Frustrating Professor

Hi gang:

I’m in a tough situation with a professor and I thought I’d see what others might do in this situation.

I’m taking biochem this semester, and 50% of our grade is based on 10 homework assignments that we have due throughout this semester. I emailed the instructor to ask him to clarify one of the problems for me, and I got this response back

“I have decided not to help students on homework assignments, so that we might avoid any problems with me being accused of showing favoritism.”

I thought he was joking; unfortunately he was not.

So I talked to the department head…he said “my hands are tied” (because the instructors can basically run their courses however they like). So I talked to two other professor in the department to see if they could help me understand, but they told me to ask the instructor since it wasn’t their area of expertise. I attend a satellite campus of a larger university, so there really isn’t anyone else left in the department that I can turn to. I formed a study group, but have noticed that the problems I have trouble with are the problems everyone else was having trouble with as well.

The department head told me that if it affected my grade at the end of the semester, then I could challenge the grade. My question is how could it NOT affect my grade. And I feel like if I were to challenge, the only evidence that I would have is a stack of homeworks with problems that are incorrect, so the professors defense would be that I earned the grade that I was given.

And the OTHER problem with this professor is that he tends to get off on tangents, so we might skim over the last half of a chapter to get back on track; however, the homework assignment covering that particular chapter is due whether or not he’s lectured us on it!! Is it just me, or is this crazy!!!

What would you do?

I would read the chapter before class and if he gets off on a completely unrelated tangent, ask him a question about whatever is the next concept in the chapter. You have to be careful and tactful in doing this, but it might work. People will think you are a tool, but they can get over themselves. You’re paying money for this, and so are they.

If everyone in your study group is having a particular problem, I would say e-mail him your question and ask him if he would feel comfortable responding to the whole class in an e-mail so one one is left out. I hope this helps.

This problem actually is not that foriegn. For example a prof. I have in one of my classes bascially informed us that hardly anyone will recieve an A. How can she assume this before the semester even has begun?

I, and again this is just my personal opinion, most profs. in your upper level classes try and maintain a view that they are the Alpha and the Omega. It is almost as though they are trying to prove a point or something? How dare anyone be intelligent enough to do well in their classes?

Your situation, like I stated earlier is not that uncommon. Just know the material inside and out. You should really benefit from having a study group as well. Like the previous poster had mentioned, make sure he is teaching the material from the text assigned to the class, or if he/she is not, insist on handouts or take a recorder to class with the profs. permission of course.

Another thing, if you still are very discouraged or upset with this prof. I would strongly suggest to inquire about switching classes before it becomes too late. It really is however your feeling and what your intuition tells you to do.

I would love to get updated on this as you progress! Best of luck to you…

Unfortunately this is the only prof teaching biochem this semester. We only have about 2000 students at this campus, so for some classes our choice of instructor is limited. And I do take a recorder to class.

I laughed when I read the last post because one of the comments made by this prof was…well if I help everyone on the homework then everyone will get an A. (I couldn’t help but wonder why that would be a bad thing. I teach part time to pay for school, and I feel proud when my students do well).

The way the prof has the assignments set up, he posts the assignments after class meets, then they are due at the beginning of next class, so we can’t even guide class discussion to help understanding the probs.

I asked him if we could at least go over the homework assignments AFTER they were due so that I could be sure to understand the material for the test, but so far his only response was to post the key online, so I emailed him again and I said essentially, “professor, a key does not always translate to understanding.” I’m still waiting for his response to that.


Hahaha I love how you said “people will think you are a tool but they can get over themselves.” That’s my mindset now in my post-bac classes. I get there 30 minutes early just so I can have a seat in the front row and ask about anything that I am not comfortable with - totally opposite from my attitude in my first go-round with undergrad!

As for your professor, that really is frustrating, especially when it seems like you’ve tried all possible avenues. How are you supposed to learn the material when you can’t get support from him? I like the idea of posing the question as “coming from the class”. That’s probably the route I would take. Good luck!


i think you went about it the wrong way. the prof explained that its up to you to sink or swim, since if he helps just you, the other students will get angry. he is between a rock and a hard place.

you talked to his friends/co-workers (mistake #1). you went over his head so to speak. if he is vengeful, he may take it out on you.

in these situations (trust me, they are common), i feel the best option is to use the internet resources anonymously. there are dozens of forums, post your question there. option 2 is to talk to the students in your class. don’t be shy. i am sure you know a few students who are the ‘know it all’ types. Ask them for help. In my experience, they will be flattered and perhaps put you on the right tract.

Never annoy the professor, because you will always loose. (just my 5 cents)

Good luck!


The system is set up so that too many A’s and the material taught and the professor is suspect. That goes with too many F’s. Nothing wrong with being right in the middle. (yeah, right).

So, is this just one question, one time that you ran into this over? Or is this an ongoing problem?

Personally, I would take advantage of office hours. I would go in and ask so that his answer would not be in print. I also try and let my professors know what I am doing there. I am an old premed, I am very conscious of my grades and motivated. It bothers me to not grasp the information. How can my studying be more effective for their particular class? What section should I pay close attention to?

As for his tangents I would do what was suggested above. Sit in the front, have my notes from study group in front of me and have my study group enrolled in keeping him on task and somehow answering the questions I want answered. He does owe that to his class to clarify. If your study group all does this, it should take the pressure off of you and seem more like a class issue vs. a personal issue. Best wishes and I would love to know what happens.

PS Thanks for sharing this story. I have been trying to decide to go to a smaller satellite campus or the main. I choose main so that I will have more choices of professors. I had not thought of this till you wrote about your professor and lack of choices.

Overall, I am very happy about going to the satellite campus. I received my bachelors degree from main campus and I am doing my post-bac work at the satellite. I feel that for the most part I have gotten a much more personalized educational experience, e.g., I felt comfortable enough to go to the department head and know that he’ll be discreet.

I feel like I have a much better relationship with my profs, and I feel like overall they’ll write better recommendations for me because they have really gotten a chance to know me in ways that the profs didn’t at Main campus. This is really the only problem I’ve run into in two years.

Oh yeah, and this is an ongoing problem. He flat out refused to help students on ANY assignments.

I do have some good news to report, however,…the department head has volunteered to answer homework questions from the students in class!!


I feel like I’ve had to spearhead the effort. I AM THAT student who sits in the front row and asks LOTS of question (and annoys everyone because they want to go home, but I want my question answered, haha).

I feel like I had to become the advocate for my shy classmates in this situation, who were afraid that the prof might hold it against them if they complained.

Good news is it worked!

Now, if he tries to base my grades on whether he likes me or not, rather than my performance, that’s a whole other battle. haha

I feel your frustration. I’ve had a simular situation. I resorted to occasional mettings with a private tutor. I’m glad I did. I know not everyone is able to do that, it’s just a suggestion. Best of luck to you.

I happen to be taking biochem this term too.

I ask questions in class and get glared at by other students all the time. I try not to monopolize the time but I do ask for clarification if I don’t understand, I also sit in the front row…I don’t care if students LIKE the teachers who go off on tangents and aren’t lecturing on the subject material, personally I am there to learn the subject material, not to doze off as I notice some students in my 8 am classes doing!!!