TEXAS CITY — The College of the Mainland has disciplined one of its professors for talking about topics outside the subject matter of his class.

Professor Tracy Orr said he believed the administration was attempting to crack down on him for speaking out about issues at the college. Orr has filed a grievance against the college and is being represented by former College of the Mainland Professor David Michael Smith. 

Orr’s grievance has been assigned to Lonica Bush, the college’s director of diversity and equity, to determine whether the college violated any policies or broke any rules in the discipline process, college President Beth Lewis said. 

According to the “Formal Conduct Correction Plan” given to Orr, a student complained to his department chair and to Lewis that Orr held the class “hostage” while he gave his opinion on a non-class related topic for 30 minutes. 

Orr was ordered to “refrain from using class time to express personal opinions on topics unrelated to course content.” 

Orr said he refused to sign the correction plan. 

Orr, who has worked at the college for about 10 years — six of those as a tenured professor — denied spending 30 minutes of one of his anatomy and physiology classes to talk about an unrelated topic. 

While he wasn’t told by his department chair which student complained or in which class, Orr said he was told the complaint was about him talking about issue related to the college in class. 

Orr said he has been critical of college administration in the past and if a student asks him a question he will answer. He said does remember spending about five minutes discussing problems at the college. 

“The discussion began when I responded to students’ questions about pay raises for professors,” Orr wrote in his grievance.

Orr said he had already covered everything that needed to be covered in that day’s class. While he spends the overwhelming majority of his class time on course material, Orr said from time to time he does talk about other topics.

“Most instructors I know, if they are good, talk about other things,” he said. 

While professors have the right to say what they want about the subject they teach, they don’t have the right to stray off topic and give their opinion on non-course related material, Lewis said. 

“What they need to talk about in the their classroom is on subject matter,” she said. 

That Orr was talking about issues at the college is not what is at issue, Lewis said. 

“It doesn’t matter if he was talking about professional basketball or kitty litter,” she said. “That is not the appropriate use of class time.” 

At this point Orr has just been told to not stray from the subject matter in class, she said. If it continues to happen the disciplinary level can increase, she said.

The highest level is level four in which a professor can be fired. 

But at this point Orr will only receive a letter in his employment file warning him not to do it again and it will be removed in 12 months, Lewis said. 

 

Contact reporter Christopher Smith Gonzalez at 409-683-5314 or chris.gonzalez@galvnews.com

(69) comments

Raif Smith

The COM needs to send their dissentants to a reeducation camp, They could be released after learning proper political thought and proper respect their glorious leaders

Carlos Ponce

In high school, students loved to get their teachers off topic by bringing up something unrelated to the subject. The correct response should be "If you really want to know I'll tell you after class." Perhaps this also applies to college students. Now if he can relate pay raises for professors to anatomy and physiology, he has a case. Too bad he wasn't teaching math or economics. As a math teacher I could relate anything to math.

JBG JBG

Old habits die hard!! If you are finshed with today's lesson then start on the next class stuff! Maximize education time on education!!!!
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Lets shape up!!!!!!!!!! Don't get [offtopic] again!!!!!

Lars Faltskog

[thumbup] And there are those who ask why we should [ban] the practice of proselytizing during official business? The answer is simply because it doesn't make the best use of time and it will, no doubt, offend at least one person. Then, YOU, as the person employed will get in real hot water by [angry] superiors. [sad]
A smart person knows when his discourse should be self-[censored]

[beam][beam][beam]

George Croix

Nothing new here, or pretty much at any junior college, college, or university.
It's a darn shame that so many 'professors' in secondary education everywhere feel the need to effectively steal tuition money from the students by feeding them personal ideology rather than course subject matter.
In fairness, I suppose it's possible that these same ideologues would cheerfully listen to their mechanic expound on his personal views while charging for that time as spent on repairing their car.
I'm not familiar with COM hiring practices. Is employment there covered by mandatory length of service contract, or is one free to leave if they don't like the place?

ole dad

I side with the prof. He completed the course content for the day. I've been through a lot of university level education in my time and didn't ever mind if the discussion veering off topic now and again. It rendered an atmosphere of open communication where students felt at ease discussing course topics. If students were held hostage and forced to hear something they disagreed with, then that's an issue.

Carlos Ponce

If he had completed the course content for the day he should have dismissed the class then have a one on one with the student with the off topic inquiry. Since a complaint was registered with the administration, at least one student felt uncomfortable with the discussion during class time and felt he or she was not getting their money's worth.

Lars Faltskog

I concur with the majority of the writings here. Students pay tuition to receive, practice, and further use materials taught to them in class. Such material should be course-related.

Anything "off topic" should be appropriate, very short-term (seconds), and be no more controversial than the weather. In government and history classes, material should be presented in factual basis so that the student can later decide what philosophical stance he/she will favor in his later adult life.

School politics have no room in the classroom. I would say if a teaching staff wants to discuss such matters that he/she have an "after class hour" discussion at a cantina or restaurant. And, even then, that's dicey. In reality, teaching staff should stick to the teaching and let the administrators and their contributors deal with the in-school politics.

