Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

University Of Illinois Professor Put On Paid Leave For Refusing To Give PowerPoint Slides To Learning Disabled Student

IllinoisInside Higher Ed, A Hill to Retire On?:

A dispute over electronic lecture slides and accommodations for a learning-disabled student may have ended the teaching career of Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Schlesinger said Thursday that he's learned from his lawyer that he is on paid administrative leave over the matter, pending a hearing. He said he has not resigned, despite previously having indicated otherwise to students.

“Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you teach. Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you do research,” Schlesinger wrote to a disabilities services specialist at the university, announcing his departure last week. He accused the staff member of writing him “coercive emails” about the accommodation and copied his entire class on climate and global change on the exchange.

“Yet,” he continued, “it is you who have pressured me, who has taught and researched for 41 years in university and is a Nobel Prize recipient, to do that which I will not do, advantage a single [Disability Resources and Educational Services] student over the 100-plus non-DRES students in my course by providing that student with my lectures electronically.” ... Schlesinger continued, “I think the university needs to rethink having people such as you. Nonetheless, I look forward to spending the remainder of my life in Kona, Hawaii.”

Parts of the email exchange have been posted online by students, and Schlesinger confirmed their authenticity to Inside Higher Ed. The messages say that Schlesinger offered to pay for someone to take notes for the student in question, so the professor’s main contention was sharing his slides with the student to supplement the notes.

Schlesinger told Inside Higher Ed that when he sent the email about leaving for Hawaii, he thought he'd already been terminated. "I have not resigned and do not tend to resign," he said via email. "Rather, I intend to fight for a more balanced approach to assisting disabled students, an approach that does not disadvantage non-disabled students."

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What seems unreasonable to me is that this professor, being paid to teach, is withholding any of his lecture notes or work papers for this class from the people who are paying for it - the students. He can slather this stuff with copyright notices or whatever, but it seems that the students paid exorbitant sums for not just hearing the professor's voice at lectures, but for all relevant finished papers, slides, and printed materials used for the course or any course presentations.
Most excuses for this kind of behavior from college faculty usually come down to them being too lazy to update their course or exams from year to year, and they want to prevent the current classes from benefiting from anything provided to previous ones.

Posted by: ruralcounsel | Sep 20, 2017 4:32:46 AM

Sounds like a charming man. He also greatly exaggerates his credentials: he hardly won the Nobel Prize - he was one one many contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which share the 2007 Peace prize with Al Gore. The IPCC shared the prize, not Schlesinger individually.

Posted by: Zbuck | Sep 20, 2017 5:33:28 AM

This situation appears to have escalated unnecessarily. Though I don't use PP, I can understand why the professor doesn't want to release his slides for any reason, but based on these snippets he's not doing himself any favors with the tone of his exchanges. I guess if he has the option of retiring, or being retired, to Kona, then he's got a better Plan B than most of us.

Posted by: David Yamada | Sep 20, 2017 6:52:08 AM

Did he personally win the Nobel prize? Or was it a group award to all the members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, shared with Al Gore? Hundreds of people got "certificates" from the IPCC for their "participation" but that doesn't make them Nobel laureates:

In a statement of 29 October, 2012 the IPCC clarified that the "prize was awarded to the IPCC as an organisation, and not to any individual involved with the IPCC. Thus it is incorrect to refer to any IPCC official, or scientist who worked on IPCC reports, as a Nobel laureate or Nobel Prize winner. It would be correct to describe a scientist who was involved with AR4 or earlier IPCC reports in this way: 'X contributed to the reports of the IPCC, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.'" It stated that it had not sent the certificates to "contributing authors, expert reviewers and focal points."

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Sep 20, 2017 10:18:39 AM

he does not have them on his website so students can look at them before hand? Really? I would seriously doubt that the work product is that good that he is so anal about it and yes I teach at a college and I freely distribute my slides and other materials

Posted by: Old Guy | Sep 20, 2017 4:05:13 PM

PhD bureaucratic dweeb trying to push around a genuine intellect. It's all about power, and power is addictive, even at the the tiny doses this bureaucrat bully enjoys.

Posted by: Anonymous Boston father | Sep 20, 2017 4:39:32 PM

That Prof: "... to do that which I will not do, advantage a single [Disability Resources and Educational Services] student over the 100-plus non-DRES students in my course by providing that student with my lectures electronically.”

Has anyone pointed out to this guy that he could have settled this issue by providing all his students with that information? We might even wonder why he doesn't do that as a matter of course. In my over 11 years of higher education I can't recall a single professor who seems this ill-tempered and uncooperative. What, for instance, does his 41 years in academia have to do with refusing to help a student.

You can find out more here, including the fact that his Nobel Prize was only for being part of a committee. It won the prize not him.

"Schlesinger — who was recognized for contributing to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize."

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Sep 20, 2017 4:45:10 PM