Some College Students Earn “F” in Respect for Women Teachers

After years of hard work and often a huge investment, college students deserve to celebrate the end of a semester or the completion of their college careers. But unfortunately, as a young African American woman faculty member, the end of the spring semester is more emotionally exhausting than anything else. Many male and female students’ impertinent gendered expectations lead them to approach me as a peer, a potential girlfriend and an imposter—anyone other than an academic authority figure.

Seniors in particular often assume a certain familiarity by semester’s end. Maybe I’m not paying enough attention to the obvious shift from professor to peer, but it always surprises me when students say inappropriate things. Like, “Dr. Utley are your boobs real?”

Or how about the commentary from students who I thought were rapt with curiosity about rhetorical theory, but actually were plotting how they were going to ask me out. On the last instructional day of class, a male student approached me with his cell phone poised and said, “Can I get that number now?”

Final grades had been posted less than twenty-four hours, when a student emailed me (at my school address): “Dear Ebony, would you like to get drinks sometime?”

Shocked at the assumed familiarity, because I always ask my students to address me as Dr. Utley, I nevertheless was polite in my decline. But then he admonished me for coming onto him throughout the semester.

The professor mutation from peer to potential girlfriend is often laughable if I’m in the right mood, but the commentary that positions me as an incompetent impostor is less forgivable. During a final presentation a group of students had aptly titled “The Respect Women Project,” the only male student in the group referred to me by my first name in front of the entire large lecture. So much for respecting one’s professor.

I also often receive visceral missives or evaluations at the end of semesters that communicate students’ gendered expectations of care, almost as if they expect me to mother them. They go something like this:

You are not a true teacher. Isn’t the point of being an educator is to help students pass and move on in their education?

I think it is very immature you will not help me!

I have never had a problem like this with another professor and I am a senior, and from what I hear I am not the only one that feels this way.

Alas, it appears my authority is mostly a suggestion, and when it is begrudgingly granted it’s temporary.

Yes, there is the possibility that I simply rub some students the wrong way, but research shows that young women professors are more likely to encounter rude students than are men. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education study about rudeness noted:

When the researchers broke their data down by gender, they found that 24 percent of men, and just 9 percent of women, could not recall incidents of uncivil student behavior. Women were also much more likely to report that the uncivil behavior they experienced was severe, or to say that they had been upset by it.

In a Men and Masculinities article titled “White Guy Habitus in the Classroom,” Michael Messner argues:

By contrast, students’ experience of women and/or people of color faculty are different, because first, they do not immediately invoke the student’s preconceived image of what a professor looks like, and second, as the semester progresses, the students’ readings of women and/or people of color faculty’s embodied habits often tend to confirm students’ negative preconceptions toward them.

Messner and other female colleagues report that these negative preconceptions happen all the time. I concur and further argue that they are exacerbated by the success and stress of semester’s end.

At the moment when I should feel the most confidence in my students, this type of behavior leaves me frustrated and disappointed. Either they never understood, aren’t sure how to apply, or simply don’t care about the gendered concepts I tried to teach them. As a professor, I take no pride in assigning failing grades—especially when the assignment is everyday life. 

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/ijames/112866961/ // CC BY 3.0

Comments

  1. DeLonzo says:

    I think that you may want to consider age as a factor. In my early 20′s I taught high school English as a substitute teacher. While passing out handouts for a lesson, a female student (after undressing me with her eyes) asked me if I have ever considered being a stripper. When I told her that her comments were inappropriate, she then proceeded to tell me that I would make more money. And if this wasn’t bad enough, her friend sitting next to her said, “I would hire him”.

  2. Great post Dr. Utley! And, I so feel your pain. I have had comments on evals such as “she has no heart” (apparently because I emphasize I am a professor, not a personal therapist) and “love the way you dress!” Well, thanks for the fashion kudos, but evals are supposed to be about how I TEACH.

  3. ellen moody says:

    Yes I have much more trouble getting respect as a woman. I am a white woman but I have experienced some of what you say. Since I’ve grown older, nasty comments about my appearance (from males). I’m called Mrs after a while when I’ve asked to be called Dr.