BTW, Arm and Hammer kitty litter isn't as good as Fresh Start!

JBG JBG

Probably been the problem at COM all along. People working there want to do what seems right in their OWN eyes instead of following college policy! I've been on both sides of the fence and I know how it works.
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I recommend doing the job, as the employers asks for it to be done, then if there are any gripes, you will be good to go!
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Lets get in one car out there!! All those who are in a FURY, need to stop, get out, and get with everybody else going forth in one ACCORD! Don't need but one vehicle to carry everybody. Sometimes those who are already out the doors will try to lure others out too, ...for company. Be not deceived. Do your job, and Mr. Ponce made an excellent suggestion! If you are finished with the class requirements, then 1) move ahead of schedule, 2) dismiss class and have your one on one discussion. Nothing hard about that. I might not want to sit there and hear the instructor MAK-DAT-YAC!
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Lastly, allow me:
-
Proverbs 25:11-13
--------------------------
Timely advice is lovely,
like golden apples in a silver basket.
To one who listens, valid criticism
is like a gold earring or other gold jewelry.
Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer.
They revive the spirit of their employer.
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That is the best I can do! It is better than advice coming from outsiders trying to get even. [smile]

Mike Meador

Yeah, let's us see how well it goes over when you tell your professor you've got some other things to do when going off-subject, can you be excused? Or better yet, just quietly walk-out when the end of the material goes into non-subject matter...yeah, let's see how this goes over on the professor.
If the professor wants to opine on his viewpoints having not much to do with the subject, during class time or after class time has expired, then take those to get a coffee.
I don't think this is the only time somebody has told the administration that classes have been captive by this professor.

Lars Faltskog

Response to cougargator posted at 8:16 am on Thu, Jun 5, 2014:

Point well taken regarding the captiveness of a professor's audience. I think we all recall dealing with instructors who went off on tangents, repeated themselves, or simply didn't make sense oftentimes.

But, in this case an instructor deliberately and consciously went off-topic. Anyone with common sense (and professors ought to have lots of it via their education) that if you're going to talk about something more than a slight more controversial that all it takes is one student to complain.

I tend to frame any official business (classtime, workplace, etc.) as being subject to any and all scrutiny. That is, when we're on the job we can be recorded, photographed, evaluated, observed. It makes no sense to go off on tangents in a public realm, especially when others are observing. Now, if one is in his/her office and takes 20 minutes to order some Keurig coffee selections from Bed Bath and Beyond, then such an inocuous action is blatantly different than publicly airing your differences to 30 some-dd students regarding official work business. Then again, if the class was one of those 400-capacity auditorium arenas with hundreds of bodies, then definitely you'll be snarked on by a busybody student who doesn't like what you say.

Chris Gimenez

Looks like the professor got his hand slapped for going off in the weeds. Of course, that kind of stuff was probably condoned when Comrade Smith was calling the shots at COM. If the professor wanted to really be fair about his discussion he would have called in someone from the administration to present the opposing views of "the problems at COM".

Dr. David Michael Smith

Tracy Orr is an outstanding professor with a long record of service to the College and widespread support among students. He is a former Teacher of the Year at COM and an Air Force veteran. His student evaluations are consistently excellent, the administration has regularly asked him to teach overload courses, and his success with students is well documented. The unsubstantiated complaint of one student out of more than 120 students in his classes is no grounds for a disciplinary action. In addition, Tracy's First Amendment rights do not stop "at the schoolhouse gate." Those of you who are criticizing him reveal your own prejudices and ideological predispositions--not understanding of the facts, constitutional rights, or best practices in higher education. That is too bad. Everyone should be able to agree on respecting the First Amendment and refraining from retaliation in the workplace.

Carlos Ponce

David Michael Smith, I thank you (US Army Infantry) and Tracy Orr (Air Force) for your service to our country. We may disagree on many things but I think we can agree that serving our country is laudable.

George Croix

D.M. Smith, your 'first amendment' argument in this case is bunk.
No teacher at an institution where students pay for their education has a 'right' to use the time paid for by the students taking a course to expound on their personal ideologies. Just because some people are willing to tolerate it, does not make it a 'right', or that the rest of the students must sit silently listening to it, if they choose not to. A lectern is not supposed to be a bully pulpit for politics, no matter how many 'progressive' educators ne indoctrinators have taken to using it as such.
As for 'unsubstantiated', it's no less 'unsubstantiated' than some other claims against the college were over the years, absent a video or audio recording of an event.
My 'prejudices and ideological predispositions" is that taking time that someone else paid for to use for yourself is nothing but theft. You might want to visit the fact that your own prejudice and predisposition in support of it just might need a bit of further consideration.
About that freedom of speach in the First Amendment? Which workers paradises in Marxist/socialist countries have freedom of speach? It's not illegal to espouse one thing but do another...but it is a challenge to credibility.
And, for that matter, 'widespread support is not an indeminifier against criticism (widespread...is that more than 11...I believe that was a former definition on a different subject), any more than a former award is, or being in the Air Force.
'Consistently' is not a synonym for 'always', and this is one time a student evaluation was not excellent.
What the college has essentially done is tell the guy to spend his time in class on course related subject matter. Is that not what he was hired to do?
The guy should man up and act like a professional and get square with his employer and student(s) and move on. I note he did not dispute that he did what he was said to have done, but just objected to the time duration claimed.
His argument in the face of a complaint against it is like a woman arguing that yes. she's pregnant, but just a little bit.

