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JAWM rant re prof not allowing absence for med school interviews


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Please JAWM. I'm ranting here because I need to offload but may regret putting this on FB. DD is a senior at Williams College and is premed, with majors in Chinese, chemistry and comp lit. She is the only senior applying to med school this year. So far she has eight interviews, including Top Ten schools. She doesn't get to pick the dates, usually, and is just told when to show up (or maybe given a choice of a couple of dates). We've already spent a small fortune on arranging flights and so on. I think she'll be getting more interviews. 

DD also has to take a required comp lit seminar for the major. She emailed the prof, very politely, explained the situation (that she will need to miss class) and offered to do extra work outside of class and so on. Prof emailed back saying she would allow two excused absences and no more. She was pretty rude, imho. Because of the timing of the class, the fact that the nearest airport is Albany and the fact that these interviews are all over the country (hello UCSD), DD is going to have to miss several of these seminar classes, definitely more than two. She's not happy about that but it's not like she's choosing to miss class for fun. DD got in touch with one of the deans and asked the dean to mediate between her and the professor to find a solution. The dean basically said, yeah, nothing I can or will do, you have to choose between med school interviews and class. Essentially, the school's policy on missing class for med school interviews is that it's entirely up to the professor.

DD is extremely upset as am I (especially since we've already shelled out for plane tickets). One possible solution is for her to drop the comp lit major, but she really doesn't want to do this, and this would mean sending updates to all the medical schools, which would look bad. I'm getting involved as DD has asked for my help and because we will, if necessary, file legal action against the school. We're now writing to various deans and profs to ask for help. But boy am I furious that a school that lays claim to one of the most successful med school acceptance rates in the country treats one of their outstanding candidates in this way. DD also checked with a couple of athlete friends who said that athletes get to miss a lot of class, which only makes me angrier. Rant over. But premeds applying to Williams, beware. 

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Wow, that would be really upsetting.  I can only imagine what is going on.  Unreasonable professors are a royal thorn in my side.  I had one -- one I tried to avoid and got stuck with a second time.  I should have filed a formal complaint and didn't.  One of my regrets.

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Wow.  If it were my kid, I would advise dropping the comp lit major (or see if I could drop it down to a minor and drop the class.)  Yes, it would involve informing the medical schools, but I have trouble imagining that a comp lit major is going to have a large impact on getting into med school.  She could, perhaps, explain that change in her interviews ... that the school forced her to choose between attending class or attending medical school interviews and that she felt that the interviews were more important.  

That said, I have no experience with medical school interviews, so I could just be talking out of my @$$.  🤔

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Does the school have a pre-med club with an adviser or a pre-med office that could help her?

Perhaps she could meet in person with the professor to discuss the situation. 

Is this the only course that meets the requirements of the major? Could she take the course in the spring instead? 

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24 minutes ago, Sebastian (a lady) said:

Does the school have a pre-med club with an adviser or a pre-med office that could help her?

Perhaps she could meet in person with the professor to discuss the situation. 

Is this the only course that meets the requirements of the major? Could she take the course in the spring instead? 

 

Thanks all.

She's been in touch with the premed advisor, who is abruptly leaving the end of September. No new advisor is in place as of yet; the school is apparently interviewing candidates. She offered to discuss with the professor but the response from the prof was both very clear and very rude. Unfortunately, she has to take the class and it's not offered in the spring. It's a seminar and required for all seniors -- DD tried her best to get out of it earlier because the prof doesn't have a great rep and because the seminar subject is highly political, with a very clear bent on the part of the prof and little room for debate. 

She may have to drop comp lit, but she loves it and is excited about doing her comp lit thesis, which she wouldn't be able to do if she dropped comp lit. She has more than enough classes for the major; it's just that this one is required. If necessary, she will, though, and we'll get the school to send a letter to the med schools explaining the situation. 

We've sent multiple emails to various profs and deans, and I think (hope) that action will be taken. It's ridiculous that a student's ability to attend med school interviews should depend on the whims of a professor. Not to mention the fact that athletes get to miss class for games all the time, but my kid is being told not to attend her interview at Harvard Med School?

