Administration Should Encourage Students to Approach Professors

Jennifer Feigin, College junior

To the Editors:

I took Environmental Stud­ies 101 during my freshman spring. I felt confident in my performance throughout the semester, not only because I had worked hard in the class, but also because I had taken AP Environmental Science in high school. When I saw my final grade, my heart sank; I had got­ten a D. I felt so upset and hurt. Because of the shame I felt, I avoided speaking with anyone about the grade; I bottled up my feelings inside and kept it to myself. I convinced myself that I had not been a good student, that I deserved the D and told myself to soldier on. I didn’t even consider the possibility of approaching my professor or a dean to seek an explana­tion for the grade. When I re­flect on this, I can only think that the bad grade landed like a blow to my already shaky self-confidence and I retreated into myself, cloaking my shame in a mask of indifference.

A year came and went. Dur­ing my sophomore spring, I got a call from my mom. She had seen the grade on my Presto account and was concerned. I had been carrying the feel­ings of humiliation and hurt around with me for so long that upon hearing my mom’s worry, I broke down and sobbed over the phone. The first thing my mom suggested that I do was contact my class dean to ask about how I might go about seeking an explanation for the grade. After hearing me out, my class dean directed me to the dean of studies. I hemmed and hawed, putting off contacting him.

My sophomore year ended and, partially because of this experience, I decided to take a year off from college. The sum­mer passed and as I was getting ready to go to Israel for three months, my mom continued to pester me about contacting the dean. Shortly before I left last September, fully 15 months after receiving the D, I spoke to the dean of students. I got the sense that little could be done to change the grade but was nevertheless advised to contact the professor. Shortly thereafter I sent an email to my professor inquiring about the grade. Within an hour, she re­sponded: “I just checked in my records and you have an overall B+ in my personal grade sheet.” A lump rose in my throat and I felt simultaneously relieved and upset with myself for not pursuing an explanation sooner.

I still do not understand how my grade was recorded as a D. I received no apology for the er­ror, neither from the professor nor from the administration. I also have no idea how often this kind of mistake occurs, though I tend to think it is not unique.

I acknowledge that I am par­tially at fault for not having ap­proached the professor upon receiving the D. For the fresh­man that I was, with a fragile sense of self-esteem, I felt no indignation nor injustice upon receiving the grade that would have spurred me to demand an explanation, but only an over­whelming sense of shame and self-blame. I don’t think I am alone, especially among fresh­men, in having that response. The administration would do well to recognize such human frailties in students and do more to both encourage stu­dents to approach their profes­sors promptly if they don’t un­derstand the grades they have received and ensure correct recording of grades so that no one has to suffer in silence like I did.

– Jennifer Feigin

College junior