New complaints about arts instructor

Students have complained about the behaviour of one of their instructors in the English Language and Culture department. She had previously been relieved of her teaching duties within the American studies department after her students there also submitted complaints.

According to her students, she is intimidating and they do not feel safe in her classroom. Her attitude in the classroom created an hostile atmosphere both during lessons and in personal evaluations, according to students.

English professor Sebastian Sobecki, her line manager, did not want to comment on the matter. ‘I think it is inappropriate to comment about colleagues.’

American studies

The same instructor had already been relieved of her teaching duties in American studies after students submitted a letter of complaint to the dean and the faculty board. According to the students, she is a ‘passionate teacher’ who taught them a lot, but she demonstrated ‘very unprofessional’ behaviour, is ‘emotionally unstable’ and was at times ‘rude’, both in the classroom and in her emails.

‘She comes across as competent and passionate, but she has a lot of trouble with mood swings. She can just fly off the handle. Sometimes, she would talk for half an hour about how stupid we were. Sometimes, she would become aggressive out of nowhere or would try to talk us into having an inferiority complex’, says one of the students who signed the letter, who wishes to remain anonymous.

In 2014, the faculty board officially decided that she would no longer be allowed to teach. Calls were made within American studies for her to be fired, but it never got that far. After she won a grant for 800,000 euros, it was decided that she should be given a position in the English department where she could start her own research group.

Why she was allowed to resume teaching in the English department has not yet been confirmed, and whether or not she will be allowed to continue teaching is unclear. The faculty board did not want to comment on the situation.

Previous complaints

The complaints about this instructor are not new. On the website Rate My Professors, aside from several notably positive reviews, multiple very negative reviews were written about her. A few students from the University of Virginia, where she taught in 2006, left feedback with complaints similar to those made by the RUG students. Various users said that the instructor mocked her students to make them seem foolish and would give nasty feedback on papers, and that she seemed intent to intimidate and criticize them.

Sources close to the American studies department say that a former PhD candidate whom she supervised was traumatised by the experience. ‘The PhD that she co-supervised has developed trust issues. She stalked her’, according to a former colleague who asked not to be named. The PhD candidate herself did not want to discuss the situation with the UK. ‘I want to leave that behind me’, she says.

In September, this instructor will have two new PhD candidates to co-supervise.