    Remember that some of this disrespect comes sheerly from misplaced anger at justified low grades. E.M.

  4. Christine says:

    @DeLonzo: age probably is an interesecting factor in some of the examples provided. However, the issue goes beyond mere sexual objectification. As a substitute teacher — if memory serves me well, as it’s been some time since high school — you were probably not afforded a fraction of the respect those students normally afforded their regular English teacher. This likely opened the door for the sexual objectification you experienced. In contrast, Dr. Utley IS the regular teacher for these students, and the sexual objectification she has experienced is an expression of the LACK of respect these students have afforded her as a female professor. I know that difference in my own experience teaching at the college level. It is almost too cliched to be believed: as a woman teaching at a university, you are either sexually objectified (as an object of attraction or an object of hatred, both of which are filled with disrespect) OR maternalized, meaning they expect you to hold their hand and play the caregiver to them in ways they would never dare expect from male facutly members. When your course requirements and teaching style are comparable to your male peers, your evaluations from students are inevitably lower (apologies for not having documentation at hand for this, but about 5 years ago I read a study which analyzed this trend).

  5. Great post Dr. Utley.

  6. I work in university administration–gender plays a role, but the expectation of “mothering” isn’t reserved for women only. Students, more and more, are expecting that their educational experience is a product they pay for–the purpose of an instructor, to them, is to give them a passing grade so that they can progress in their degree. They expect faculty, staff, and administrators–male and female–to hold their hands through the entire process and then hand them a degree, whether they put in the work to earn it or not. Their stereotype of women as nurturers may play into why they think they can get further with a woman than a man when it comes to their demands.

  7. My favorite is when students go over my head to my department chair with grievances about MY classroom policies, because apparently, as a college professor with 3 degrees in my discipline and 12 years of teaching experience, I’m not qualified enough to run my own classroom. It’s the “let me speak to your manager” strategy they use to put me in the position of infantile employee. Is it my gender? My age? My attempts to be approachable and immediate with my students? I don’t know for sure, but I can’t agree with you more about being “exhausted” by it…

    • Lottabody says:

      Thank you for sharing this. I am a new professor and I had this happpen to me recently and I was really affected by it, especially because I was trying to help the student who went in and basically lied on me. The proof was in his work which was horrible, but I was truly hurt by his actions. I felt so isolated and unsupported but after reading this article and this comment, at least I know this sort of thing happens all the time.

      • Female physics prof says:

        I just discussed a problem student with my department head to make sure he had my back if the student did what he did on Tuesday again and I needed to pursue formal disciplinary action. I am soooo glad I did. I felt the stress melt off.

        This young male student had come up after class and told me when the homework should be due. When he did not listen to my explanation for why I had scheduled the class as I had, he started shouting at me. When I told him he was being disrespectful, he told me I was being disrespectful for not answering his question. When I told him I had answered his question but he just hadn’t liked the answer, he shouted at me again and then stormed off. When the next professor on her way in to the classroom told him he had been really disrespectful, he shouted at her. Within 30 minutes of the end of class he wrote me an email saying in writing what he’d said in the classroom. (Big mistake – I have over a hundred students in my class and had he not written me, I probably wouldn’t have known who it was.)

        Another (senior male) faculty member I’d asked for advice had said basically, “If you report this student, it’ll reflect poorly on you because it’ll look like you can’t control your classroom.” So then on top of worrying that I had this belligerent student who was, in all probability, going to challenge my authority publicly the entire semester, I was worried that if I actually tried to use any of my authority to stop it, the fact that I needed to use my authority, even though the need stemmed from gross misogyny, would be used against me.

        I asked to meet with the department head to make sure I understood the university’s disciplinary policies so that I could escalate it if I had to. He said to cc him on any future emails with the student regarding this issue, that he would meet with the student if I wanted him to if it happened again, and that he would refer it to the dean of students as a violation of the code of conduct if appropriate.

