The Class that Taught Me to Fight Back
By: Justine Carucci
Studying a language is difficult enough—imagine the added strain of the professor hating you. In the spring of 2016, I was registered for my third level of Sign Language, fulfilling my major requirement. The course was hard and unfortunately, it did not come easy to me. I put the time and effort into the subject so my GPA wouldn’t suffer. This term my character would be tested along with my signing skills.
The class didn’t start on time. The professor was chronically 15 minutes late. That first day began with a speech about how tough she is and how we better not try to cross her. She spoke to the class like a group of convicts. It was strange. She spoke about her childhood, divulging inappropriate and unnecessary subject matter that didn’t benefit the course teachings whatsoever. I recall being appalled by what she was sharing and her anger as she did.
Soon into the semester, I realized she didn’t like me. I couldn’t fathom why she felt that way. I was a diligent student, always on time. I participated constantly and kept on top of my assignments. I also met with her during office hours to study.
She prides herself on being tough. I knew I had to stay quiet and accept being humiliated in class, which she often did in her subtle ways, or my grade would suffer. I recall one incident when she was assigning partners for our midterm videos. She called students by name and paired them with someone. When she got to me she said “UGH, Carucci,” clearly disgusted as she partnered me with someone. A friend I made in the class turned and looked at me with an, I know, I caught that-face.
I already began documenting my struggles with this professor, as I urge any student to do when faced with a similar situation.
I was late to class exactly one time and since we were given the professor’s phone number, I texted her pictures of the traffic that stretched from Tottenville, passed the Victory exit on the highway. I decided to get off the highway and take the streets, already in a panic that I was late. The traffic was even heavier that route. Those pictures were also included in a text that apparently didn’t warrant a response.
Keeping unanswered texts and a copy of my grades was a smart way to document my side of this story if my professor decided to mess with my grade. Sure enough, the last day of the semester came and we each received a text with our grade. I calculated that I was ending with a B+. I received my text saying I earned a B+, immediately followed by a retraction—she was giving me a B. After what I endured, knowing I bit my tongue for months, I decided to fight the half-grade difference. I responded to her and messaged her superior, explaining the details of the last few months with my attached proof.
I was shocked to find my friend, the woman who witnessed this professor’s behavior, received a higher grade than me. This former CSI student admitted to me that she missed many homework assignments, missed more than the allowed absences and the final LCT evaluation that is mandated by the department. She was also constantly late to class without being reprimanded.
When I told my girlfriend about the grade situation, she gave me permission to mention the facts of her case to the professor to prove that she was grading me unfairly. This only resulted in a FaceTime meeting between the professor and my friend, where my friend was told she had to complete the LCT at that moment because I was challenging her grade. Not only was that comment unprofessional—it was a lie.
Speaking via e-mail to the department head, I realized I would have to file an appeal. The professor was claiming I was “late and often on phone,” two claims that would be difficult for me to prove, but I knew contacting other students would clear my name.
I decided to go higher and speak to the Dean of Students, Christopher Giordano. I presented him with the text messages, grades and a written account by my friend from the class. He assured me this matter would be resolved in my favor.
The semester was over and I did very well in all my classes. The weather was warm and I was in a great place, mostly relieved to be out of that ASL class. My friend and I spoke and she assured me that I could always count on her to rehash this situation if needed, but I ultimately decided to let it go. I was mentally drained and I didn’t want to work to pursue the next step. I felt confident that I informed enough people in the department of the professor’s actions and if another student ever came forward, they would remember my complaints as well.
Sharing this story isn’t about revenge, rather awareness. We tend to put professors on a pedestal, sometimes forgetting that they can be unfair and unprofessional. It is vital that all students know this kind of behavior is more common than they’d think and documenting every step of the way is a must when they are faced with a situation like mine. Never be afraid to speak to the head of the department and have a paper trail for every interaction. The Dean of Students is in place to be an advocate for you, never shy away from that.
Remember: if a teacher tells you to “Make the world a better place,” sometimes that means reporting their misconduct.