Kevin Lang

I think that there a few players in this off-Broadway production that could try exploring the art of wearing big-boy pants. However, for the participants involved, it doesn't seem quite so silly to make mountains out of mole hills while wearing training pants.

Somehow, I think that if the off-topic discussion were about the Houston Texans, no one would have been called on the carpet. I think some would argue that only certain species fo moles make hills that automatically graduate to the scale of mountain.

Lars Faltskog

Well, gecroix -

I can go with your stance regarding the need for the employee to "man up" and get good with his employer. However, we must remember that it's not just the "progressive" folks who like to spread their ideologies at certain inopportune times. The same goes with those "status quo" reminiscent of the good 'old days of segregation and "women in their place" types who go on and on about how "great" it was when everyone "knew their place".

As the saying goes, "There's a time and place for everything."

Victor Krc

“Most instructors I know, if they are good, talk about other things,” he said.

Well, how about that. See how easy it is to pat myself on the back, not as hard as you might think.

Well, I have around 160 college hours and I didn't know that.

I have had instructors that talked about other things in class that were interesting but were course related. For instance a finance professor would comment about a current article in the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal and discuss its relevance to the somewhat dry and abstract topic we were covering in class.

I have had all kinds of instructors over the years and I never encountered one that discussed or criticized university administration or policies.

For some reason some junior college instructors think they are a privileged class and are exempt from the restrictions that us poor mortals who are not residents of Mt. Olympus have to submit ourselves to in the workaday world.

It is our tax money that is making COM and his job possible. We have also appointed an administration to enforce policies and rules of conduct without which effective instruction would be impossible.

Political bellyaching should take place after working hours. If any of us lesser beings did what this instructor did we would have been summarily sacked.

George Croix

Vic, you make a lot of sense. Do you belong in these forums..??
[beam][beam][beam]
I did a cursory examination of courses offered at COM and could find none even close to 'Criticism of College of the Mainland 101'.
It would therefore seem to be a non-credit, off the menu item...[wink]

Victor Krc

Thanks, gecroix. I have learned a lot by reading all the posts on the various forums, including your unique perspective. All good.
Takes up some of the slack time I have after retirement and lets me exercise my crotchety old man side.

Kevin Lang

My first impression is that there are people that are having problems discerning the differences between mole hills and mountains.

I would tend to think that the discussion lasted longer than 5 minutes, and less than 30. I would also think that the student was not "held hostage", but didn't have the intestinal fortitude to raise his hand and ask if the material for the day was complete, if there was any homework, or just simply grab his things and leave, claiming to have an appointmet or something if the teacher asked him why he was leaving.

Perhaps the college should start censuring students for going off-topic in class, too? If you think the lines are that hard and fast in the classroom, and you want to ask the prof about his holiday weekend, you get 100 points deducted off your homework score.

Sure, no one really wants to hear someone's opinion about anything, but we all believe that everyone wants to hear our own.

I'm not sure if I'd want to be in any setting where nothing off-topic was ever allowed. I'm not sure that life would be all that interesting if we never had to be exposed to opinions that we didn't want to hear or disagreed with our own. But, these days, we all feel a serious need to find something to complain about.

George Croix

Tell all that to your boss as you take time during a workplace business presentation to expound on the things you don't like about the company...
But, if you were so bold, would you whine about it if told to get back on the subject, and bring in a paper tiger to growl and prowl around a bit in hopes someone might be impressed and retract their admonishment?
Maybe you would...[wink]

Kevin Lang

Not sure that I can twist that into an apples-apples scenario. However, it's not completely out of line to talk honestly and openly about company issues, real or imagined.

Seeing as the article doesn't provide detail on the specifics of what was said, and seeing as non of us posting so far is claiming to have been in the classroom during this 5-30 minute "sermon", I'm not going to jump on the limb that he was telling some kind of skewed story about his employer versus just describing his perceptions of the situation.

Since these students are invested within the school, I don't think it's unreasonable for them to be inquisitive about the internals of the institution. For me, I think the biggest thing is the amount of time spent on the discussion. 5 minutes at the end of class is a completely different beast than half of the class period. There's a lot of constructive opportunities that you can fit into half an hour. Not much new material that you could squeeze into 5.

Perhaps if there was a better perception between the Administration and the Staff at COM that they could talk about these issues openly and honestly amongst themselves, there might not be opportunities taken within the classroom for airing the laundry.

Lars Faltskog

Response to kevjlang posted at 1:02 pm on Thu, Jun 5, 2014:

Well, I think of this concept in the realm of common sense. If an instructor was in a "History of Modern Dance" class and was lecturing about Martha Graham (it's founding mother), and the instructor spent 3-5 minutes talking about Martha's expert garden skills - apart from her dance techniques - then that kind of thing would most likely be excusable. Excusable because the subject matter is tangentially related to the class, and it makes life interesting knowing that experts have lives outside of their field.

