Original decision upheld

By Markos Moulitsas

Concerns expressed by faculty members and students over a decision by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to allow a professor to begin teaching her originally assigned classes more than halfway through the semester have fallen on deaf ears.

Despite discussions between the LA&S administration, faculty members and students over the issue, LA&S has decided to stick to its original position.

“It is a non-decision,” LA&S Dean James Norris said. “She was sick and now she returned to work.”

Norris said he regretted very much the whole situation had happened but said it was normal for professors to come and go because of health problems.

English Associate Professor Rose Burwell had been scheduled to teach three English sections before she developed an illness requiring extensive medical treatment lasting throughout most of the fall semester.

Norris decided to allow her to return to work, even though there are less than five weeks left. For these classes, that amounts to just six class periods.

Charles Pennel, director of English undergraduate studies, disagreed with Norris’ decision.

“I regretted the decision. When they (the replacement professors) got that far into the semester, I assumed they would finish,” Pennel said.

He said he spoke to Norris to see if there was anything that would change Norris’ mind but was unsuccessful.

“I understand the problems he has to cope with, but if I had made the decision I would have made a different one,” Pennel said.

English Professor James McNiece, one of the three professors affected by Burwell’s return, was also disappointed by Norris’ decision.

“I have taught at Northern since 1959 (and) this is the most keenly disappointing decision at Northern I’ve experienced,” McNiece said.

Still, he was pessimistic that the decision could be overturned.

“It appears that the decision is irrevocable,” he said.

Many students in the affected classes fear they will have to learn to adjust to the new professor and her teaching style with only a minimal amount of time left in the semester. Some also say that any improvements they may have made over the semester will not be taken under consideration for their final grades.

McNiece and Pennel both agreed that the effects the move would have on the students were the best arguments against switching professors so late in the semester.

“They will be disappointed,” McNiece said. “The instructor will be just as competent as ever, so in that sense the instruction will simply go on at the same level. However, the students will be disappointed that they will have to establish a rapport with the new instructor.”

McNiece said he felt so strongly about the student’s concerns that he met with Norris today, even though he didn’t have much hope he could change the dean’s mind.

Norris said the whole situation was not so unusual. He said changes in course instructors happened, such as when a professor becomes sick during the semester and cannot finish teaching his or her class.

“It’s just unfortunate. It’s one of the good reasons for a syllabus,” he said.

Norris said a change in the class syllabus was one of the grounds for appealing a grade, so there would be no syllabus changes in any of the classes.

Some students in the affected classes, angered by the decision, have organized to fight the change.

Hoping to persuade LA&S to back down from the move, they attempted to meet with Norris last Thursday. Since Norris was out of town, they met instead with LA&S Assistant Dean Joseph Grush to discuss the issue.

Norris said he appreciated the students’ concerns and the very curious manner in which they conducted themselves in their discussions with Grush but refused to change his decision.

Pennel said he was happy with the student’s reaction to the problem.

“One of the things I’m most pleased about this whole thing is the way the students have reacted,” he said.

Pennel indicated the students might take further action now that Norris has stood firmly by his decision.

“I don’t think they have given up yet,” he said.