Earn the respect

March 7, 2003

Deborah Lee's article on student harassment of academics is a strange mish-mash of offensive generalisations mixed with non sequiturs ("Give me an A or you're dead", THES , February 28). For example, what is one to make of the evidence in "Rachel's" story? Rachel was challenged by one student about alleged poor dissertation supervision. "Rachel's confidence was shaken," writes Lee. Despite support of management and colleagues, she eventually resigns.

I have challenged a few assessments over the years but still have a good relationship with those staff members. It is part of the job to discuss complaints rationally and calmly, with the support of colleagues if necessary.

Lee states that Rachel "had crossed the divide between academics who think that students are harmless and academics who know that they are not". Is this what the academics she surveyed think of students? If teaching staff cannot see how offensive this pretty meaningless fantasy is, they shouldn't be let near real, complex human beings called students.

Lee ends by stating that "students are not children whom we should indulge, they are adults who must learn to take responsibility for themselves". It is staggering that a lecturer could write in such patronising terms. If students fail to respect lecturers, it might be because they think academic staff such as the ones in this article are too unthinking, immature or prejudiced towards them to merit much respect.

Brian Dempsey
PhD student
Edinburgh University School of Law

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