        If the problem is that the student does not have any respect whatsoever for his professor because he is fundamentally a misogynist unwilling to acknowledge a female authority, that professor is not likely to be able to do anything to stop the (wildly inappropriate) behavior by just talking to and reasoning with the student. Because you’re dealing with someone who does not think women are worth listening to or capable of reason. If I would be evaluated poorly because male students challenge me, then male students’ perception that female faculty are powerless and can be bullied is accurate. Since I have the backing of my department, who knows that the student is the real problem, this student has no power over me and I retain my authority in the classroom.

  8. Melissa says:

    Ridiculous. That guy claimed you were coming on to him?? And “the point of being an educator is to pass students”?? I guess that post-racial, post-feminist society is workin’ out real well for everyone, huh? /snark
    Thanks for writing this great post, though.

  9. Thanks for this article. I forwarded it on to a few female colleagues and I think that we all recognize some of the behaviours described. Young women have to put up with types of rudeness that young men seldom encounter, and the race element is worrying too. Having said all that, I have been very lucky with my students, and it is only a minority that act in the way described.

  10. When I was younger, I, too, had male students ask me out–and react with shock when I said no. Now that I’m older, many students clearly see me as a maternal figure. So they either expect hand holding and high grades (since a mother is supposed to praise her child no matter what -?-), or they act out their anti-mother rebellions. Surely I must know nothing and deserve no respect.

  11. Dr. Utley, Thanks for sharing this personal and eye-opening reminder of the reality of the type of disrespectful commentary that professors experience–especially professors like yourself who push the bounds of common knowledge”. I do not teach undegrads so I take civility and etiquette for granted with my masters’ students. We should write this up for an academic journal as well. My sense is that you have only told half of the story.

    I am married, not nearly as attractive as I used to be in appearance (LOL – However in some circles and bald and gray is very sexy), and so clear about my relationship boundaries that I can come off as aloof but is to protect my students just as much as to protect myself. I can say for me it gives me pause when I would like to extend my support to the next student but the last student evaluations turned personal when I tried to expand student’s knowledge base. Especially when I offered critical studies in the areas of culture, gender, and/or other types of diversity, and the students respond with comments that are meant more to scold or get back at me rather than to offer true feedback about my teaching.

    Finally, there is almost a sense that because you are a black woman that you are tougher, should be more engaged like a “mammy,” and take care of those poor students rather than challenge them to rethink their notions about music, communications, and civility. I feel the emotional drain after teaching cross-culturally as a black man, with few students who understand where I am coming (i.e. only 5 Black students in 3 years/only 1 Black man). It is awkward for my black students because they see the disrespect at times from other students but are not quite sure how to help me and I worry how to protect them.

    All that said Sister… I feel you.
    Peace & Health,
    BG

  12. Mr. Watson says:

    As a man, I’d like to deny any advantage that I’ve had. I’d like to believe that I have earned respect as a teacher and not simply inherited respect out of a cultural tradition of male preference. I’d like to live this fantasy, but I can’t. I would also like to be able to shake the fear that my beautiful, young daughter, who is enrolled in a PhD program, will be held back by the same culturally embedded objectification of women that plagues you, Dr. Utley. Thank you for this timely post (to which I was referred by my daughter). Shout it from the mountaintops. I’ll pass the word to my students.

  13. And let the choir say, “Amen!” Dr. Utley, thanks so much for this well-written, eloquent and balanced piece. The intersections of and stereotypes related to race, gender, age, and class play significant roles in how students from all racial/ethnic backgrounds approach women of color faculty. I’m a card-carrying AARP English professor and possess a well-established reputation for being a no-nonsense instructor, and yet some students exhibit their lack of home training by addressing me via e-mail: “Hey, Dude!” (I ignored the e-mail and gave the child a stern home training lesson when I saw him in class.) A sister of color bowed up on me last semester, not once but twice. Sent her to see a wonderful black male counselor who red her the riot act and she behaved relatively well the rest of the semester.

