Student Incivility, Intimidation, and Entitlement in Academia

By Barb Holdcroft

I recently finished a particularly disturbing semester of teaching that was filled with instances of student incivility, intimidation, and entitlement. In searching for information that could help me understand my students’ behavior, I found that other teachers have had similar experiences.

Several aspects of these behaviors can be quickly identified. All have a negative impact on education and can produce dire consequences in real life. As students repeat each behavior with “success,” the behaviors become more entrenched.

Let me start by clarifying some terms:

  • Incivility: According to Joy Peluchette, Katherine Karl, and Jerry Kopf in “Students Behaving Badly: Causes and Possible Strategies for Dealing with Classroom Incivility,” incivility includes disrespect for standards of classroom behavior as posted in the syllabus. Examples might be late arrival, sleeping, texting or other cell-phone use during class, or offensive language and comments.
  • Intimidation: Audrey Williams June, in her Chronicle of Higher Education article “When Students Become Class Bullies, Professors Are Among the Victims,” notes that intimidation includes student use of threatening language, bullying, physical posturing, and anger.
  • Bullying: Examples of bullying include student attempts to procure a grade change by embarrassing, attacking, or humiliating the teacher.
  • Entitlement: Students’ sense of entitlement is apparent in attempts to influence or reverse grades. When a student blames the instructor for a poor grade, the student’s perception of effort or ability is at odds with actual academic performance.

Examples of these behaviors abound. In her Chronicle article, June describes an incident in which a student insisted he be allowed to make up a missed quiz, despite rules in the syllabus clearly stating that make-up quizzes were not allowed. The student reacted by slamming his books on the desk and yelling at the instructor in anger. He would not leave the classroom until the instructor threatened to call security.

Egocentricity is also a problem. Mary McKinney, in her Inside Higher Ed article “Coping with ‘Oy Vey’ Students,” lists common student demands and complaints: “I have to miss class; tell me what you are covering.” “I was sick all last week; did you cover anything important?” “I have so many personal issues that I haven’t been able to study for your tests.” “I didn’t cheat!” “You’re not going to give me a zero, are you?” “Plagiarism? I didn’t even see the website!” In the 2010–11 academic year, my students complained that course material was too difficult and demanded that they be allowed to retake exams, that they be provided extra-credit opportunities to make up for poor test scores, and that all grades be curved.

Academic Entitlement

“Academic entitlement” is a pervasive term in recent literature on student behavior and can be applied to many of the situations described above. Research on academic entitlement has produced startling statistics. A 2008 study conducted by Ellen Greenberger and colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, found that

  • 66.2 percent of students believe that “trying hard” should result in a good grade;
  • 40.7 percent believe that completing most of the reading for a course should result in a B grade;
  • 23.5 percent believe that a professor should respond to an e-mail the same day it was sent; and
  • 16.5 percent believe that students should be allowed to take calls during class.

Given such results, it is not surprising students today are commonly known as “the entitlement generation.”

Bullying related to grades often targets younger faculty members and women and is mostly carried out by male students. This behavior results in intimidation, especially of female and adjunct faculty members seeking to uphold their values in the classroom; less productive teaching, because of time spent dealing with behavioral issues; faculty members being driven from college teaching, especially when they find they are not supported by administrators; rampant grade inflation that erodes the quality of our students’ learning and severely hampers their ability to deal with real life; student anxiety; the poor preparation of graduates for careers; and the reinforcement of bad behaviors as a way of life.  Perhaps the most serious are the last two points. Education professor Stuard Singer says, “Grades are meaningless if they are not a legitimate reflection of student learning.” Excellence—even competence—in any academic area is seriously jeopardized by bullying.

This situation, of course, raises ethical issues: those students whose work deserves higher grades are certain to be discouraged by the lack of fairness. Their work is devalued.

The concept of “institutionalized emphasis on self-esteem,” according to Generation Me author Jean Twenge, began in the 1970s and has had far-reaching effects on education. The perceived need to preserve self-esteem at the cost of true academic evaluation has become more and more prevalent throughout the years of my own teaching career, beginning in the elementary classroom. Teachers rarely fail students or hold them back out of concern that doing so would damage their self-esteem. Some institutions have even eliminated letter grades and percentage scores in favor of less “judgmental” grades like “S” and “U.”

“Feeling good about yourself is more important than good performance,” writes Twenge. Parents refuse to allow their children to fail at anything. According to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Classroom Incivility project, the “helicopter parent” who intervenes in every aspect of the child’s life has become the norm. Parenting skills have evaporated as parents have become either indulgent or have ceased to act as parents at all. They have largely abandoned discipline out of fear of damaging the self-esteem of their children.

Origins of the Problem

How did this generation of students, and their parents, come about? Changing views on grading and parenting are contributing factors, but there are others as well, including consumerism. The concept of the student as a consumer, which has become increasingly widespread in higher education, leads students to believe that their schools owe them something, allows students to blame someone else for their failures, and reinforces what students have learned through shopping: that the customer is always right.

The results are not surprising. A study by researchers Philip Babcock and Mindy Marks reveals that students in 1961 averaged forty hours a week engaged in study. By 2003, however, the average hours of study had declined to twenty-seven hours per week. Richard Vedder, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, has argued that students don’t perceive a value in actually learning something when they can search for answers to questions of the Internet and receive information nearly instantly.

Today’s students could be called the “Quitter Generation.” They have never learned or valued perseverance because it has been absent from all of their pursuits, except, perhaps, video games. Without a guarantee of success, students either give up or become intimidating.