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1 hour ago, saw said:

. Not to mention the fact that athletes get to miss class for games all the time, but my kid is being told not to attend her interview at Harvard Med School?

Ridiculous! I wonder if they want the bragging rights of saying that one of their students got into Harvard med school?

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Wow, you have my sympathy, particularly in light of the athletes free pass on this issue.  I agree with the advice of the PPs, particularly about dropping the comp lit major.  I don't think it's as big a deal to the med schools as you think, unless in her applications she's really portrayed herself as a lover of literature or a future writer or something.  I'd just let them know you are dropping the major, and check with your premed advisor, but I don't think there is any need to offer much explanation, after all it's her third major.  

I definitely would not consider legal action, and I wouldn't escalate the issue higher in the campus hierarchy.  That could impact her med school admissions chances more than dropping comp lit.   

Since this is a JAWM post though, I want to emphasize that this situation is pretty crazy.  She's a senior applying to med schools, for goodness sake.  Seniors are always traveling around for interview for grad schools, jobs, etc.  Isn't it strange that she's the only student applying to medical school in her class?  Is this typical of Williams?  Maybe they just don't get a lot of future doctors there?  

Edited by daijobu
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I am sorry that your daughter is in this difficult situation.  Does she know what the consequences will be if she remains in the class but has more than 2 absences?  Would she be removed from the class?  Would she have a class participation grade lowered?  

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I mentioned this to my daughter who just graduated with her BSN. She said she is not surprised by the professors stance. She said it was exactly the same with her nursing classes, students had to either change the interview time or take your chance missing class.

She has several friends applying to medical  school who have graduated and are now working. They are under the same stress, having to miss work to do an interview. One of her friends is scrambling to get someone to cover their work shifts so they can do interviews (three so far). 

Edited by gingersmom
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A (hopefully) positive update -- DD emailed several other professors in the department, who know her well, and one went and spoke with the recalcitrant prof on her behalf. He has suggested that DD try again to speak with the prof and thinks that the prof will now be more understanding (would love to have overheard his convo with the prof!). It's no guarantee, but it's a step in the right direction. She could in theory still drop the major but that also means not doing her thesis, and she is very attached to her topic and has been looking forward to it. 

Meanwhile, neither of the deans I emailed has responded, nor have the other two administrators. Grrr.

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On 8/28/2019 at 12:53 PM, saw said:

DD also checked with a couple of athlete friends who said that athletes get to miss a lot of class, which only makes me angrier. Rant over. But premeds applying to Williams, beware. 

I am sorry your daughter is going through this.  The professor's stance is ridiculous, and I am sorry that the administration isn't intervening.  

Your daughter's athlete friends may not have any first-hand experience, but my athlete son has faced the same issue as your daughter when he has been required to miss class due to team travel.  All of his professors have been understanding about missed class lectures, etc. with the exception of one - who just so happens to be a professor of literature.  

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15 hours ago, saw said:

A (hopefully) positive update -- DD emailed several other professors in the department, who know her well, and one went and spoke with the recalcitrant prof on her behalf. He has suggested that DD try again to speak with the prof and thinks that the prof will now be more understanding (would love to have overheard his convo with the prof!). It's no guarantee, but it's a step in the right direction. She could in theory still drop the major but that also means not doing her thesis, and she is very attached to her topic and has been looking forward to it. 

Meanwhile, neither of the deans I emailed has responded, nor have the other two administrators. Grrr.

 

Fingers crossed for your update! Hopefully Round 2 (3?) with this professor smooths things over a bit. I'm livid for her - what a frustrating situation to find herself in after years of hard work and dedication! Some humans just like being difficult - and some of those humans wind up being professors, unfortunately. Best wishes to your dd!!

To make your dd feel a teensy bit better (maybe?), know that athletes "getting all that time off" is not always as easy as it appears. When a lot of athletes are majoring in sports med, psychology, business, etc... yes - it does appear that they easily take off and have understanding professors. When the athlete is majoring in biology, chemistry, math, etc... whooooooo boy. Those professors are NOT impressed with a student athlete one little bit and those athletes have to jump over hurdles. The professors "have to" let them attend, but the strings they attach and the hoops they create and the speed bumps they put out are innumerable. My athlete daughter has had so many "extra" projects, "early" deadlines, etc saddled on her because she had to miss a class due to her sport. Not fun. Meanwhile, yes, many of her teammates breeze through without a problem.

