Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Rhetoric Behind the Tenured

Having a teacher that is tenured is probably the most stressful process I have ever had to overcome. This semester, in catching up with a public university's curriculum I was forced to take a History course I had little to no interest in. I picked the time that was most convenient for me. It was a large class of about 100 students and the teacher was provided with two TAs.

In my new experience, I not only learned how the TAs became a buffer between me and my professor, but also how apathetic the professor was towards his own students. This alarmed me because while the lectures were given by the professor, the grading and understanding of assignments was provided by fellow students, or TAs. I haven't looked into UTEP's mission statement, but I am certain that this low interaction with professors is not part of what they profess. This impacts their image to students that are looking towards that sort of thing. Actually, I think that UTEP's mission statement is almost null and void and its image is right there with it.

This entry isn't about UTEP's lack of a narrative or decisive image as much as it is about the rhetoric of my professor. Midway through the semester, my professor defiantly proclaimed during his lecture that we could "complain but that it would do you no good because I am tenured and cannot be fired." Everyone laughed at that moment, as did I. I thought he was joking because in my experience it has been the goal of most teachers to teach their students and not mock their inability to have their complaints heard and acted upon.

It wasn't until my recent encounter with this professor over a discrepancy with my grade that I encountered exactly what the rhetoric of that statement truly meant. The narrative that he wrote was with that simple statement and through his apathetic nature built his image upon that narrative and furthered strengthened it. Thus leading him to believe that because he is tenured his authority cannot be questioned. I went into his office this past Monday to ask him what it was that he was expecting from a paper that I thought I had written at a higher level than college Freshman English that was the norm and had sufficiently answered the prompt to my best ability. It is with this that he looked at me through the corner of his eye as though I was somehow bothering him. It was before I had finished my questions that he berated me and said that I should speak to the TA that graded my paper. I completely understood his point, yet I felt that a TA that may have the same writing capacity as I had may not be able to objectively grade my paper to its full potential. This was not something that was wanted to be heard by my professor. Instead of obliging me and taking 15 minutes out of his time to read my paper and evaluate his TAs work he instead ushered me out of his office with no reply besides "Take it up with the TA."

As I reflect on this, I realize now that my approach wasn't exactly the most phenomenological approach as I worded my discrepancy, but it wasn't highly offensive either. My better judgment told me that this was not only a problem with image but with the rhetoric that was set up and enforced time and again mid semester. The structure of the class was created, and agency was stripped from each student over time.

This segued into his believing that his power was absolute and could not be questioned. I have a hard time believing that the University in whom I support through my tuition will not listen to the complaints of its primary financial backers. I am currently debating on whether I would be able to question this authority by writing a letter to someone that can help me make an impact. Power is not absolute.

1 comment:

Cristina Ramírez said...

Ah, power is NOT absolute. Maybe professors like me who teach students to question authority and power are dangerous! Handcuff me then! Guilty as charged!