Students should use courtesy in dealing with faculty members

Jessica Sprowl

When describing herself as having “mad presence,” one would not think a student like Tiffany Brenneman, senior justice studies major, who has so much confidence in herself would ever have difficulty with a faculty member. But she did.

Brenneman is a member of the women’s track and cross-country team. During the fall semester of her sophomore year, she and a teammate found themselves in a difficult situation with their English professor.

Brenneman said her professor would give her and her teammate a hard time when they would have to leave for a meet, and Brenneman believes her professor went a little too far one day.

“He really got mad one day when my teammate and I had to leave class and miss a test,” she said. “He caused a scene in class and made a rude comment when we were leaving. We felt a little insulted with the way he treated us.”

Although the school year is well underway, problems and issues still arise. There are ways of respectfully and professionally approaching faculty and addressing the issue.

“Usually if you tell the professor what’s going on in the beginning of the semester, no matter what the issue is, athletic or not, they’ll be more compliant. And, it will show you’re a good student early on,” Brenneman said.

Brenneman’s problem was cleared up with her professor. He apologized to the two women when they came to take the make-up exam for his class.

Jerry Feezel, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, agreed with Brenneman’s way to approach a faculty member.

When a student knows there will be a problem or issue during the semester, the student should approach the faculty member at the beginning of the semester and be prepared with evidence, proof, support or documentation, he said.

“Don’t spring it on a faculty member in an awkward moment,” Feezel said. “Especially right before class is about to begin, you will not be as likely to get a sympathetic hearing.”

Most faculty members will not be ready to handle any issues at that time when they are feeling rushed, Feezel said.

“It is sometimes very awkward for a faculty member to handle these situations,” he said looking back on his 30 years of experience as a faculty member. “I’ve always felt bad asking a student for an obituary, especially when I saw genuine tears. But again, I had to be fair to all in that regard.”

Feezel said he understands why most of the faculty are a little skeptical toward students: Most faculty have heard tall tales from students in the past.

Thomas DiNardo, a therapist at the DeWeese Health Center, agrees with Feezel and Brenneman.

“It never hurts a student to approach a faculty member with any problem,” DiNardo said. “Especially way ahead of time. Faculty like that, giving them a reasonable amount of time to know and think about it.”

DiNardo said the health center will not write excuse notes for students who come in saying they had a panic attack or nervous breakdown or for those who say they are stressed out.

If the student has been going to the health center for any number of problems or issues, DiNardo said a health center therapist would be willing to write a note to the professors regarding the issue and what has been going on with the student.

After a note is written, the professors will often allow students to make up missed work. DiNardo said the professor still has final say on any matter.

When a student is facing a problem or issue and is unhappy with a faculty member, Feezel said to go to the faculty member first.

“What especially bothers me is getting e-mails or calls from students totally out-of-the-blue,” Feezel said. “The worst kind of thing you can create is a bad relationship between you and a professor. It’s kind of like narking.”

DiNardo said he believes there should be a balance between students and faculty.

“You know this is the real world. If you miss work, you don’t get paid.” he said. “But, my view is that the faculty is fair to everyone.”

Contact features correspondent Jessica Sprowl at [email protected].