Saturday, February 5, 2011

She Just Wouldn't Go Away!

People who were reading this blog in the Fall semester of 2010 surely remember the story of my recalcitrant grad student who made me miserable every Monday that I taught the graduate course. (In case you weren't around, here and here and here is the story.) I hoped that after the end of the semester I'd never have to hear her name again in my life. Would that it were so! Yesterday, I received an email from her supervisor telling me that the student in question was planning to go on a Study Abroad trip to Spain and asking if I'd recommend her for that program.

On the one hand, I like Spanish people a lot, and I'm not sure I want to inflict this person on them. Every student we send on a Study Abroad trip is a reflection on our university. What will the people at our sister institution in Spain think of us if we send this kind of student to them? A university's reputation is hard to make but easy to break. On the other hand, I like my colleagues here at my department a whole lot too. If the recalcitrant student doesn't go away on her Study Abroad trip, she will have to take classes here. Can I subject my nice, kind, hard-working colleagues to the nightmare of this student's presence in their courses?

There is the added problem of this student's Spanish being so weak as to be practically non-existent. I have a feeling that she will not enjoy being in a Spanish-speaking country for an entire semester if she even found it hard to understand the assignments that I repeated very slowly in class. But then again, if I prevent her from going, she will think that I have some personal grudge against her for writing me a nasty evaluation at the end of the course. Which she did and which I actually don't mind all that much. In the evaluation she said that I'm obviously very knowledgeable but she still didn't like me because I wasn't approachable enough. Sadly, it never occurred to her that it might be her fault that people don't want to be approached by her. 

So now I have to solve yet another dilemma that has to do with the student. And it will be a long time before she graduates. 

This whole situation made me think of one of my favorite songs that I'm going to embed here (don't pay attention to the stupid advertisement.) If you don't like Pet Shop Boys, I have to ask: what is wrong with you, my friend? Do you know that people have actually written doctoral dissertations analyzing their song lyrics?

5 comments:

profacero said...

I'm trying to write a pack of letters of recommendation now. I have a student I'd recommend strongly to different schools than those she's applying for. And the reason she's applying where she is has to do with the deadlines and misguided parental pressure. Nothing about actual nature of programs. I'm stuck on phrasing. My letters if not to be dishonest will either look like damning with faint praise, or else like sabotage, and I don't want to do either. Haven't found the right words at all.

Anonymous said...

It would be absolutely dishonest and unethical for you to recommend this individual knowing what you know.

Natalie said...

Yikes! I'm sorry you're going through this! For what it's worth, there was a student in my program that had a similar sense of entitlement and resentment toward the professors and other graduate students who received higher marks -- and it made some lectures utter, living hell. As a student, I am embarrassed to share the same degree as this person. I can't begin to imagine how the professors felt. It's a difficult position to be in. I hope it all works out for the best!

Tom Carter said...

Clarissa, recommend that this student under no circumstances should be sent on this study abroad trip because she would a) be a bad representative of the university and b) she isn't qualified. How else do you maintain an atmosphere of excellence?

Dissertations have been written analyzing the lyrics of Pet Shop boys songs? Geez....

Jonathan said...

I'd be more cautious about posts like this because. although your blog is pseudonymous, it's not impossible to figure out who you are either, since you talk openly about where you're from, what you do, where you live, etc... Your blog profile has your picture.