I know a lot of my colleagues have been subject to student complaints to our boss. Right now it looks like I might be getting my first experience with this. A student has contacted my supervisor about my class. My supervisor contacted me about this on Friday, and I gave her what information I could on what is going on with the student, and what steps I have taken to address it.

I’m not really worried about it, although I’d be lying to you if I said it didn’t bother me.

That this student is complaining makes me wonder if I’ve failed him in some way.

I did fail him in one respect. I have allowed myself to complain about the situation; probably less privately than I should have. I just deleted a lot of words above to make sure I better protect my student’s privacy, and I’m satisfied with that, although not with some of my past words and actions, especially on Friday when I first found out.

Scuttlebutt is that students complain more to departmental administrators than in the past, and judging from some of the things I’ve heard about, I think there is truth in that. Here’s an article on things you didn’t know were negotiable. The #1 item? Grades. If a student doesn’t successfully negotiate with an instructor, is it onward to the Assistant or Associate Head of Undergraduate Operations? I sincerely hope our administrators back us up.

I’ll stick with old-fashioned here. If I make a mistake, I am happy to correct it. But let me make this clear, grades are not a negotiation. You earn what you get from me or you do not. I’m not going to give you something because you’ll lose a scholarship or be suspended from the university if I don’t. Not because I’m afraid you’ll go complain.