    And yes, women who are not persons of color get less respect as well, but let’s not water this down. Sometimes it’s about grades; more often, it’s about the absence of civility and appropriate classroom etiquette exacerbated by colleagues turning a blind eye to the racism, sexism, etc. they also (in)advertently perpetuate. For example, students of color who are seen as coming from an “urban”–read: ghetto or at-risk or troubled–pick the adjective de jour- background and white colleagues giving them a pass or two because (a) the students are “really bright” but can’t seem to make it to class or turn in assignments; or (b) usually white and male (but not always) colleagues who do not hold any great expectations for students of color and just let them drift in and out of their classes until, of course, they ultimately fail. Those same students, along with others, come into my class expecting me to be Mamma or Grandmamma (mammy)and imagine the cussing and fussing that goes on when they are met with empathy and expectations versus sympathy or apathy.

  14. Dr. Utley, Thank you so much for writing this piece. These issues need to be aired out — publicly and loudly! You wrote a great piece about Teaching While Female and Black. Adding to the collective vent, I’m putting these on the list: college students who think female professors are there to give hugs and kleenex and think we’re bitches when we don’t. (NO: My Phd doesn’t qualify me to give you therapy! Neither does my gender.) Getting talked *at*, over, or professionally underestimated by white male colleagues (I was told by a peer that a magazine interview about me was “cute”) …. Seriously, it gets old! I’m So. Over. It.

  15. Dr. Utley, thanks so much for illustrating an issue that many of us women and people of color in the academy face. The comments about youth being a factor are well taken. When I first started teaching, I got as much disrespect from administrators (who didn’t know who I was so assumed I couldn’t be faculty because I looked too young) to students who always thought I was being too strict and unreasonable with all of my “rules.”

    I think Katie’s comment relates a lot to what I see at my college…students expect you to help them and resent or are surprised that you have expectations for them. My college is oh so very nurturing and I feel it encourages immaturity and this “you work for me” mentality. I teach at a women’s college so it is particularly disturbing to see women refusing to own their behavior and their choices in the college environment.

    As we closed our semester, a “graduating senior” received an F in a class, which disqualified her for graduation. What happened shocked and disappointed me. Instead of the student advocating on her own behalf, our department chair initiated a series of communications between the “offending professor” who gave the F, me as the advisor, the associate dean and the academic dean to “right this wrong” so the student could graduate. I suggested diplomatically to the chair that the student should be taking charge of this but he felt bad about it because he recommended the class in a different discipline. So, all of this took place and never did the student ever have to step up and own the fact that she didn’t meet the requirements of the class and earned the F all on her own.

    So, it was all “worked out,” the student graduated last Saturday, and I shook my head wondering, what insanity are we contributing to with people who are supposed to be adults.

  16. Kelli Holloran says:

    Wow. Teachers (above) have a very “us/them” feeling about students. You have failed to realize that without them, you would have no job — so it is amazing you hate them so much. I have a Masters degree and have been in a lot of classrooms in various universities and have not witnessed the sheer disrespect you address. I’m sure that there are gendered differences in how people treat a woman vs. a man, or do so with racial bias, but it seems that many of you may be projecting. I know several male professors who have had sexual relationships with students, some of whom were married, and one of whom told me that many girls would make “inappropriate” comments on their reviews. And, I’m sure a lot of females use their sexuality with male professors to “get a better grade,” or to threaten him with exposure later on if they might not get a good grade.

    As a person who has worked in certain parts of the sex industry, I have viewed life from the side of “biology” vs. the ideal, post modern, perfect Utopia you all seem to WISH the world was. You view the world from your rose colored glasses in your Ivory Towers and don’t see life as it IS vs. life as you would like it to be. Unfortunately, men are biologically attracted to women if they perceive them as attractive and women are likely to use sexuality to seduce or manipulate men. I believe this has been going on since the beginnings of humanity (I don’t know, if there is an anthropologist among you perhaps you can clarify this?). I doubt the basic biological makeup of humans will change anytime soon. You can either learn to use it to your benefit and assume power over it, or you can become subject to it and complain about it.

    I am sure plenty of African American women have gained respect in the world, along with women of other races, ethnicities, etc., because those women exist in history books to show us that they led amazing, respectable lives. I am wondering how many men hit on Hilary Clinton or other female heads of state, and chances are they had to use this to their advantage or simply fall into the annals of history — as unknowns.

