Ask the Dean: Students with complaints do have recourse

2010-07-26T00:00:00Z 2010-07-26T16:54:44Z Ask the Dean: Students with complaints do have recourseAli Malekzadeh Ali Malekzadeh Special To The Star Arizona Daily Star

Question: What should I do about my professor who blows me off? I am told he has tenure and does not care if I complain about his teaching.

Answer: Yes, there are some professors who don't care if you complain about them, no matter what.

But it really has more to do with who they are than with tenure.

Just like in any profession, there are bad apples among the professors. While colleges have systems to make sure these professors improve their teaching or move on, once in a while all the systems fail, and we end up with one who doesn't care about his or her students. But 99 percent of the professors are conscientious and go the extra mile to help students.

If you have a valid complaint, you should not give up. Department chairs and deans listen to student complaints. And, yes, they do take into account professors' student evaluations when annual performance evaluations are done and raises are handed out.

There are three things students can do when they think they have been mistreated by a professor:

• First, go to the professor's office during office hours and politely explain why you are not happy with the way the class is going. Show no emotions; just share the facts and ask for an explanation. For example, you can say: "Professor, you told us that questions from Chapter 5 would not be included in the midterm exam, but six were included. Is there any way you can exclude those from the grading of this midterm for the entire class?"

• Second, you can go to the professor's department chair, state your case, again politely, and ask for a remedy.

• And third, if you are still not happy with the response from your professor and the department chair, take the complaint to the dean of that college. Every university has a process for grievances of these types, and if you are persistent and correct in your complaint, you will get satisfaction.

Did I mention that you need to be polite during this process? Again, please make sure you have a valid complaint.

I once dealt with a student who had taken a required course six times and had failed six times. His complaint: The class was just too hard for him to pass.

Send your questions and stories about college to Dean Ali Malekzadeh at Please include your name and hometown for possible publication. Ali Malekzadeh is a former administrator and faculty member at Arizona State University. He is dean of the Williams College of Business at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

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