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1 hour ago, easypeasy said:

To make your dd feel a teensy bit better (maybe?), know that athletes "getting all that time off" is not always as easy as it appears. When a lot of athletes are majoring in sports med, psychology, business, etc... yes - it does appear that they easily take off and have understanding professors. When the athlete is majoring in biology, chemistry, math, etc... whooooooo boy. Those professors are NOT impressed with a student athlete one little bit and those athletes have to jump over hurdles. The professors "have to" let them attend, but the strings they attach and the hoops they create and the speed bumps they put out are innumerable. My athlete daughter has had so many "extra" projects, "early" deadlines, etc saddled on her because she had to miss a class due to her sport. Not fun. Meanwhile, yes, many of her teammates breeze through without a problem.

 

I'm not sure how student-athletes who are serious students manage, tbh. Kudos to your daughter! Having spent a bit (a lot) of time talking and thinking about the whole issue of class conflicts with other obligations, I'm starting to think that there has to be a better way to manage this, or at least that there has to be a policy that sets out guidelines. The way this is playing out at DD's school isn't fair to students or professors. DD has contacted the editor of the student paper, and he's asked her to do an op ed piece. I think she'll use that as a platform to advocate for a fair and uniform policy to address absences. She's hoping to get a student-athlete involved in the writing, to present multiple sides of the issue.

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18 hours ago, saw said:

 

I'm not sure how student-athletes who are serious students manage, tbh. Kudos to your daughter! Having spent a bit (a lot) of time talking and thinking about the whole issue of class conflicts with other obligations, I'm starting to think that there has to be a better way to manage this, or at least that there has to be a policy that sets out guidelines. The way this is playing out at DD's school isn't fair to students or professors. DD has contacted the editor of the student paper, and he's asked her to do an op ed piece. I think she'll use that as a platform to advocate for a fair and uniform policy to address absences. She's hoping to get a student-athlete involved in the writing, to present multiple sides of the issue.

I would be very interested in knowing what your daughter (or anyone else) thinks would be a fair and uniform policy.  

I have been teaching at the collegiate level for over 30 years, and IME the problem has become more difficult to manage in recent years.  Very little of the issues I experience come from athletics, although some sports require students to miss class more than others (e.g. baseball players miss many classes during the spring semester)

I was teaching a compressed summer course that meet five times this summer.  Before the class had started I had heard from at least half of the class that they planned to miss at least one of the class meetings.  The reasons ranged from going to their destination wedding (and missing 3 classes) to having surgery to traveling for work to family vacation to job interviews to a project for another class...  About a third of the class was planning on missing at least 2 classes--40% of the class meetings.  

Even doctor's excuses have become problematic.  I had a student go to the emergency room before the first exam in a class and was discharged without any treatment; second exam comes along, the student goes to the emergency room again.  With scanners and copy machines it is easy for students to produce fake/recycled doctors' excuses.  

 

 

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3 hours ago, Bootsie said:

I was teaching a compressed summer course that meet five times this summer.  Before the class had started I had heard from at least half of the class that they planned to miss at least one of the class meetings.  The reasons ranged from going to their destination wedding (and missing 3 classes) to having surgery to traveling for work to family vacation to job interviews to a project for another class...  About a third of the class was planning on missing at least 2 classes--40% of the class meetings.  

That just seems outrageous to me -- and most of those absences could have been known well in advance! I can see how this would be extremely annoying from the prof's perspective, and I imagine you and other profs have had to deal with many half-baked excuses for absences over the years. DD has a friend who regularly missed class because she just didn't feel up to it and got doctor's notes for that, for example, whereas DD doesn't miss class very much at all. Seems like it would make sense to crack down on those absences, perhaps through making it more difficult to get excused by requiring more paperwork to be filed. One place where my kids were in school for elementary had very clear policies about absences that set out when students could be away (religious holidays, weddings for close relatives only, serious illness/death of close relatives, etc). Anything else when to the truant officer. 