However, if the instructor delved into even a 5-minute discussion about campus politics, the instructor is putting himself/herself in danger of alienating a student from such [offtopic] subject material. As I've mentioned, all it takes is one student to complain, and then you have an instructor who might just have to answer as to why the subject matter wasn't about Modern Dance. I don't know about anyone else, but in a nation where getting (and keeping) a job is a difficult feat in itself, it doesn't bode well for someone to throw caution to the wind and make a dumb decision to go into something that's far removed from the usual "talk shop" of the class. I know I'd be annoyed at such an instructor. Would I complain? Probably not, but one of my other 399 auditorium-arena students might easily go and tattle.

Kevin Lang

I guess people have the right to be offended about just about anything of their choosing. Not sure that everyone needs to go into total damage control mode over it, however.

George Croix

On your planet, then, commenting on a subject requires personal offense and 'damage control'?
Does anybody else live there, or is it a private world?[beam][beam][beam]

Kevin Lang

I'm commenting only on the players in this overblown passion play.

I can't remember someone ever rolling someone else's head just because I complained about being offended by something.

I'm looking for some reason to believe that this is something more than a whiny student whining to a whiny administrator that found an opportunity to "discipline" a whiny employee that then whined to the union leader.

I doubt this would have gone anywhere near this far if it were about the A&M/UT Football Rivalry.

JBG JBG

Well, it does not matter! Let this then be a teachable moment for any, and all people who are instructors, hired to teach. If you are teaching biology, and I'm taking your class, I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANYTHING ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR IN THERE! Now I mean it!!!! If I do all hell is going to break loose because I will report you for "SHO".. AND I'M STRAIGHT UP ...FOR REAL!!!!! "NOW!" [smile]

P.S. That's my money, and I bought that time for....... biology! That's all I know!!!!

Victor Krc

How did this story get to the newspaper?

Did COM administration announce it in a press conference, or, as is more likely I think, is this the latest salvo from the usual suspects in the ongoing "COM administration is evil and malicious" saga.

Anybody heard what the story is on Smith's lawsuit? Is the hearing, if it gets that far, going to be in a local court? Where will the jury pool be drawn from?[wink][wink]

Chris Gimenez

You should ask TJ Aulds, he's the one with the connection to the top administrator.

Victor Krc

Does anyone know how this story got to the newspaper?

I doubt that the COM administration called a news conference to announce this. It sounds to me like the latest salvo from the usual suspects in the "COM administration is evil and malicious" saga.

By the way, has anyone heard about Smith's lawsuit? Where will the hearing be, if it gets that far? Where will the jury pool be drawn from? [wink]

Smith seems to think that the first amendment right to free speech is without boundaries. It is not, it ends where my right to be left alone begins.

Kevin Lang

vic krc, I'm not sure what it says about our county, but I'd guess there's a very good chance that they'll find many more than 12 people that have never heard of David Michael Smith, College of the Mainland, or, at the very least, have made no opinions about the situation.

Victor Krc

Yes, you are probably right. I guess I am a tad too cynical. though it would be interesting to know the venue.

Sorry about the double post. I forgot to take my little gray pills this afternoon.[sad]

George Croix

A 'don't do that again' and a note in your file that disapppears in 12 months is 'head rolling'...where? Certainly not at any job I ever had.
I believe that this is a classic case of a need for INsensitivity Training...[wink]

Kevin Lang

Head rolling was for effect. Still, I doubt that would have been the punishment for 30 minutes on kitty litter. I get the feeling that COM thinks the dirty laundry will go away if people just quit talking about it.

Ron Shelby

Inappropriate. Orr took advantage of the power of his position to persuade on a topic personal to him.....meaning for possibly his own gain. He knows better. Very unprofessional.

Kevin Lang

Do we know what was said? All I see in the article is that he responded to a question in class. I can't make such judgments without facts in evidence. He certainly should not have given the subject as much as five minutes--not so much because of the topic but that it was off-topic. I seriously doubt that he had anything to say that the students wouldn't find in the first 2 results of a Google search.

The college wouldn't have to worry about uncontrolled airing of the dirty laundry if they didn't work so hard at soiling their wadded undies. Wasn't that one of the things that Beth Lewis was hired to do?

We do have to get real here, too, about the allegation of being held hostage. This isn't a high school. You don't have to get permission to leave class in college. If you have the need to go to the bathroom or get a head start on lunch or an exam or a date, slip out. You have a responsibility to any subject matter covered while you're out, but you aren't a hostage.

Chris Gimenez

Then let the curious student Google what they want to find out. I don't want my tax dollars used by dissident professors at COM to present a one-sided view of what they consider to be wrong with COM. That's not what they're being paid to do and that's not what the students are attending class to hear about.

As for as "uncontrolled airing of dirty laundry" Lang, that's your interpretation and that of the professor who got put in his place. If this is being discussed in a classroom setting then no student should have to leave to avoid listening to the garbage spewing from this guy's mouth.

If Orr doesn't like his job, then go get another one. It's still a great country and if he believes his-like that of Comrade Smith's-personal viewpoints are so damn important then find an institution that welcomes it.