    Kelli Holloran, MA, Women’s Studies Grad Cert., B.S., A.A., Different Sexual Worlds scholarship.

  17. @Kelli: It is striking that you are willing to pass judgment and dismiss the experience of professors commenting on this post based on your own personal, anecdotal experience. Also striking is the hostility of your tone. That contentious tone is a form of incivility. No doubt there are female students who manipulate male professors for a grade. Certainly we know there are creeper male faculty (and staff) who abuse their positions by having sex with young female students. But that’s a different blog post for a different day.

    Statements like “since the beginnings of humanity” (your words) are sweeping and ahistorical. So you worked in the sex industry. And … ?? So what? That doesn’t qualify you to make truth claims about biology vs. “the ideal, post modern, perfect Utopia” (again, your words, which btw don’t make any sense).

    For data that would inform your opinion, I encourage you to read Michael Messner’s article “White Guy Habitus in the Classroom.” It’s hotlinked in this post. There is further data in another study, titled “University Faculty Experiences of Classroom Incivilities” by Goodyear, Reynolds, and Gragg. You shouldn’t have trouble finding it.

    For the record, I enjoy strong, intellectually stimulating professional relationships with most of my students. My students are smart, funny, personable, curious. But there are also, at times, gendered politics in the classroom (and the university workplace) that I refuse to ignore. It’s surprising that you have an M.A. in Women’s Studies and yet you confuse politics, biology, and sexual attraction.

  18. @Shira: I made a post about this on my blog. Why is it amazing to you that I have a Masters degree (actually in Sociology and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Studies)? Is it because I don’t play by the carbon cut out role you expect me to having received a liberal, post modern education where I was duly brainwashed accordingly and regurgitate everything you should agree with? I mean, by this you should tailor your educational system after the Taliban. And no, you can’t claim that I am a right winged fanatic because in fact I am not — I have views that are both “liberal” and “conservative” and just plain outside anyone’s classification system. I am not by and large a carbon cut out that can be fit into a mold and the very socialized and orchestrated educational system does not just dump a concept on me and I accept it without thought or investigation.

    I did write a whole blog post about this women’s studies issue, so I am not going to rehash it here. I have read many articles about racism, sexism, etc., in my degree (I am sure I can find many to support your theory and just as many to oppose it) so I don’t think that anything will be new information in your links.

    I am just amazed that professors with Ph.D’s will so easily become the hypocrite and label some group of people with a generalized stereotype when at least in my degree program “stereotyping” of whole population groups (such as “students” or “blacks” or “women” or anything else) was something we were trying to overcome. So, why is it bad to label “blacks” or “black professors” but its OK to label “students” or “black students” or “white students”? You are angry that I label professors and yet you are doing the same thing. At my school, black students do not drift in and out of classrooms but seem to be just as present and aware in classrooms as well as intelligent as the white students.

    Because of my experience with academic conferences, elitest journal requests that no one but professors would ever actually read in journals that cost an outrageous price, and the hypocritical lifestyle I saw professors engaging in, there was no way I wanted to be in that “club.” I simply cannot ethically go to work spouting theories of this and that when either I have no personal experience of it or do the exact opposite or do oppositional behaviors to the theory I suggest. I am not elitest and whatever I write or think should be for public consumption, not just the consumption of professors who read articles with 10 syllable words that no one on street level can even comprehend nor will make any social change whatsoever.

    Here are some hypocritical actions by professors I saw:

    We talk on and on about the horrors in the middle east, and the use of resources by Americans, and the problems of globalization etc., etc., and yet these people live in large, fancy houses and all seem to have SUV’s or other gas guzzling vehicles. They take many plane trips across seas saying it is their “sabbatical” or “research” when in fact it is them being a rich American going on vacation and likely helping perpetuate the global hatred of “rich Americans.” Even though there is a bus, and was a bus, and are bicycles — I saw NONE of them taking advantage of these things. They bought new cars and many of their cars used a lot of gasoline.

