Peculiar professor behavior

Many students don’t know it, but there is a process for reporting professors when something questionable happens in the classroom. Sean Dunshee is a student at UVU who has already had interesting classroom experiences this semester.

“He’s [my teacher] a nice guy, but in a public speaking class, my professor touched himself inappropriately to show what to not do when speaking,” Dunshee said.

Whether students find this behavior inappropriate or not is determined if the student reports it and goes through the process. Dunshee had a comparable experience in his physical science class as well.

“It’s always awkward when the gym teacher measures a girl’s bust line in front of the class,” he said.

Dunshee did not find either of his experiences to be offensive enough to report, but other students may, and should be aware of the process. Merin Lago is the language department chair at UVU and is the person to whom students can report situations in language classes. Lago knows all about the process involved in reporting a professor.

“It depends on the severity,” Lago said. “If there is just one instance or remark, then we can just talk to the teacher. Sometimes teachers are human and can forget they are not just with their buddies. But if it is something habitual, typically we have the student write a report.”

Lago said he had an experience when a group of students went into his office upset about a teacher’s coursework or expectations.

“I told them to go home, write it down and bring it to me, but they didn’t come back,” Lago said.

Since the students never wrote their complaints, Lago didn’t get involved, and according to him, this is often the case. Lago said the language department has had only one documented incident in the past three years.

“So the first thing that needs to happen is the complaint needs to be documented so there is a paper trail, then the department chair will call the professor and ask for a written response,” Lago said. “If it is pretty serious then it will be reported to the dean and we document it in their professional file. The actions to take will be then be decided on.”

According to Lago, depending on the case, other departments such as campus security, judicial affairs and disability services may be involved as well. Lago also mentioned the ombudsman, a person who aids in dispute resolution, as a tool for students.

“The ombudsman is an advocate for students and helps protect the rights of the students as well as the teachers,” Lago said.

Lyndi Sorensen is the current Ombuds, and she is very willing to work with any students who find themselves in a sticky situation.

“I’m completely neutral. I can talk and brainstorm with students about housing, teachers, anything. It’s a safe place to talk and solve problems,” Sorensen said.

No matter the severity, the ombudsman is willing to be an advocate and, in the case of professor misconduct, can give advice.

Barton Poulson, a professor in the behavioral science department, used the term “classroom bullies” when describing the issues that can arise with professors in the classroom.

“To drop a whole grade when a student had to leave to get her assignment out of her car is too much,” Poulson said. “Teachers shouldn’t hold students to higher standards than they hold themselves to.”

There are many things students must deal with in college, and other things that are not required. Students have an extensive list of rights that can be found on the UVU website, and some of those rights talk about professor conduct. Each student should be sure they understand and reinforce these rights.

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