Kevin Lang

Well, I guess that there are three ways to deal with workplace complaints. You can take one of two coward approaches--just quit, or just take it--or you can try to work on fixing it. I imagine that in every job you've had, you've been 100% supportive of everything that was going on up until the day you quit? Most likely not. I imagine that you're like most of us--you like much of what the job entails, but there are some things you wish were different. Depending on the level of aggravation and the level of return value, you take one of the three approaches.

Yes, it's quite possible that this incident had absolutely nothing to do with the content of the discussion, but merely about the length and its off-topic nature. It's also quite possible that the sun rose this morning due to the sun orbiting the earth.

Overall, though, I seriously doubt that if there were no dirty laundry, he would have had any dirty laundry to air in the classroom.

I didn't realize that any adults had to stick around when another adult is spewing an off-topic opinion they aren't interested in. Heck, in college, if you don't like the sight of blood, you can get up and walk out if a bloody cadaver is put on display--and that would be on-topic. If I don't want to see your opinion, is it good form for me to request the newspaper to cancel your account? Or, would it be more appropriate for me to just hit the back button and browse on to the next article? Or, try to put together a counterpoint with the hope of at least planting a different point of view into your thought process? I don't think I'm compelled to suffer through your diatribes with no other options, or did I miss something in the forum guidelines or the guidelines of life?

Chris Gimenez

"I can't make such judgments without facts in evidence." kevjlang

I didn't see where either Mr. Orr or Comrade Smith were complaining the punishment was unjust because there were no guidelines for the professor(s) to go by with regard to what happened. They just didn't like being held to the standard under which they agree to work at COM.

In that case, move on to another institution. As for Lang's assertion that it's cowardly for an employee to quit or just take it, that's pretty ludicrous. Employees are employees and not managers or owners for a reason. They're being paid to do what management or owners want them to do and the way M & O's want them to do it. Now, they likely will give them parameters and boundaries within which they can achieve the desired goals but when the smoke clears there can't be a homogeny of everyone doing what they think is the best way or stirring up dissent.

Likewise, if employees are intent on creating problems in the workforce because they don't like the way things are being run, then they should adios or expect to be disciplined or terminated. Mr. Orr knows what he was trying to do and a student stood up to him and said, "Not on my time bucko". Bravo to the student as most students feel unable to complain about the instructors who are responsible for whether they pass or fail. Mr. Orr's shrill whining about being mistreated is typical of the old guard faculty at COM. Weed them out as quickly as possible if they can't get with the new program of educating students without bringing in some professor's personal issues with authority.

Kevin Lang

bvresident, take it or quit might be the only options at McDonald's. However, a college is supposed to be more of a partnership. Ideas can come from anywhere, and if you have an idea that could make thing better, you darned sure better be empowered to suggest it. An educational institution and even a corporate workplace are more cooperative than dictatorial, and that's for good reason. You're paying people good money for their brains, not their bodies. If you want them to use their brains, yes, sometimes you aren't necessarily going to like what comes out. However, you can't close the door on ideas. Yes, there needs to be some level of organizational and personal restraint. But you're likely to be more successful in achieving the balance if you're open to communication rather than just dictating rules. And, when it comes to rules, you don't just make them up as you go along, nor do you enforce them arbitrarily.

Chris Gimenez

Lang, you're spinning. This is not about a discussion of different ideas related to the class subject matter, it's about a certain professor trying to continue bashing the administration. You always do this when you can't support your argument. It's black and white-the professor went off topic on things that have absolutely nothing to do with what he is being paid to teach. Class dismissed.

Kevin Lang

I'm discussing the reason why he had this off-topic subject matter to discuss. If management and staff were to explore the cooperative aspects of THEIR relationships, the subject wouldn't have even been out there to discuss, and then, perhaps, the professor would have had to figure out how to fill the remainder of the lecture period with that discussion of kitty litter.

Brief periods of off-topic happen in every workplace. To try to eliminate it entirely is quixotic. To keep the length of the off-topic activities to reasonable length is definitely a good goal.

I don't know what was said, and I don't know how long the discussion was. I don't think you do, either. I'm not sure if Beth Lewis has all of the facts, either, nor do I know how much, if at all, she worked to seek that out. I'm just not a party to it. So I, like you, are stating things based on different interpretations of what might have happened. If his response was relatively brief, honest, and open, then I don't think that the subject of COM Staff versus the Administration is much of a deal. It's a public institution, the public has a right to know what's going on, and students of the college are as much a part of the public as we are. On the other hand, if it was lengthy, biased, and inflammatory, then I would agree that he exceeded bounds on multiple fronts.

I expect COM Administration and Staff to have a cooperative, professional relationship. I expect it to evolve over time as the broader requirements and people involved change. In just about all workplaces, you just can't get too attached to way things work. We have to adapt. Our markets change, our corporate cultures change, our work styles change. Both staff and management have to stay on their toes to manage their relationships so that as an organization, we can manage the relationship with our customers. The disgruntled taxpayers, students, and potential universities and employers for those students indicates that the college and the staff aren't managing relationships well.

