Students have the right to know the course material and teaching style of their professor from the first day of class.
A group of about 20 students filed a formal grievance regarding their Religion 205, Myth, Self and Religion class. Nearly one-third of the class signed a complaint saying no consistent syllabus was provided, the original testing schedule and required reading were altered without class involvement and there was no consistent grading scale. The complaint also stated that there were no regularly scheduled office hours and outdated midterms were used.
Students should know what they are getting into from the beginning. Professors have an obligation to provide a detailed syllabus and stick to it. While professors can reserve the right to slightly alter syllabi, major changes, including modifying exam schedules and required reading, should not be made without class consultation and adequate notice.
Syllabi are an important tool for students to evaluate a class before it is too late to drop it. Students can decide on first glance if the material is something they can handle or is something that will be beneficial to them. Syllabi are also a key scheduling tool.
Exam schedules and due dates help students budget their time throughout the semester. If a professor drastically changes a syllabus, it can throw off a students studying habits.
Professors should also inform students of their teaching style and the format of the course at the beginning of the semester. If students do not feel comfortable with a professors teaching style or the format of the class, they should be given ample time to switch sections.
In December 1999, psychology Professor Andrew Barclay was the subject of a news story on WSYM, a Fox affiliate. Barclays class was filmed with a hidden camera and the story featured profane and sexually explicit quotations from Barclay. Barclay felt the story treated him unfairly.
Students have said Barclay discussed his teaching style on the first day of class and encouraged those who disapproved of it to talk to him about it.
Professors should follow Barclays example and open the lines of communication to students. Students, in turn, should communicate any concerns they have with their professor to help find a solution.
Students should also know their rights when bringing up grievances against professors. There are more options besides sitting back and complaining to friends. If students feel they cannot talk to their professor about a problem, they should bring it up through the proper channels.
The group of students taking action against their religion professor should be commended for the way they are handling the situation.
Communication should be open between students and professors so concerns can be discussed before they become large issues. It is the responsibility of students to know their rights and of professors to provide necessary information and be faithful to their original plan.