Published: 12th April 2017
Stella Maris student writes anonymous letter to 'rude' prof asking for an apology: Are students today so hyper-sensitive that they need to post about a little sternness from teachers on social media?
So your prof gave you an earful. What would you do about it? Bicker and crib or go out and post about on social media and effectively publicity-shame them? You pick
Some years ago, if a student got yelled at in school or college, they would just take it in their stride or they would go weep to their friends and parents about it. The most they'd do about it is crib for a long time. Not today.
Today, students take to social media almost instantly, either with a hateful status or a long "open" letter or post on the ever active "confession" pages — so much so that it is almost mandatory. But where do we draw the line?
Recently, a student from a Stella Maris College in Chennai posted a letter on Facebook alleging that a professor had spoken to her "rudely" when she had approached her to pay the condonation fees. It is a fact that teachers have been known to give students a bit of a run-around when approached for a condonation, but teachers insist that very often it is only done as a disciplinary reinforcement and not meant for sadistic pleasure.
What is a condonation?
For those of you who have forgotten your colourful college days, a condonation is a one-time get-out-of-jail-free card that students can use when they've overshot their minimum attendance requirement within a 10 % margin. Having a valid reason is also necessary, in most cases.
The student, whom we are told is an NRI, claimed in the letter that she had been fighting depression for years and that the incident had deeply impacted her, she also demanded an apology "not a written one but an apology from the heart". The student, who conveniently stayed anonymous, did not fail to mention that she loved the college but unless she received an apology she would be "forced" to circulate the letter. Which has effectively happened, courtesy WhatsApp.
The letter is damaging to say the very least since the professor's name has been mentioned in the letter and in the case of most 'viral' letters, this one too could be accepted as the truth. But is it really? Do teachers deserve to be pulled into such a controversy and have their character "assassinated".
Stella Maris College, Chennai
There's always a counter-point: What Stella staff said happened that day
Edex Live reached out to the professor named in the letter — Dr Felbin C Kennedy — an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics and the Dean of Student Affairs and understandably, she had "nothing to say." We respect that.
However, in the interest of finding out what really happened we reached out to a member of the staff who was privy to the whole incident and this is what she related: "Felbin Kennedy did not say anything that was remotely rude or rush the student. All she did was ask for the paperwork. When the student accused her of being rude and asked her not to speak to her that way, she was asked by Felbin to get it done by the teacher next to her if she didn't want to deal with her. That is exactly what happened," she recounted. The letter has shocked her, as well as many members of the staff. College authorities said that they were trying to settle things amicably.
In defense: This is the anonymous letter that was doing the round on social media. The last bit seems to have been added by someone else
'She was strict but a fair person'
Not surprisingly, when we made inquiries about the teacher, there was an almost overwhelming amount of positivity. A student of hers from seven years ago said,"She taught me almost every semester. Actually, she was the Head of the Department at that time and she always came off as someone very approachable but strict when it comes to discipline. She used to take her time to explain each topic which was very helpful during the exams. She did have her moods but who doesn't? "
Another student who passed out in 2009 added fondly,"She's one of the more supportive teachers I've had. There was a time when some of us couldn't pay for the one-day trip, she offered to pay our share. That's how kind she was. She's actually one of the authors of Class 12 State board of Tamil Nadu Maths textbook and when a friend of mine was part of the student union, she was extremely helpful in balancing her attendance and college activities. She was very keen on discipline and rules but I think unless you are strict about it, students won't be able to learn it."
She's one of the more supportive teachers I've had. There was a time when some of us couldn't pay for the one-day trip, she offered to pay our share. That's how kind she was. She's one of the authors of Class 12 State board of Tamil Nadu Maths textbook
Student, Stella Maris College
The only not-so-nice thing that we heard was from a recent student. She explained,"I was to submit my medical certificate and she got my department number incorrect. So she refused to accept my letter till after she checked with the department," before adding, "About the letter that student wrote, I can imagine that happening. But again, the tone the student used could have been the reason why the whole thing happened. She is not the type to tolerate that."
Are students just more sensitive these days or is social media really a space that has no bearing on the real world?
Social media is a living, breathing behemoth. Practically nothing stays buried. And when someone is being sensitive about practically anything, chances are they're going to outrage about their teachers when they get told off too.
Dr Albert P’Rayan, a professor at KCG College of Technology and an ELT Trainer doesn't think that the students are immature or overly sensitive but he feels that they lack critical thinking, "They don't question themselves before they do something and misuse the platform to voice their opinions when ideally they should be dealing with the problem in person with the college administration," he said.
That doesn't take away from the fact that the girl said she was depressed. Depression is a serious issue today and like a lot of experts have been saying, whosever fault it is, these things can often be sorted out as long as you #LetsTalk. Or rip your teacher's reputation to shreds on social media.