absolutely not done to say that your professor is incompetent even if she clearly is? I have never before blamed a professor for my own shortcomings because I knew the shortcomings were my own. But this situation is very diffferent.
    I really wouldn't do that. It's bound to reflect more badly on you than on your professor.
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    Some sound advice. Thanks.

    My grades on her courses were mere passes. That's why I feel like I need to explain them.

    And @verticalforce: you have no idea of
    1)the amount of politics that is involved in getting tenure at my faculty
    2)the amount of ******** artists in the social sciences who get away with their hogwash.

    It's a bit naive to assume that academia is somehow miraculously spared from human failure.
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    The statement 'I barely passed two modules because my professor is incompetent' is surely a paradox?

    Nevertheless, the point verticalforce was making is that in order to become a professor you have to consistently produce excellent work in your field so it is far more likely that it was you that simply failed to understand what was needed of you on those modules. For example, what do you honestly know about the politics 'involved in getting tenure at your faculty'? Are you making assumptions or you actually are privy to specific knowledge? And even if this professor was unfairly promoted how does that have any relevance to your argument? I mean you said that it is 'naive to assume that academia is somehow miraculously spared from human failure', yet you fail to acknowledge that it was, perhaps, your fault?

    I made the same mistake on my second year undergraduate degree with regards to an essay, where I received 53%. I argued that the mark was far lower than marks I received for other modules at the same time (63, 67 and 68%); I felt there was no difference between the style and approach of essays I submitted, which is why I could not understand why I received such a poor mark. But I spoke to my lecturer instead of whining about her online and she explained the problems the essay had, and said I would receive a far higher mark next time round, which I did (69%). :rolleyes:
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    Well, yes I am privy to that knowledge actually and yes, there are tenured professors who are grossly incompetent (the professor in question received her tenure twenty-five years ago by the way, in a time when demands, at least at my uni, were not always as rigorous).

    Look. The premise of this thread is that my professor is not really up to snuff and I'm thinking of mentioning that in my essay. If you don't believe that because you can't wrap your head around the idea that not all professors are intellectual titans, fine. But then you can't help me. And as you don't know me nor my professor, your comments on the situation will not be very insightful.

    So I really appreciate the replies from hobnob and Belema, since they're clearly willing to participate in the thought experiment, whether they believe me or not.
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    I have a professor that grades based on how many pages you write during the exam, rather than the quality or accuracy of what you write. I have him for two modules too and as I can't possibly write 8-9 pages rubbish to fill the pages as some people can, I have bad grades there. Should I write that in my PS? Even though it's true, don't you think it would sound kinda laim from an outsider's point of view? I'd say the same thing for your own grades. Especially if ALL of your other grades are not brilliant. I don't think academics deciding on your application will want to think you find another professor incompetent, as clearly they should think someone who's been a professor for 25 years should know things better than you, a student.

    If you must mention it, I'd go with Belema's advice "say that your views differed on some issues and that she was not always objective." But even this can be risky, as the professors at the uni you're applying to might know the professor and think well of her. I think you should also reconsider what evantej tried to say with his example. At least I think his point was that maybe it's not just because your views differed and she wasn't objective that you got a bad grade, but there were some other issues with your work. Did you go to her and ask why the bad mark? Maybe the reason lies somewhere else, e.g. in weak arguments supporting your point of view, rather than your point of view being different.

    Obviously, I don't know the situation in detail, so you can tell me I know nothing, but keep in mind that the admissions probably won't either.
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    Well, yes I am privy to that knowledge actually and yes, there are tenured professors who are grossly incompetent (the professor in question received her tenure twenty-five years ago by the way, in a time when demands, at least at my uni, were not always as rigorous).

    Look. The premise of this thread is that my professor is not really up to snuff and I'm thinking of mentioning that in my essay. If you don't believe that because you can't wrap your head around the idea that not all professors are intellectual titans, fine. But then you can't help me. And as you don't know me nor my professor, your comments on the situation will not be very insightful.

    So I really appreciate the replies from hobnob and Belema, since they're clearly willing to participate in the thought experiment, whether they believe me or not.
    Good call. You're obviously in a tough situation, and it's unfair for the department you study in to let that go under their noses - is there no-one you can complain too? Student evaluation forms? Another professor? You're obviously not the only one that thinks so. Maybe speak to one of your referees as tactfully as possible hinting that you find a certain module difficult - they might already agree with you.

    Either way Belema's idea is probably best - there's certain phrases you can use that say in a professional way my professor is incompetent without actually saying it!
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    (Original post by LawQueen)
    Good call. You're obviously in a tough situation, and it's unfair for the department you study in to let that go under their noses - is there no-one you can complain too? Student evaluation forms? Another professor? You're obviously not the only one that thinks so. Maybe speak to one of your referees as tactfully as possible hinting that you find a certain module difficult - they might already agree with you.