    We talked on and on about racism and “white flight” and the horrible school systems because all the rich white people leave an area and now its only poor people of color … and yet, these professors are sending their children to private schools and living in suburbs themselves, along with usually getting the most extravagant house they can. One guy I saw purchased his own land, chopped down a bunch of trees and built a house there — when he’d probably be the first one to stand up against wasting resources, the destruction of the environment or an etic interpretation of religion.

    These are only a couple of the glaring hypocrisies that I saw, but when I went to conferences and saw these elitest professors and all their journals and books that sell for 4 times or more they’re worth (this is a fact, like Sage publications for example) and geared toward students that they require to read their book and can afford it(!) — when they want to talk about capitalism, elitism, poverty, socialization, racism, etc., I just laugh.

    Maybe you can convince an 18 year old with no life experience of the hogwash, or brainwash, and then maybe that person will just stay in the ivory tower and get a PhD still having no life experience and regurgitate this stuff to others, it works just fine right? But I was someone who had life experience, who had been homeless, who had been in severely abusive relationships, who had actually experienced the life of the “people” they were discussing — and yet my personal experiences were discounted because of course I didn’t agree with textbook analogies of life which were inaccurate in comparison to real life in those situations.

    Here is one small example: we talked about “white flight” specifically in Chicago and how now, in the poor neighborhoods there are only check cashing places and liquor stores. Well, I lived in just one of those “poor neighborhoods” IN CHICAGO and there are buses and trains anywhere (I had no problem getting groceries by taking a bus or train, or getting a job, or finding childcare). Also, while there may be liquor stores etc., those places DO employ people and in fact the one right by my house has several groceries like milk and cheese, they take WIC and foodstamps, so it isn’t all just a place to get drunk and it wasn’t just all people being poor and getting drunk. Plus, they have really just know NOTHING about the drug trade in impoverished African American communities or what that does for the communities nor are “they” even remotely aware of the economic situation. They really are just getting their data from quantified sources but the problem is that they can’t get accurate date because none of these upper class professors will ever actually see and know what goes on in these communities unless they come out of that community. I mean, I know several industrious, hard working African American men who have plenty of money for their families from selling drugs and who do not use those same drugs, such as Marijuna — which is highly contested EVERYWHERE about whether it should be legal or not (in Las Vegas they came very close to making it fully legal, not just for “medical” use) and nor do they even talk about the racial history of why its illegal in the first place. Instead — they just say that African American men have no jobs because of the history of racism and segregation and slavery … (and there are only liquor stores and check cashing places anyway!) and so they sit around getting drunk and taking drugs. This is NOT TRUE. This is a very etic, quantified approach and is just plain inaccurate. Many of these guys would not consider themselves losers at all but that they are providing for their families. And, many other Americans wouldn’t interpret what they are selling to be an ‘illegal substance’ in the first place. I never heard that in one of my classes.

    My problem is that liberalist education (especially women’s studies) gives a VERY skewed view of actual life — and that is NOT being a good postmodernist, while all the postmodernists will accuse me of saying something naughty and give me an ad hominem admonishment. What is clear to me (in any human society) that if you don’t just fall to their code of beliefs — and walk the line of the dominant mode of thinking, then you will have a whole lot of backlash and in this case, its a great deal of hypocrisy. You are doing just exactly what the Nazis did to the Jews (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence)

    And I also know that chances are most of you don’t want me to say these things because it somehow puts a crack in the whole women’s studies MO, to convince everyone that women are victims, women of color are SUPREME victims who no one ever hears, that white men and boys are all out to get us and derail us, and that the white, male hegemony is so dominant that everyone else has no say in the matter — and its us against “them,” the hegemonic, capitalist patriarchy.

    Well fact is WE ARE 50% or more of the hegemonic, capitalist patriarchy — women and women of color (there are more people of color in the world than white people, and social hegemony and domination occurs in countries where few to no white people live, fathom that)

    “People” in general contribute to society just like the white men and boys that are supposedly to “blame” for its horrors. Yes, there is a history of horrible abuses against humans and those still exist, but I wouldn’t blame it on white men. I mean, these things occur in countries where few white people even live or are in power, and these things have occurred throughout human history.

