Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

Problems with professors

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Greg Peck
May 22, 2014

 I wouldn't hazard to guess who's right and who's wrong in the legal battle between UW-Whitewater communications professor Sally Vogl-Bauer and student Anthony Llewellyn. But Andrea Anderson's story in today's Gazette about the professor suing the student because of online videos and comments Llewellyn posted about her jogs memories of my days at UW-Oshkosh.

When I attended UW-O in the late 1970s, I had one professor who frustrated me. He taught a subject I found easy to grasp, and the textbook included a workbook that contained basic, factual information. The professor told us that questions in a big test would come straight out of the workbook.

Well, then, I figured, if I memorize the facts detailed in the workbook, I'll pass the test easily. So I did memorize them. As I completed the test, I was confident I'd score 100 percent.

Then I got my grade, stating I had a fair number of wrong answers. I can't recall whether I wound up with a B or C, but fellow students were baffled by their scores, too. After class, I pleaded with this professor, arguing that my score couldn't be correct because I'd memorized all the answers. Show me the test, and I'll prove it to you, I challenged him.

He couldn't, he told me. He'd already discarded the test papers. I was dumbfounded. Eventually, as I recall it, I determined he used an incorrect grid to more quickly grade the multiple-choice test papers.

I suggested he let me retake the test. He refused. He suggested instead that I could raise my final grade in the class by doing an extra-credit project. Annoyed, I did that anyway. But I also filed a formal complaint with the school. The semester was long over as my complaint wound through a complicated bureaucratic system, as I remember it. Eventually, I decided it wasn't worth the time and energy and dropped my complaint.

Had today's online avenues to air gripes against professors been in place back then, I might well have used them to warn fellow students of this instructor. After all, I had a rebellious, opinionated streak in my younger days. (Imagine that!) Had I taken such steps, I might have wound up facing a lawsuit much like Llewellyn. This Whitewater student claims, among other things, that Vogl-Bauer said he didn't belong in college and labeled him a horrible student. Again, I don't know who's right in this dispute, but if Llewellyn hopes to avoid a costly legal battle, he'd best have witnesses to back up his claims.

This lawsuit should be cautionary tale for any student who would make online allegations against an instructor.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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