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Students blackmail, threaten and put pressure on lecturers

Students blackmail, threaten and put pressure on lecturers

MAASTRICHT. The misconduct by students at the School of Business and Economics hit a wrong chord with two lecturers: partly because of this, one has left and the other is considering to leave the faculty. It also appeared recently that SBE students complain in an organised fashion after an exam and go in search of questions that could lead to a complaint.

For the two lecturers – at the department of Finance – this was the limit. One is senior economist at ABP and the other has his own company. They taught (part-time) because they liked doing so, says department chairman Jaap Bos. But the blackmailing and threatening behaviour was no fun. Other lecturers have problems with this too.

Bos: “Ten minutes after an exam, a lecturer received an e-mail saying: ‘You ruined my future, how are you going to make this right?’ Maybe it is an idea to involve the Examination Board in such cases when there is evidence of misconduct. The board could then check the facts. After three incidences, sanctions could follow.”

Bos also sees students using the course evaluation more and more as a means to pressure lecturers into given higher grades. “This doesn't just happen here at Finance but also at other departments. Some lecturers who have always had high appreciation suddenly find the assessments plummeting. We should be very worried about this kind of punishment.”

Another matter for concern was presented last Tuesday during the faculty council meeting. It appears that students not only complain more often, but they also do so in an organised fashion these days. Using the Jodel app, they agree on the questions that they will focus on. They expect that by doing so, the answer key will be adapted and a higher grade will follow.

This was recently brought to light in the bachelor's subject of Entrepreneurship and small business management. Block co-ordinator Nardo de Vries made screenshots to show how students – anonymously - evaluated every question for ‘complainability’. Which question is or isn’t suitable for a complaint? “De Vries: “Students have the right to complain, but I call this grade shopping. They don't just do this in the case of a five and a half, but even with a nine. I also hear it from colleagues, it happens with several other courses.”

This mass complaining costs a lot of time, says De Vries. “The exam had sixty questions and I received 219 complaints. It takes days to deal with them all. You have to answer, also to ensure that the faculty incurs as few lawsuits as possible.”

The faculty council wondered how many students are guilty of this. Jaap Bos also feels that it concerns a limited group. Bos thinks that the hawk-eye system may provide a solution. “From the start of their studies, students are allowed to submit three complaints. If a complaint appears to be justified, nothing changes. But if the complaint is unfounded, they only have two more possibilities to complain.”  

The new dean Peter Møllgaard is not in favour of limiting the number of complaints that students may make. “I would prefer to discuss with the students what is and isn't reasonable behaviour.”

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