    Perhaps you are lacking in your own knowledge about blame theory and about personality and perception — but since this is the game you want to play, let me leave you with a quote from a “qualified” expert:

    “Most of us interpret what is going on in the world around us as we perceive it — not as it really is. This tendency is much more pronounced when interpreting meanings rather than tangible physical phenomena.” Andrew J. DuBrin, Fundamentals of Organizational Behavior p. 53.

    And, I want to thank you for your ad hominem attack, you didn’t like what I said so therefore attack my education, my personality, my ability to write instead. Please note: I did not say anything personally to you about your abilities as a human being in correlation with what you wrote. This only illustrates to me that your PhD really doesn’t equate with self-awareness or a greater understanding of the world and social events or humans as they interact in them, or ways to relate to others. There’s my ad hominem response and for that I apologize, of course I know very little to nothing about you personally and cannot really say or judge your abilities as a human being, but I’m sure you feel that you can do that to me because you have done it.

  19. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence My other link was inaccurate. I know that professors hate wikipedia but this is an article that can be purchased by an elitest online journal — somewhere. In the meantime here’s the po man version.

  20. Susan A. Titus says:

    I am interested in the comments about University Student respect for female Profesors. I teach part time at a University in Detroit Michigan, and have been teaching for almost 10 years. As I looked at the concerns expressed, I was struck by kinds of issues that students raised with the professor. I am convinced that if we are strong, and clear in our teaching, that students will not be disrespectful. And, if they are,Thhat is an issue which we should include as a part of grading for them in the course….and, stated in advance in the syllabus. Disrespect of teachers, of fellow classmembers, cannot be tolerated in a classroom of learning.

  21. CL Jones says:

    Faculty members are far too often hypocritical and self-centered as they are guranteed a job regardless of what happens. It is called tenure and many take advantage.

    Many univsersities and colleges fail to remind faculty, and adminsitrators that without students they simply cannot exist. Perhaps if more students would stop erolling in schools for a couple of years pay down their student loans and stop taking the abusive attitudes of faculty and admistrators they may reconsider when it drastically affects their profit margins, public or private.

    No one should be above the law and when courts permit eductors to inflict communistic practices, and propraganda over ruling fundmental rights afforded in our constutions at federal and state levels, then maybe they should also be replaced for democracy and freedom has long withstood the test of time and no true American will permit anyone to deny their rights to these freedoms espedcially egocentric faculty and college personnel.

    • D.R. Bartlette says:

      You are right, that without students, we wouldn’t have a job, but without teachers, no-one could get a college education, so that argument is weak.
      What you’re wrong about is assuming that all faculty members are “guaranteed a job.” Maybe tenured faculty are, but what percentage of faculty enjoy tenure? I am an adjunct professor, and I am only “guaranteed” a job from semester to semester; essentially I’m a part-time, seasonal employee. And at my college, adjuncts make up fully *70%* of the faculty (and no faculty have tenure, BTW). This adjunct percentage is typical of all higher-ed institutions.

      • Yes–I’ve been teaching in several colleges since 2001, and I have never had tenure. I, too, have a Ph.D., which doesn’t even effect my pay scale as an Adjunct. I worked with a gentleman who worked for 20+ years at one college, and he never had more than a per-semester contract the entire time. In addition, several colleges where I’ve taught wait two months to issue Adjunct faculty’s first paychecks each semester. Start teaching the first week of September and receive the first pay installment the last week of October–if you’re lucky!

        There is no respect from the administration when this is happening. Adjunct contracts read more as a disclaimer than as a statement of employment, and the vast majority of teachers at this point (in New England, anyway) are Adjunct faculty.

  22. CL Jones says:

    As a final reminder one must give resepct to earn respect and when faculty regardless of gender, ethnic orgin or religious preference fail to respect their students as individuals they prehaps should seek other employment opportunities. After all if you want to be treated right then you should treate the other person right.

    When students pay thousands of dollars for eduction they seek educational instruction not substitute parents or want to be psychoanalyst. Teach the subject matter and stop psychoanalsis, teachers, instructors or professors are not paid for this work so stop trying to prove your are perfect and right all the time because at the end of the day you may just be wrong?