Carol Voight

Some of these posts are laughable. Never in all the years I have taught did any student stay in class because they felt like they were held hostage. I'm pretty sure Prof. Orr was answering a student's question and the complaining student wanted to hear what was up, then when they realized they weren't interested in the topic, this student felt stupid and didn't want to get up and walk out. Students get up and walk out of class all the time in college classes. Professors have no control over that, nor do they want to institute that level of control over students. This student's claim seems very suspect to me. VERY suspect. Sounds more like a student that was failing the class due to their own irresponsibility and wanted to get the professor in trouble to try and mitigate the poor grade.

Just to clarify for those of you that continually fail to understand college life, students are graded based on assignments and tests, not attendance. Therefore students can come and go as they please from a classroom. Connecting with students on a personal level is part of the job! If a student asks a question, we are obligated to answer it, and if it is off topic most professors will answer it after class, as Prof. Orr did in this case. To reprimand a professor for doing his job is ludicrous! But this is what COM has become and they are paying for it over and over again!

Victor Krc

carol4com, I have a masters degree (finance) from the U of H so I suppose I am "qualified" to comment on your post, at least from what I can infer from what you posted above.

I have nothing to say about your first paragraph. Words and phrases such as "pretty sure", "seems very suspect", "VERY suspect", and "sounds more like" speak for themselves.

Going further, as far as students being free to come and go as they please I say that you are in general correct, but context is very important and should not be overlooked. In my own personal experience, it was very easy to not attend or to leave early from a large auditorium - sized class. Some undergraduates really like anonymity. As you progress in academia classes and seminars become smaller and you are more personally known by professors, at least they know your name. I can assure you that I and fellow students at that level were more attentive to the social graces and if we had to leave early or were going to be absent for some reason, we let the professor know beforehand.

If the complaining student in this case was in a relatively small class and his or her name was known by the instructor, I can understand not wanting to alienate the instructor because of the student's perception of the power and status of the instructor.

As far as connecting with the students on a personal level, that is more dicey. Instructors should not be aloof, and having smaller and more intimate classes is certainly more desirable than having auditorium size classes. But the relationship should still be a professional relationship and not degrade into mutual bellyaching at the expense of the other students. After all, tax dollars and student tuition money are what is making this whole enterprise possible.

I can't believe that you really meant it when you said that you are obligated to answer any question that a student asks. If a student asked a male instructor if he stopped beating his wife yet, you mean to say that the instructor would be obligated to answer it? I know that this is extreme, but It makes a point. Some student questions should not be answered at all and some, as you say, can be answered after class. Apparently this was not done in this case.


[smile]

Kevin Lang

carol4com, what are the chances that, in our lifetimes, we'll get a collection of adults from College Staff and adults from College Administration to sit down with each other in a non-adversarial context, and actually get about the business of fixing things, rather than the persistent complaints and press wars? It sure seems to me that the issues there aren't anywhere near as big as they're made out to be. It just seems to me to be one big collection of battles of will. The way I've always done it, or the way it's always been are usually not the best way to do business, especially when things aren't working.

I think the union and management are constantly butting heads because they just don't know how to do anything different. I would expect that between bucks in during mating season, but not between scholarly adults.

George Croix

This 'old white right', 'disgruntled taxpayer' agrees.
But, as long as it's admin. vs 'union', it's not going to happen at this facility.
Only way it'll work is to sit down for a while as coworkers at a common facility for the beenfit of that facility, not individuals.
All willing and able to speak their minds. Without fear of retribution. And without fear of a lawsuit. Even if it's only one meeting, it's better than nothing.
EMPLOYEES of COM only. No sign toters, or people who dislike the very existence of the facility, or anyone in the middle of these extremes, or anybody else but current COM personnel affected by what each other does.
Leave your bigs sticks and your attitudes and your representatives and your political contacts at the door.
Can't do, or won't do, that, then keep right on P&M'g back and forth.
Maybe the taxpayers will put up with it for another 40 plus years...

Kevin Lang

Way back when, there were lots of people on both sides of the round earth vs. flat earth argument. Finally, some got up the nerve to do more than put their toes into the big expanse between the points-of-view and found out that sailing west wouldn't make you drop off the world, but it also didn't provide a direct route to India, either. Sometimes in arguments, if you give up just a little, you find that you get back a lot more than you ever imagined in return. Sometimes what you give is on faith, not guaranteed returns. Past indications seem to be that there's little chance of these two sides taking anything on faith.

Chris Gimenez

So Carol, you're telling us that students don't get any benefit from being in the actual classroom and listening to the prof and being able to ask questions? You're argument shows the ridiculousness of those who can't deal with change and getting back to what COM's mission is supposed to be-THE STUDENTS!

George Croix

"Some of these posts are laughable."
Agreed.

Carlos Ponce

Before going to college I imagined most professors would be like Professor Charles Kingsfield in "The Paper Chase" Movie and TV series-highly feared but respected but you would learn a lot in his class. What I discovered was the highly favored profs were easy graders, gave a lot of A's, and wouldn't mind having a drink with students after class. There was one at SHSU with a strict no-nonsense approach to teaching with nickname "Flunkin' Duncan". I learned a lot in her history class. No, she was never popular among the students, especially those who expected an occasional "walk". She made you work, research and think. And her classroom discussions did not venture off topic. This is what I imagined college was supposed to be. And yes, I did earn an A in her class.

