At a Professor’s Mercy: the Life of a Religious Student

We’ve all had them, experienced them, had to work with them. They make us mad, and we fume until we no longer within their proximity. We complain to other people about them, and wish every day that our life could have taken a slightly different route so that we had never come into contact with them.

If I had only…If I just…If he didn’t…

Obnoxious people.

For me, they come in the form of a rude and conceited professor this semester. A family wedding in Israel required me to miss the first week of classes, which I knew would prompt a rocky start. I tried to anticipate and quell this by emailing all of my professors before the semester started, to give them a heads-up. This professor, who had been emailing us the whole summer telling us to prepare for the fall class by reading the Washington Post daily (because apparently summer articles were fair game for fall quizzes), did not email back.

Off I went, and back I came.

My other professors and TAs were more or less understanding, and tried to help me make up the work. On the first day I made it to this professor’s class, the conversation, which happened during class, went something like this:

Professor: “Why don’t you have the assignment? Missing deadlines and not completing work already?!”

Me: “I don’t have the assignment because I wasn’t there the first day of class. I was the one who emailed you about my family circumstance abroad.”

Professor: “I don’t check my email!” *grumbles under breath*

When I went over to him after class to further explain myself, he demanded documentation for my absence. The next class I asked to arrange the mandatory one-on-one meeting with him that my peers were finishing. He again asked why I hadn’t organized mine yet, at which point I had to remind him that I was the one absent on the first day of class…remember? He grumbled that he didn’t remember, and asked if I knew his office hours, which were on the syllabus. Did I have my syllabus on me? he asked. (His syllabus is 20 single-spaced pages, with weird abbreviations and acronyms that are impossible to decipher.) No, I didn’t. He then yelled that I could come back to him when I was responsible enough to lug his syllabus everywhere. He was condescending and rude, and has no interest whatsoever in helping his students succeed. I walked away nearly in tears.

At the meeting I had with him today, which I finally managed to arrange, he was ten minutes late, which was a big deal considering that it was a 15 minute meeting and my next class was a hike away. He apologized for being late, which surprised me (although he reassigned blame to other people.) He was rude again throughout, trying to intimidate me. he decided to grill me about his textbooks, demanding to know what dates I had purchased them on and other irrelevant details. When I told him that one of my orders had been cancelled but that I had re-ordered it and it hadn’t arrived yet, he grilled me more, and I donned an air of confidence and a tone of authority that surprised me.

Professor: “Have you checked out the University Book store?”

Me: “Yes, but I’d rather not pay $115 twice for a textbook if I don’t have to.”

Professor, sarcastically: “DO YOU WANT TO PASS THE COURSE?!?!”

Me, staring him down: “Yes, and I will. It will come within a few days.”

Then he backed down. My woes don’t end here, and he is now requiring documentation for my religious holiday absences. When I tried to show him a Jewish calendar, he somewhat sarcastically asked if I wasn’t orthodox. I responded that I was, which he confirmed with a smirk and nod, and demanded an authorized note from a rabbi.

I’m sure it will be a fun semester, as he seems to have really taken to me, with a kindhearted, affectionate approach. Well, he is serving some purpose in my life-it’s my job now to figure out what that is.

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