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11.08.2004

The allegation: An issue with a professor

See "Timeline" for a more detailed retelling of this story.

This one was fairly true, if I'm interpreting it right. I did have an issue with a professor, and I still do. The one in question: Donna Downs (again, guessing from Jan Pletcher's e-mail).

Where it starts, I'm not very sure. Where it ended was her giving me an F for my internship -- that she was supposed to be supervising. Well, where it ended was her being told to change my grade to passing as it should have been from the beginning.

The failing grade came from Professor Downs telling that registrar and the Academic Dean at Taylor that her "trust of me" was slim and that she had been going on faith that I was actually at my internship working. She hadn't received an evaluation from my on-site supervisor by the time grades were due and felt "uncomfortable" giving me a passing grade without it.

Problem one, if she had done her job as an internship supervisor she would've had the material she needed and would've had no question that I was, in fact, where I said I was.

Now, why she didn't get the evaluation is quite simple. I was told she needed it one day before I left my internship. I of course passed the information off to my on-site supervisor. I was assured that she would send it as soon as possible. Now, as soon as possible meant a very different thing where I was working than it does in the real world. Because I was working in the White House.

My supervisor was a special assistant supporting the communications staff for Office of Homeland Security -- possibly one of the most understaffed, busiest communications offices in the federal government at that point. These are people who work 10 - 12 hour, non-stop, stress filled days routinely. Her responsibility to supervise me was added to her other tasks. Long story short, she forgot to send the evaluation.

Now, this was apparently my fault. I can't see how, really -- for one, I wasn't there. Two, the secret service would never let me bring my mind-control gun into the White House, so it was very diffcult to make my supervisors jump at my command.

I wasn't told that the evaluation was never sent to the school until the very day that grades were due. Professor Downs apparently waited until the last minute to tell me, as well. Because as soon as I found out, I put in a call and my White House supervisor had it faxed within minutes. Now, Professor Downs had my supervisor's phone number, and mine -- but she couldn't be bothered to pick up the phone to get what she needed. When I told Professor Downs that the evaluation had been faxed -- her response was that she had left her office and wasn't going back to get it.

Let's add to that that she at least intimated to some on campus that I wasn't really there, working either. That I had made it up. Then, let's consider why she never picked up a phone to call my supervisor -- ever -- during the entire four months I was in DC. Why she never made a field visit, though every other intern in my office had visits from their professors (including one from Notre Dame). Then, let's consider why my White House supervisor would ask me, "Why don't I ever hear from your professor? I hear from the other one's all the time." Let's consider that I wasn't required to do any journaling, write any papers or do any kind of work to turn into Professor Downs, though that's a normal requirement for internships and practicums. Let's consider why I wasn't informed of her need for an evaluation until the very last minute.

Now, let's consider that this White House evaluation, a protected Presidential record, that was last in the hands of the Communication Arts Department is conveniently missing. I was told this only after several request for a copy of it went ignored.

Maybe my job makes me see conspiracies where there really aren't any -- but if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, acts like a duck...

All this to say, I complained -- and I complained loudly. The registrar at the time (Legatha Adkison) had been a pain in my side for many months (as she was most Seniors) and she took every opportunity to remind me that if I didn't complete all requirements on time I wouldn't graduate in January 2003 -- including a passing grade on my internship by December 31st of 2002. Donna's solution was that we'd "talk about it" when I returned to campus in January. That wasn't acceptable to me, as my trust of them was completely shattered. I, like most people, know when I'm being screwed.

That was my "issue with a professor." There's more surrounding this story, including the communication department's response. That's for later.

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