California professor accused of asking class to grade student who missed class to give birth

Laurel Rosenhall

SACRAMENTO, Calif. _ University of California, Davis, officials are investigating allegations that a veterinary school professor polled students on what grade he should give one of their fellow students who had missed class after giving birth to a baby.

Chancellor Linda Katehi issued a statement Friday saying the university would take “swift and appropriate action” if the investigation revealed misconduct on the part of the professor.

“This alleged action, if found to be true, would present a serious deviation from the values and principles that guide our campus and our School of Veterinary Medicine, and I would be profoundly disappointed if the reported events did in fact transpire on this campus,” Katehi’s statement says.

The chancellor’s response followed a report about the alleged incident on a blog for women in science, written under the handle “Isis the Scientist.” The blogger reported Wednesday that a UC Davis student had forwarded her an e-mail written by third-year class presidents from the veterinary school. The e-mail – allegedly sent to the whole class -says, in part:

“One of our classmates recently gave birth and will be out of class for an unknown period of time. This means she will undoubtedly miss one, or more, or all quizzes in VMD 444.

Dr. Feldman is not sure how to handle this and has requested the class give input and vote.”

The e-mail then lists six options for how the new mother could be graded-including “automatic A,” “automatic B,” and “automatic C” – and tells students to “keep your eye out for the upcoming vote.”

The professor, Edward Feldman, did not return a call or an e-mail seeking comment.

He is described on the UC Davis veterinary school’s website as a professor and chairman of medicine and epidemiology who has taught small animal medicine for more than 25 years.

Bob Powell, chairman of UC Davis’ faculty senate, said he does not know Feldman but supports the chancellor’s decision to investigate the allegations against him.

“We have to make sure individual rights aren’t violated,” Powell said.

The UC Davis veterinary school is a highly competitive graduate program serving 524 students. About 85 percent of them are women, according to UC Davis officials.

Normal procedure for pregnant students _ or those facing family emergencies or medical issues _ at UC Davis professional schools is to file for a “planned educational leave” that gives them permission to take a year off.

“If the students prefer NOT to take an extended absence through (a planned educational leave) and, instead, take just a brief absence for childbirth and then continue with their studies, veterinary school faculty will work with the students to help them plan for such an absence and catch up on their studies when they return,” said Pat Bailey, a UC Davis spokeswoman.

Katehi, an accomplished electrical engineer who has two adult children, noted in her statement that she is sensitive to the allegations because she has herself experienced “the challenges of melding academic and family life.”


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