    Professors are more rude than students and often treat adults with disrespect by assuming they do not have the ability to think. Just becasue a person has a PhD by his or her name does not make them and expert in all subject matter.

  23. It can definently go both ways. When I was in grad school, I saw that many other liberal feminists were eager to tell me how open they were.

    But they gave a cold shoulder to people with non-physical disabilities. Even if we had identical politics, the sense we were 'different' made them treat us like we were invisible. They still did not want anything to do with us unless they absolutely had to. And that did hurt.

    So respect is a two-way street. The professors (including other women) can't be taken seriously if they don't treat all students with respect and fairness.

  24. I hear you says:

    Good article. When I started teaching [late twenties and female] a few years ago I intimidated students, but didn’t realize why/how until a senior student reference me as “young and so we thought she would be really easy-going and fun, but she has high standards for us.” She didn’t reference that I was female, but I experience the frustration with my standards as a surprise based on gendered expectations. What keeps me in the game and feeling like students and I have success working together, is we are at a small, rural school where I see the same group of students in 4-6 classes through their undergrad degree — so we have time to have our initial impressions/expectations and get over them to have better sense of one another. I don’t know what I would do if I only saw most students in one class over one term… or in giant classes where you can’t use the relationship as a learning tool. One term is not enough — and I know I have a luxury in getting to work with students in 15-25 student classes.

  25. Problem Child says:

    I have had similar experiences, which shock me, as I am a male. Students who do not do the work then become irritated and offended that I do not hold their hand. One student, for instance, came in with a note from Disability Services stating that she needed extra time on all quizzes. I arranged extra time, which was a big deal – but most of my grades are from in-class projects and work. The student failed to do those things, failed to make any attempt and then became angry with me that I had not “worked with her disability.” What on Earth was I to do, read her mind? Whenever I approached her and discussed the work she should have been accomplishing, and asking her what was going on, she would say, “I don’t understand…” and when pressed on what she didn’t understand, she could not lead me to the source of her problems, giving me the overwhelming opinion that she expected me to take pity on her and predigest things like she was a baby bird. I asked her to make a list of what specifically confused her and we would attack it one by one. She never did and badmouthed me to Disability Services that I was not working with her. As I explained, I WAS working with her – I was expected to give her extra time for exams, and I had. As far as anything else went, the fact that she was not working with me stemmed from my polite insistence that I can only help when she clarifies what EXACTLY I can help on.

    I have the reverse problem (perhaps literally) as Dr. Utley working at an HBCU. As a white person, I am a minority, but I am sometimes the target for angst about white people. I take this in stride, as I understand the source of this frustration, but occasionally this will lead to students who are rude. One student identified me as “The Man” (as in, “Fight the Man”) being the man who is responsible for all black oppression, which was surprisingly hurtful. Or, worse, they make me feel like the Master on the plantation, resentful of the task that I gave to all my students. If I ask for 5 pages of research from the HBCU, it is often of such poor quality… 5 pages from my Community College classes, despite far more limited resources, often of better quality.

    I don’t understand it. It makes me crazy. Why is it that giving the same lectures, using virtually the same syllabus, I am coming across such wildly different results? Are my attempts at friendly approachability causing a “respect gap” from one culture to another? Am I being too nice? Too mean? Worse, am I a racist? The thought literally sickens me.

    I am sorry for Dr. Utley’s experience, because I have experienced only one-tenth of such an experience. I have had students who, the day after classes are done, approach me with the intention of friendship or a beer now that they are going to be graduates. I can only assume that if I were female, those invitations would be a bit more… explicit. My experience shows that there does exist a “respect gap”.

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms. Magazine, Quisp, Morgane Richardson, Alison Turkos, Lynn Brewer and others. Lynn Brewer said: RT @msmagazine: College Students Earn “F” in Respect for Women Teachers http://ht.ly/1PKYj [...]

  2. [...] sends us this post showing higher rates of rudeness to women faculty. And Ebony Utley has written a very disturbing account of her experiences teaching as an African American woman– including such questions as [...]

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