Victor Krc

carlosrponce, exactly so.

Every time I hear a teacher described as being popular with his or her students I always ask myself - why??

Many students do not recognize the value of certain teachers until well after their school years.

I hear about the student popularity of certain instructors at COM way too many times to feel comfortable about it.

Carol Voight

In college, most of the time, the most popular instructors are the ones that actually TEACH. Some instructors do nothing in class and expect you to learn by osmosis. Real instructors teach their material and challenge their students to learn more. My exams are very difficult and all of my students know that, but I have given them the tools they need to do well on ANY exam on the subject, not just my exam. That's what a real teacher does. If a professor at COM is popular, in my many years of experience, it is because they TAUGHT well. COM has been recognized for their academic excellence in instruction in the past. I can't think of a single instructor there that just "passes " students on. Those professors might be some of the newbies they are hiring now to replace the great professors that left, but the "easy" professors are typically not well liked, their classes are just taken by the students that want to get an education with no effort. And typically they pay for it in the next class when they are
required to know and understand the material. Then that easy teacher became their worst nightmare.

Say what you like, but Tracy Orr is well liked by his students because when they leave his class, they are MORE than prepared for their field of study and all future courses where A&P is the prerequisite!

Victor Krc

Great. I will take your word for most of what you said, though I must say that in my experience the most effective teachers have not necessarily been the most popular. Respected, yes, popular, maybe.

Personally I have had experience with only on COM instructor, Mr. Melvin Williams. After I retired, I was considering doing some part - time bookkeeping for small, local businesses. My professional life was in corporate finance so I thought I should review accounting principles as I took that course back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. So I audited Mr. Williams' two semesters of accounting principles.

Mr. Williams was one of the better instructors I had in my academic life. He was very businesslike in his class, explained things well, kept the class moving, and was accessible to students that were having problems. I couldn't ask for a better instructor and he got through two semesters without once going into COM politics. I believe that Mr. Williams has been there for a very long time, and is not one of the "newbies" that you are so disparaging of.

George Croix

When did the issue with Orr become one of popularity?
He wasn't admonished for being unpopular. Or unskilled. Or too easy/too hard.
But for, if the reporting is correct, taking class time to speak against his employer, and a student took exception to that.
It is utterly unimportant if he's been the greatest thing since sliced bread up to now, and will be even better in the future. i don't have any doubt that the great testimonials in favor of the guy are accurate.
So what, relevant to the issue at hand.
One simply does not get to run off about one's employer with impunity once it comes to their attention.
Professor Orr himself did NOT argue that he did not do this, according to the reporting, but rather that he didn't do it for a half hour, as complained, but only 5 minutes. Five minutes, 5 days, 5 weeks.... shouldn't have used paid-for class time to talk against his employer.
Time enough for that in private.
All these diversionary attempts about popularity and awards and service and such are just that...diversions from the subject.
Attorneys are wont to say that if you can't argue the law, and can't argue the facts, then pound the table!
What we have here, is table pounding when all that's needed is continue to teach the students and keep your opinions about your boss to yourself when on the clock.

Victor Krc

gecroix, you are right. I was lulled [offtopic]

Sorry, long day at the keyboard....

Kevin Lang

I think what's been admitted is that he did respond to a question about the issues between the union and the college. I don't think the article said that he admitted to running off about his employer with impunity. According the article, Beth Lewis disciplined him because as if he discussed kitty litter.

I think the question is whether this discipline is for running off-topic for some extended period of time, for running off-topic period, or for running off on a rant about college politics. Do you think the punishment fits the crime under all scenarios, or just those that involve ranting about the boss?

George Croix

WHAT punishment?
A note on file, for 12 months, then ally ally outs in free?
I wish I'd had jobs where that was 'punishment'.
Personally, I'd have simply said. 'You're right, boss, I should keep my personal opinions to myself on company time'.
And that is because I've done that very thing. A, uh, few times...[wink]

Kevin Lang

It's one thing to get written up for blasting the boss in a 30 minute diatribe versus getting written up for briefly discussing the last 2 minutes of last night's game. If there's dispute over the content, context, and length of discussion, I think you hold off on the write-up until the facts are in. Yes, we have agreement that it was about college politics. But, that could mean a whole bunch of things, and as far as we know, someone got mad because he WOULDN'T go "Real Housewives" and sling a bunch of mud.

I certainly wouldn't take too kindly for getting written up for spending 5 minutes after class was dismissed to talk about the merits of different brands of kitty litter.

Chris Gimenez

Hey Lang, how long do you think you'd last around your place of employment by ragging the boss in front of your customers? You talk a big game about workplace rights but it's just talk. The bottom line is that I don't want my tax dollars going to pay someone who obviously doesn't like his job or his superiors so maybe he needs to find an institution where he can be happy. He's obviously not trying to work things out with administration so what you seem to support isn't really happening.

