All in all, we’re just another brick in the wall
Maybe I’m just feeling a little vengeful in the twilight of my time at university, but after four years of being screwed over, I’ve decided it’s finally time to vent. Over the course of my degree, UoA and I have not always seen eye-to-eye, (why else would I have become a student journalist?) and most of the time I’ve just had to begrudgingly let it go and move on. But no more. No longer. This place has a staff accountability issue, and I am tired of pretending it doesn’t.
So what exactly sparked this vengeful tirade? Well maybe I’m just petty, because this article was inspired by some clumsy sleight-of-hand which cost me all of half a mark. It was just a tiny little reflection assignment. It should have been easy. But I did the unthinkable—I followed the instructions too closely.
Ok, I should probably be more specific. The assignment asked for three key takeaways from that week’s lecture. They gave an example of what they wanted, which began with “I learnt.” Given that this was literally the only provided example, I figured it must be exactly what they wanted. With this in mind, I began my three points with “I learnt” to ground them in my perspective and establish them as my personal learnings and observations (and y’know, because that was the format they’d given us).
A week later, marks and feedback are released, and I get hit with an absolutely devastating 1/1.5. My feedback? “Try to move away from using ‘I learned’—I think it diminishes the impact of your point a little.”
I. Was. Outraged. If the exemplar doesn’t line up with the expectations, then why even provide it in the first place?
So, I sent them an email, which was two paragraphs long and written as passively as I could possibly manage, but still boiled down to: “if you didn’t like how it was the same as the example, then what the hell did you even want from me?” Not only did I never get a reply, the next time I checked the assignment page, the tutor had retroactively edited it to remove the “I learnt” from the start of the example, which is basically just blatant gaslighting as far as I’m concerned. No admission that they had made a mistake. No apology. No revising the grade to give me my half mark back. They just quietly erased the evidence of their error and moved on.
I thought about following up, but eventually I decided that it wouldn’t be worth the time and effort. Instead, I started to wonder just how widespread issues like this are. It certainly wasn’t the first time something like this has happened to me, and these sorts of things must affect other people as well, surely? So, I set off on a quest to interview other students around campus, and this is what I found out.
Accounting is Literally the Worst
A word of advice; never take an accounting paper. Not only are they deeply boring (sorry to any accountants out there, but it’s true and you’ll never convince me otherwise), but I also have never respected any of the accounting teachers I’ve encountered. Maybe that’s because I stopped going to class three weeks into my singular accounting prereq, but on my travels I came across a story about a stage two accounting course, which further confirmed my long-held anti-accounting bias.
Brazy-Pablo, a student in this course, said that: “the lecturers told us the exam was on the last four weeks of the course […] and then they assessed us on the first eight weeks’ content and also on a topic that wasn’t taught.” Naturally, the students complained, but the lecturers brushed this off and told the exam office that these complaints were, “a coordinated attack on the course by the students.” Brazy-Pablo went on to explain that the lecturers “didn’t really apologise,” but they at least agreed to “take out the non-taught question and scale the rest”.
This sounds beyond ridiculous, and it’s honestly appalling that this is something staff can get away with just by blaming the students. I actually had a similar experience with a quiz in my accounting course, and ended up going through a lengthy back and forth with a disgruntled course coordinator just because I pointed out that they had mistakenly labelled content as ”non-assessed” and asked them to fix it. It’s honestly baffling to me that this is a recurring problem within accounting specifically. That being said, accounting is also the worst subject this university has to offer in my (unquestionably correct) opinion, so I guess it makes sense that they have the worst teachers.
Structural Failures in Engineering
Another person we talked to was Rainn, an engineering student, who said one of their courses had been badly restructured to incorporate a new project, and in particular, a tutor who didn’t really understand what was expected of students. Rainn felt this “made the course really unenjoyable, because the tutor was expecting [them] to work at a higher level than [they] were at.” The tutor even fully admitted that they didn’t even know much about the new project, and at one point claimed not to have even looked at the rubric—although, in the tutor’s defence, Rainn also explained that the rubric was published very late.
Worse still, there was very little communication between the staff and lecturers, and even when the tutor was asked by staff about the concerns raised by students, they just brushed off the comments and never properly addressed their behaviour (noticing a running theme here?).You’d think a course in this particular faculty would have rock solid foundations, but I guess even engineers create shaky structures sometimes.
No Credit for Extra Credits
For my final tale, I’ll circle back to one of my own experiences, but I’ve bought in someone else to tell the story who was much closer to the problem than I was. This was a lecturer for a small pass/fail paper in the science faculty for “high achievers”, which means there are no grades — only a pass/fail mark and feedback. Shouldn’t be too hard, right? I’ll hand over to friend and class rep, Emily, to tell the rest of the story…
“One of our lecturers didn’t submit feedback on our work for five months, despite me following up at least 10 times. We laid a complaint to the head of department, and that still didn’t change anything. The lecturer would keep giving us dates for when it would be done by, but when it got to that date he would give us a different excuse every time to make us feel guilty about asking for feedback in the first place. All round it just made the class a really negative experience.”
As someone who witnessed this entire ordeal as it played out over the many months (and still, to this day, does not have feedback on his assignment that he submitted a year and a half ago, not that he holds a grudge or anything…), I can attest that this was an incredibly frustrating experience. Despite Emily’s outstanding efforts to follow up on the issue, we never got a proper resolution or an apology—which, unfortunately, seems pretty typical based on my own experiences and everything I’ve heard from other students.
The unfortunate truth is that our teaching staff can get away with pretty much anything, and usually following up on it doesn’t even make a difference. That’s not really the conclusion I was hoping for out of this round of interviews, but I can’t say it wasn’t what I was expecting. But hey, at the end of the day if you’ve been mistreated by one of the UoA teaching staff, I’d still encourage you to to fight back as much as you can manage—if nothing else, at least you’ll annoy your lecturers, and surely that has to count for something.