In terms of fair, one thing DD has said is that it doesn't really make sense to have a required senior seminar in the fall of senior year, when many students will be busy with interviews and so on. There's no option to take the class at any other time, and the timing of the class is such that travel on other days is very difficult. She's going to do an op ed piece for the school paper and will try to work with some student-athletes, and her intent is to start a discussion about establishing a uniform and fair policy, based on actual facts around missing class. Seems to me personally the med schools and grad schools could also work more effectively by spreading out interviews a bit more perhaps, so that students aren't doing half a dozen interviews in one month. In any event, I agree that the problem is bigger than just one prof being a pain and needs addressing to ensure both teaching staff and students are treated fairly. It's also crazy to me that DD has to miss so much class when she really doesn't want to miss class at all! 

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I asked ds about this bc he missed  a lot of spring semester sr yr doing grad school visits. He said his school had a policy in place allowing srs to miss classes for interview trips. He said fall semester was when med students missed and spring most other students. Professors expected it and worked with them.

I think the prof is being unreasonable bc he isnt used to med student majors and bc he doesn't want to take on the extra work to let her have other ways of completing assignments. Most comparativei lit majors are probably spring semester grad visits hence the fall only section.

I hope she figures it out. Best wishes for her interviews.

 

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On 8/30/2019 at 11:01 PM, Bootsie said:

I would be very interested in knowing what your daughter (or anyone else) thinks would be a fair and uniform policy.  

I have been teaching at the collegiate level for over 30 years, and IME the problem has become more difficult to manage in recent years.  Very little of the issues I experience come from athletics, although some sports require students to miss class more than others (e.g. baseball players miss many classes during the spring semester)

I was teaching a compressed summer course that meet five times this summer.  Before the class had started I had heard from at least half of the class that they planned to miss at least one of the class meetings.  The reasons ranged from going to their destination wedding (and missing 3 classes) to having surgery to traveling for work to family vacation to job interviews to a project for another class...  About a third of the class was planning on missing at least 2 classes--40% of the class meetings.  

Even doctor's excuses have become problematic.  I had a student go to the emergency room before the first exam in a class and was discharged without any treatment; second exam comes along, the student goes to the emergency room again.  With scanners and copy machines it is easy for students to produce fake/recycled doctors' excuses.  

 

 

I think the solution is to return college classes to the way they were when I was in college and make the student responsible for their learning and the professor responsible for teaching, rather than attendance, So, as long as students show up for exams, who cares if they miss the class as long as they arrange to get notes from another student. That’s how it worked “back in the day”. There was no “class participation” grade. And if a student failed, it was on them, not the professor.

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My dd1 was an athlete and missed a lot of classes. She usually had the team schedule in hand when she met with her academic advisor and they worked the sections, etc so she would miss the least amount she could. Also, the advisor helped with avoiding some of the known difficult professors. She only had one- and the prof hated the athletes and let them know about her disdain nearly every class.

Missing class was a huge stress for most of the athletes and it definitely contributes to a lower GPA for some people. 

Dd1 mostly did phone interviews for law school. One memorable one was outside the pool in her suit with coaches hassling her to get in to warm up for her race.

I am sorry your dd is having a "difficult professor" moment. The prof is really being unreasonable.

 

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3 hours ago, Mom0012 said:

I think the solution is to return college classes to the way they were when I was in college and make the student responsible for their learning and the professor responsible for teaching, rather than attendance, So, as long as students show up for exams, who cares if they miss the class as long as they arrange to get notes from another student. That’s how it worked “back in the day”. There was no “class participation” grade. And if a student failed, it was on them, not the professor.

 

Unfortunately, that's likely never going to happen. If a college has students receiving federal aid, some level of attendance accountability is required. I've been a community college professor for twenty years, and they remind us of that at every fall when they go over expectations. Even as an online professor, we count on-time assignments as attendance and have to enter when the last assignment was turned in if they fail because of federal rules. Face-to-face professors at the schools I've worked for are expected to take attendance every class period using some reliable technique for reasons of financial aid.

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