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Wye'd of the Mark

Jul 06 2007 11:30
Ashley Brown
Wye has caused a heated debate on Live! this week; Ashley Brown tries to work out what the hell is going on in the countryside, and explains why Live! is censoring posts.
Wye: isolated in more ways than one

This week has seen one of the fastest growing discussions ever to appear on Live!, one which has caused a series of phone calls and emails to be exchanged between just about everyone involved. Posts on poor teaching, neglected students and even unproven allegations of unprofessional conduct have appeared over the past few days. At the same time the students themselves have come under attack by their peers for failing to go to lectures and not being proactive in getting problems addressed earlier.

As Editor, I've also been given a hard time by everyone and I suspect I'll get even more grief after publishing this. Such is life.

What is going on?

At its heart, the problem revolves around people feeling they have got lower grades than they deserve for a number of reasons, which they say include poor teaching, lack of support from academics and suggestions of biased marking. As a result an investigation is underway, one which will have to work hard to dig through the available evidence to see what are valid complaints and what are just sour grapes.

From the uncomfortable position of middle-man, the situation at Wye can only really be described as one thing: a monumental cock-up. College has failed to give enough support to the staff and students at Wye, instead continuing with the attitude that it's a bit of a pain. The students failed to seek redress to their problems during their course and are now left fighting for degrees they feel they deserve. The Union failed to ensure the students knew where they could go in confidence, for which the students of the Wye College Union Society must accept a large helping of blame (and these are the people racing around the countryside in their expensive 4x4s).

Many students at South Kensington feel that a lot of the complaints which appeared in the discussion are without merit, because everyone in London has the same problems: exams bunched together, courseworks bunched together, lecturers who just read from the slides, a lack of sample exam papers for new courses and so on. However, they also have several thousand other people in the same boat and a reasonably functional representation network to solve issues quickly. This network appears to have broken down at Wye.

Wye has suffered from its isolation. As a small campus paranoia seems to have set in, with a belief among some that complaining during their course would result in lower grades. This points to a fundamental breakdown in the trust between staff and students, for at least the small group affected. With such a breakdown, the viciousness of the remarks seen on Live! is unsurprising.

Many of the accusations appears to be quite serious, however would be far less so if the staff/student relationship had not broken down. As an example, many lecturers tell students who attend lectures that they will do better than those who do not, occasionally teaching without handouts to stop people just reading notes off of the web. Most would argue this is a valid teaching method, but unpopular with those who want to sleep in until 2pm. Putting less effort into helping those who don't turn up to lectures is also not uncommon: why put extra effort in to help people who can't be bothered? To someone on the receiving end, this could well seem like biased marking has led to a drop in grades.

With this said, the situation at Wye is clearly not satisfactory. The fact that the trust relationship has totally disintegrated with a group of students is not acceptable, even if the underlying accusations have more rational explanations.

The problems at Wye seem to boil down to the following:

  • Imperial College academics who are demotivated and overworked thanks to constant restructuring and change at the campus
  • A consequent breakdown in communication with students, with emails going unanswered
  • A final breakdown in trust with those who felt they were being ignored due to the breakdown of communication
  • Accusations of bias, because some students were still in the trust/communications loop whereas others had fallen out of it
  • A further complication with Kent academics who have been brought in without a clear idea of the Imperial course, so not teaching everything required

This is my take on what has happened and I will await the results of the investigation with interest.

Censorship?

Live! has been put into an unfortunate position, with people launching torrents of abuse, usually anonymously, on the discussion board. While this is all good entertainment, it is grossly unfair to allow the reputations of academics to be damaged on the basis of anonymous ranting. If we're going to ruin the career of an academic, we'd like the evidence to back us up in court, preferably with the person making the allegations standing next to us. Consequently on Wednesday evening we modified the posts carrying the serious allegations to disguise the names of the people involved, but allowed the names of those who were accused of not responding to emails or being lousy teachers to remain. The actual allegations remained to ensure that people were aware of the possible issues at the campus.

This was not enough for the people involved, who wanted the most serious allegations removed completely. Despite a bit of a battle, we have agreed to remove them pending a discussion on what should be allowed and what should not be. Live!'s position is that it is not possible to defame someone if they are not readily identifiable.

Is this censorship? We are still in two minds about this, but I would be more bothered had the people making accusations posted with their real names. Removing allegations of professional misconduct causes me a great deal of concern, as that is the most serious charge levelled at the Wye campus. My mind is eased by the fact that there are other explanations for the behaviour seen than serious misconduct.

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Discussion about “Wye'd of the Mark”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jul 06 2007 13:35
 

This is a fairly good summary of the situation actually. But what the editor seems to miss is the fact there are many satisfied students, who worked damned hard to get there 2:1's and 1st's just like every student at South Ken has too!

Jul 06 2007 13:42
 

That was why I used "small group affected", but I take your point that it is only Applied Business Management students complaining and that even on that course there are many satisfied students.

Jul 06 2007 14:06
 

True. I was hoping you could do me a favour, I would like to get the satisfied students together to say thanks to our lecturers. I feel sorry for them, getting dragged into this, as people search for scapegoats.

Jul 06 2007 14:07
 

Set up a facebook group, post it here, then send them a card...

5. Sarah   
Jul 06 2007 14:28
 

I strongly believe it would be hard to find a group of satisfied students. There might be a few (those got "exam tips" before they went into the exam room and came out with 1st or 2.1).

