Are our professors evil?

Setodzi Avoke
Staff Writer

Teachers are often constrained by department, federal and state standards, but individual teaching styles can often make the difference between a passing or failing grade, even within the same course with a different professor.

General grading leniency, extra credit offerings, adherence to stated lesson planning, whether or not they reveal what they desire in an assignment submission, as well as the degree to which they’re personally invested in an individual student’s grade are some of the factors that might easily shift a final grade.

Whether lenient or challenging, a professor’s approach to their classroom is a result of years of long experience with students and their subjects. In that time, tendencies that influence their approach to their role as a teacher develop, differentiating them from other professors.

Part-time professor of history, philosophy and social sciences, E. R. Rugenstein considers himself in-between lenient and strict professors.

“I try to look at the student and the type of work they’ve put into [ the class],” said Rugenstein. Ultimately, it’s the final result of their effort he’ll be grading, but he takes into consideration that at Hudson Valley, he’ll usually be dealing with undergraduate students.

“Sometimes it’s the very first time they’ve been in college,” said Rugenstein. As a cultural history professor,Rugenstein is aware that a student, potentially entering a college course for the first time, may require patience to adjust someone to proper research and citation methods while getting across the significance of plagiarism in higher learning.

On extra credit, Rugenstein is aware of the many learning methods a student could be better adapted to that aren’t always demonstrated in a typical classroom setting. His extra credit offerings reflect this, allowing students to analyze course-relevant films from a prepared list and/or visit a selected museum exhibit to submit an impression of the experience.

Rugenstein follows his syllabus closely, spending class time reviewing each section and having his expectations for each assignment available, as well as providing a schedule for the entire course. Rugenstein goes as far as to subject any change to the syllabus to a class vote.

Part-time professor of history, philosophy and social sciences, Wesley Nishiyama does not consider himself a lenient professor, maintaining the same expectations for Hudson Valley students as he does for the four-year colleges and New York State Assembly Internship Program he also instructs.

On extra credit, professor Nishiyama feels that any student, doing only what is asked and recalling what is explained to them, will pass. “The idea is that if students do their work, there should be no problems getting an A, although it is a lot of work.”

“If [students] come to class, if they read all the assignments I assign and they study using my study guides, they shouldn’t need extra credit,” said Nishiyama.

Nishiyama’s adherence to his syllabus changes depending on the nature of the class he’s teaching.
“In a philosophy class, it goes according to what students are interested in. I try to cover things, but often we get into discussion…I don’t want to stop a discussion that’s going well and students are interested in,” said Nishiyama.

While his political science class might also lend itself to a student led tilt, as a mathematics educated professor, he also heads courses with more rigid structure.

“I have a personal interest in students’ learning, and if a student learns, they’ll usually get a good grade. If a student has a particular problem, even [if] the student doesn’t [qualify] for a disability consideration, I do offer a student or the whole class alternative assignments. My focus is that the student learns, not so much the grade, which is an outcome of student’s learning,” said Nishiyama.

Freshman electrical engineering major, Rick Giglao, feels that so far his professors have been fair graders. He made sure that each class he scheduled was backed with the advice of other students on ratemyprofessor.com, where students can anonymously grade their professors by tagging their profile with labels that show their best or worst traits.

Rugenstein doesn’t check ratemyprofessor.com currently, though he did at one time. “I find sometimes that if you did well in a class, you’re gonna say ‘the professor is pretty good’ and if you didn’t do well in a class, you’re not gonna give him a high rating.”

Nishiyama never checks ratemyprofessor.com, “I check the evaluations that my classes give, but I think there are problems with ratemyprofessor.com.”

Individual studies major Jared Goronkn uses ratemyprofessor occasionally, but finds the same issues in it as professors Nishiyama and Rugenstein.

Goronkn said, “It’s generally pretty good to figure out if your teacher is exceptionally good…you’ll usually find people who are mad at the professor for giving them bad grades when it could’ve been their fault.”

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