    Either way Belema's idea is probably best - there's certain phrases you can use that say in a professional way my professor is incompetent without actually saying it!
    Well, I'm a student rep and several other professors have confided in me that they're far from happy with the way she teaches and treats her students. But nobody wants to raise a big fuss about it since that could reflect badly on them too.

    I'm not really worried about her possible contacts with my future lecturers though, as she's not really the highest acclaimed researcher in her field, to put it mildly.

    Appreciate the advice btw!
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    (Original post by tayesniggi)
    I have a professor that grades based on how many pages you write during the exam, rather than the quality or accuracy of what you write. I have him for two modules too and as I can't possibly write 8-9 pages rubbish to fill the pages as some people can, I have bad grades there. Should I write that in my PS? Even though it's true, don't you think it would sound kinda laim from an outsider's point of view? I'd say the same thing for your own grades. Especially if ALL of your other grades are not brilliant. I don't think academics deciding on your application will want to think you find another professor incompetent, as clearly they should think someone who's been a professor for 25 years should know things better than you, a student.

    If you must mention it, I'd go with Belema's advice "say that your views differed on some issues and that she was not always objective." But even this can be risky, as the professors at the uni you're applying to might know the professor and think well of her. I think you should also reconsider what evantej tried to say with his example. At least I think his point was that maybe it's not just because your views differed and she wasn't objective that you got a bad grade, but there were some other issues with your work. Did you go to her and ask why the bad mark? Maybe the reason lies somewhere else, e.g. in weak arguments supporting your point of view, rather than your point of view being different.

    Obviously, I don't know the situation in detail, so you can tell me I know nothing, but keep in mind that the admissions probably won't either.
    Point well taken. I'm aware of how it might sound to the admissions officer. That's why I'm in a bit of a pickle about it.

    This professor is not someone you can easily argue with. Last year she told us, verbatim, that "she does not expect us to share our own reflections on the subject but just wants us to summarise the view she offers in her syllabus."
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    Just a question... weren't your essays and exams marked by a second lecturer or seminar tutor? Usually that's the security for each university to oblige objectivity.
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    (Original post by passenger17a)
    Just a question... weren't your essays and exams marked by a second lecturer or seminar tutor? Usually that's the security for each university to oblige objectivity.
    She marks her exams herself and even finds a great delight in discussing the content of every individual exam in front of the whole class.
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    She marks her exams herself and even finds a great delight in discussing the content of every individual exam in front of the whole class.
    If that's the case you have the right to give your essays to another academic to get a second opinion. Might be even enough to issue a formal complaint.

    I know it probably won't help your application now but it may change your grades eventually.
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    (Original post by passenger17a)
    If that's the case you have the right to give your essays to another academic to get a second opinion. Might be even enough to issue a formal complaint.

    I know it probably won't help your application now but it may change your grades eventually.
    I have thought about that. The problem is that it might backfire and that's the last thing I need now. Btw: 'I filed a formal complaint against my professor' probably sounds even less reassuring to the admissions fairy.
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    Btw: 'I filed a formal complaint against my professor' probably sounds even less reassuring to the admissions fairy.
    :yep: I have to agree with you.
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    I have thought about that. The problem is that it might backfire and that's the last thing I need now. Btw: 'I filed a formal complaint against my professor' probably sounds even less reassuring to the admissions fairy.
    No, I agree. Don't do that!

    In the end no one cares how you got your grades and who was responsible for it. It's tough but just imagine every applicant would complain. Suppose you are simply unlucky. Sorry.
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    Yeah, I perfectly understand that you can't expect the admissions people not to be sceptical about such statements.

    Anyway, to put the whole thing in perspective: there's 17 course units on my sociology transcripts and I performed really well in the other 15 modules.

    So I'm leaning towards not mentioning it at all.
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    I am unsure why someone felt the need to negatively rep me for being unhelpful, though someone positively repped me too; I gave my own experience, which proves that you may intuitively and realistically see problems with your professors marking, but the likelihood is that the problem is actually your own. Most marking is double-checked by someone else in the department, then externally marked at the end of the year too. Nevertheless, my advice was: talk to your professor.
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    (Original post by Plemab)
    Yeah, I perfectly understand that you can't expect the admissions people not to be sceptical about such statements.

    Anyway, to put the whole thing in perspective: there's 17 course units on my sociology transcripts and I performed really well in the other 15 modules.

    So I'm leaning towards not mentioning it at all.
    This is definitely the best thing to do, particularly as you going to submit samples of your work alongside your application, anyway. Good luck!
 
 
 

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