I couldn't be bothered to suck up the lecturers but to work hard and went to lectures. Got a 2.2 at the end.

6. Hmm.   
Jul 06 2007 15:00
 

"I would like to get the satisfied students together to say thanks to our lecturers. I feel sorry for them, getting dragged into this, as people search for scapegoats."

It's certainly important that any complaints make it clear what is down to the lecturers thmselves, and what is down to outside (i.e. Imperial) forces. A lot of comments on the other thread refer to poor "work ethic" with regard to teaching office hours, lecturers being off campus, library opening hours etc. To me this sounds more like reduced hours due to funding cuts than anything to do with the "work ethic" of those involved. Chances are, those singled out as being "OK" were actually putting in above and beyond what they are now being paid to do.

Jul 06 2007 15:05
 

Lectuers were always on site, with the exception of Nigel Williams, who did his best to see you if you tried.

They all had open hours, and were there to see. But 1 week before your dissertation is due in, or 3 days before the exams, they are swamped with idiots doing last minute work, of course they cant see everyone, its the same at every uni

Jul 06 2007 15:07
 

Exactly, they were there, and pay has nothing to do with it. We had more than enough lectuers, plus revision lectures, how can anyone have the nerve to blame them. Every single one of them, said if you have problems e-mail me, or come and see me. I did enough times, they helped

9. Sarah   
Jul 06 2007 15:18
 

This is so funny. No 7 & 8 is obviously the same person, haha.

Jul 07 2007 14:11
 

Yeah obviously, but whoever they are, are sadly right! Our year was jokes, no-one did anything, just a few people, thats why just a few people did well, i dont think i even worked hard enough for a 2:2, i was delighted with one!

Jul 09 2007 12:27
 

why don't you all just work harder? it's not like you're doing a degree in pure mathematics...and yes, there are plenty of people there who get high firsts despite far more inadequate teaching (we're talking mathematicians trying to teach...). seems to me the fault is 100% with the students. a degree isnt that hard people!

Jul 09 2007 22:31
 

I agree with the work harder bit, and that 90% of the year didnt work hard enough, but your clearly a c**k, you dont have a clue what our degree entailed. To get a first in Maths is easier according to my oxford friend, as its far more clear cut like accounting. No suprise our years highest marks were in Quantitative methods and Math based subjects, its not easy, but its clear what you need to know!

Jul 17 2007 13:11
 

SOUTH KEN STUDENT, GO DO APPLIED BUSINESS MANAGEMENT..........YOU WILL PROBS GET A S**T GRADE BECAUSE ITS SO BROKEN DOWN BY SO MANY COURSEWORKS AND EXAMS, YOU CAN EASILY SKREW UP. AND ALSO MATHS HAS A cORRECT OR wRONG ANSWER. IN BUSINESS MANAGEMENT YOUR MARKED ON HOW GOOD YOUR ANSWER IS BASED ON RESEARCH AND ARGUING YOUR POINT WHEREAS IN MATHS YOUR ANSWER IS EITHER RIGHT OR WRONG, SO DONT GO SAYING PEOPLE DIDNT WORK HARD, ITS PROBABLY ONE OF THE HARDEST DEGREES AT IMPERIAL. ONE OF THE GUYS WHO GOT A FIRST WAS ACTUALLY REVISING FROM THE FIRST TERM BECAUSE WE HAD TO KNOW SO DAMN MUCH. LIKE MOST OF LSE BUSINESS COURSES OUR FOUR SUBJECTS, WE HAD TO DO EIGHT SO GET LOST

Jul 17 2007 13:16
 

Most Imperial courses are 8-11 subjects per year, with lots of courseworks, exams and individual and group projects. Many engineering subjects require a degree of judgement and drawing sensible conclusions from the information available, with marks awarded for a logical train of thought using appropriate theory.

Most courses also require that you have a reasonable grasp of english and can operate a keyboard correctly.

Jul 17 2007 23:44
 

Richard V, post 13, what was that? Muppet! Our course was not hard, it wasnt easy, especially if you didnt go to lectuers! They aren't meant to be easy. I mean seriously, read what you said, your an embbbarrrassssment to Imperial.!

Jul 24 2007 18:09
 

"applied business management" - the name has it all in it!

applied: means it's less to learn than a full course. like the difference in applied mathematics as compared to mathematics. it's also easier than theory, and if you don't believe me, ask any scientist

business: well that's a no-brainer, in every sense of the statement

management: this is usually adopted for a course which actually doesnt teach you anything, but where you rather learn about constructs such as "networking"

now how can you complain about a course like that? you probably took it because it looked easier than economics at lse or a scientific degree. and yes, we all have courseworks, we all have exams. and even if maths has a right or wrong answer, there are exams in theory in which the highest mark is 15%, simply because you can't answer the question without a superhuman brain. now your petty essays don't sound too difficult, do they?

just stop the complaining and put in some hours. and if you still don't manage, go to the university of aberystwyth.

Jul 24 2007 18:40
 

You cant compare maths and business you tit, applied or not applied the content is about the same, its just applied because we had several science courses in the first year, environmental economics ect.

But yes the course was harder than your average business course, but also it was not too hard to get a 2:1, we just had too many idiots who thought they didn?t have to work.

So your comment was half correct, just overly patronizing!

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