Kevin Lang

Liking or not liking his superiors or his job are not facts in evidence. You're assuming that he was ragging on his boss in front of his customers. You may be right. But, I'd like to see facts decide if someone gets reprimanded, rather than speculation. We don't know if there was an investigation, or if the professor was really even allowed to present his side. Let's see what my opinion is when all the facts are in hand.

I've never defended ragging on his boss in front of the customers. I have defended open and honest discussions. There is a difference, and I'd like to see where this one actually sits.

I think there's an element of people seeing that he's being represented by David Michael Smith and ASSUMING that the professor is an unrestrained malcontent. I prefer having facts first, and then figuring out the roles of personalities.

Lars Faltskog

Makes no difference how "popular" an employee is. All it takes is one person to complain to a superior, and knowing how superiors/managers are, they relish in interrogating their employees because that's part of the job of a supervisor.

So, as I've mentioned before - an instructor like this (who is allegedly highly educated and has common sense) should ask himself/herself is it worth wasting class time on school politics? I'll even add further that the bulk of the students are likely in their late teens and early 20s. And, I know that back then when I was a student, I didn't give a hoot about school politics. I just wanted my credits and to move on. So, we have an instructor with "a letter in employee file". Big whoop - if this were a McDonald's worker or a convenience store worker, he/she would be canned no questions asked. I'd be thankful I still had a job and would learn from my indiscretion.

By the way, it's a moot point as to "how long" the employee went [offtopic]. If you get in trouble, then you simply apologize and leave your proseltyzing to folks who want to hear it.

George Croix

it's no wonder this nation is in the shape it's in...

Lars Faltskog

That's what I say, gecroxi ! ! If folks would stick to the business at hand, then they'd stay out of trouble.

My mantra is if you are doing or saying something during official business that you THINK might offend someone, then chances are you probably are going to do so.

Although nothing more than a paper on file saying that he/she had been officially addressed/reprimanded is not an earth-shaking thing. Well, then, that's a good thing because it's simply a learning lesson for employee to stick to business. Lesson learned, move on. If not learned, then one only has himself/herself to blame.

Very similar concept in let's say, "The Nanny". If child is not addressed by superiors (mom/dad) regarding indiscretions, then child will continue to exhibit the bad behavior (i.e. temper tantrums, speaking about [offtopic] views). I bet this PROF won't talk about school politics again.

Victor Krc

The only problem with this whole deal is that Orr and Smith are making this some sort of first amendment issue, at least that is what I gather from Smith's earlier post.

Smith is supposed to have been a political science or maybe a history instructor and should know that the first amendment prohibits GOVERNMENT interference in a citizen's right to free speech. At first the amendment applied only to the federal government, but after the civil war and the passage of the fourteenth amendment, the Supreme Court gradually incorporated the Bill of Rights into regulating state governments interference with our basic rights. We have the right of free speech, but we have the responsibility to face the consequences of that speech. It is not just a one-way street as Smith et al. seem to think.

The courts have given businesses, institutions, and non-profits a lot of discretion in regulating on the job speech of employees., for obvious reasons.

If the contents of some of the posts I have read in the GCDN blog were ever spoken in a workplace, there would be utter anarchy!![beam]

George Croix

How to turn a molehill into...a little bit bigger hill...[wink]
If some of those same comments were spoken in the 'workers paradise' commie/socialist countries, there would be a 12 YEAR sentence to a salt mine...if lucky...

JBG JBG

Which reminds me, I wonder how Mr. Snowden is enjoying being free of anybody spying on him in the "SETUP" the Russians have him in over there. If He things they are not watching his every move and not listening to his every word spoken, he is a bigger traitor than that one who threw his weapon and gear down in Afghanistan then proceeded to walk away to sell out to the terrorists!
-
Snowden did not call me and ask me NOTHING before he sold out! If he had, I would have informed him that people actually should listen in on Old JBG! If they don't, How am I expected to "LEARN'EM" the gospel.

Victor Krc

Jbgood, could be. In my opinion though he was recruited by and working for the Russians from the gitgo. I think he is living a much better life in old mother Russia than most of its citizens. Ol' Vlad is treating him real good.

As far as Bergdahl is concerned, he went against everything that my son and the other infantry soldiers and marines like him stood up for.

My son got out of the army after two tours in Afghanistan and two tours in Iraq as an infantry soldier. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for meritorious service. Obama just freed five people that were trying to kill my son and other soldiers and marines in exchange for a deserter. A nice distraction from the VA problems, isn't it.

George Croix

While an ex US soldier sits in a Mexican jail, who could be out in about 2 hours flat if POTUS would close the border until he gets released. No soldier, no vacations in Cancun.
I'm guessing that he and Kerry would have jumped on this, instead of virtually ignoring it, if firearms hadn't been involved.
They both seem to have a fear of an armed citizenry...for some reason...[wink]
Now. Seriously, Mr. president, TRY to take time from your busy golfing, campaigning, and bad mouthing/blaming of Anybody Else, and do get that boy back.
If they won't send him back, then start rounding up all the Mexican illegals that can be rounded up, and ship THEM back...until Mexico decides to say Uncle...

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