Twenge holds that the importance of the individual, for today’s students, supersedes all other concerns. Because of changing social norms, rules observed in polite society no longer apply. Members of what Twenge calls “Generation Me” do not respect other people’s comfort and are less likely than those in other generations to recognize authority. They thus have less esteem for their professors. They believe that their own perspectives are just as valid as those of any expert.

Perhaps academia is partly at fault. The recent practice of addressing faculty members by first name, for example, perpetuates the idea that the student and the professor are equals. In this respect, faculty members might have assisted in the erosion of the dignity and authority of the professor. Faculty members also erode their own position as classroom “experts” when they dress as casually as—or more casually than—their students. Is it any wonder that students feel entitled to argue with and denigrate their professors when such a sense of equality has been established?

What can be done in response? I suggest the following:

  1. Do not compromise on teaching standards as outlined in the syllabus. Uphold all the requirements. One wavering faculty member makes it difficult for the entire institution.
  2. Treat yourself and your colleagues with the respect experts deserve. Perhaps even communication on a first-name basis among professors should be put aside until the semester has ended. It doesn’t hurt to refer to one other as “Dr. Smith” or “Professor Jones.”
  3. Document every incident involving student misbehavior and report incidents to the department chair, the academic dean, and the dean of students.

Academic entitlement and bullying have no place in the development of future doctors, lawyers, pilots, engineers, educators, and technicians. As professors, we are accountable to the future.

Barbara Holdcroft is an adjunct faculty member in theology at Lees-McRae College and in psychology at Mayland Community College. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in both education and theology, and her research on moral development, the subject of her doctorate, attempts to blend those two academic disciplines.


This article speaks for many of us who are full time and contingent faculty in America. AAUP has talked about coporatization of education in many forums. Consumerim in education, with tenet that "customer (student) is always right", is by-product of such corporatization of education.

Going online (and some colleges are offering entire undergraduate degrees online), solves some of these problems, while exacerbates others. Grade inflation, lowered academic integrity are some of the problems made worst by online degrees. Problem of bullying and incivility is not entirely eliminated. That is because face to face communication always has a constraining affect, which is removed in online environment. Recently, I received a fairly insulting e-mail from an online student who had never asked for help either by e-mail or in class discussion forums. Such behavior can only be explained by the current gestalt in higher education: "Customer is always right". Student was emboldened enough to even copy the dean in the e-mail. He knew that he is a a customer and uncivil behavior by a customer is to be tolerated and dean should see to it that he is served despite the uncivil behvior.

When I read this article, I felt as though I had written it. It reflects my own teaching experiences which I find to be so similar to those described by the writer. I am one of those Faculty members who have left teaching for all the reasons given. The idea that students get angry because they have to work for a grade is totally befuddling to me. The disrespect and incivility directed at an Instructor due to the expectation that class participation is part of the learning experience is foreign in my background of education as a student. Some students actually feel that they are being "picked on" when called to respond to questions based on the class assighment. On one occasion, I asked students why is it that you don't study? The response from 2 " i am just too lazy."
I retired this school year, it's all too different.

Thank you for the brilliant article which convinces me to adhere to the principles I hold and not to waver in the face of all the incomprehensible attitudes of students which fortunately have been made more comprehensible to me through the content. This article has given me confidence to maintain the same ethical principles which were instilled in me by the teachers and professors who transformed my life, inspired my thinking, and helped me progress as a learner and human being. I thought I had to somehow adapt to this "Me" generation thinking, with the reasoning that ideologies change and I must exercise flexibility to motivate positive behavior and learning. However, through trial and error, I learned that it is never enough from their side and that, like the article claims, it is the true learners, the responsible citizens and insightful human beings whose performance is "devalued" and who are discouraged by the general classroom atmosphere. Thank you for making me aware of a suspicion founded upon experience, that the more you falter, the more an unacceptable ideology wins and becomes the norm, and the less inspiring the academic world becomes with all the negative implications this will have on the present and our future in every aspect of society. This came at just the right time for me.

great article, Barb, I know your life experience helped you focus on this, and it's about time!

Thanks Barb for this article, a agree with jim that the influence of your life experience helped You!

I just wanted to express my appreciation to those who took the time to comment. I have organized this article into a power point (for colleagues and staff), but have added some humor to this all-too-serious topic. Feel free to contact me at [email protected] or [email protected].

I think that it is ridiculous to assume that students are not the professors equals. As human and educators we are here to enhance life and educate students not to treat them as anything less. To say that students must respect you just because you went to school and are educated is absurd, treat your students with respect and maintain consistency in your policies and students can not be angered and will not be.

Students cannot be an equal in the classroom because the power dynamic is not equal. One person ultimately assigns a grade to the other. Additionally, the instructor has a great deal of expertise in the subject and must control the classroom. For these, and many other reasons, the educator should be respected. We are not in the classrooms to be friends with our students, but we can be friendly. It is a mistake to think students and professors are equal.

I don't see that as an inequality between the people. One must manage the classroom, yes. And if they are clumsy or stupid at it, the students will quietly lose respect.

In order for a classroom to function properly there must be mutual respect and understanding between professor and student. If basic behavior standards are upheld between professor and student, the classroom can be a great learning environment where both students and professors can learn from one another. One shouldn't assume that their students are so naïve.

This reflects a complete lack of understanding of narcissistic entitlement. Just because you treat your students with respect, it does not mean they will feel respected. Narcissists feel disrespected very very easily. It is also not logical to suggest that students and professors are equals within the classroom context. That is similar to saying that Mayweather and I are equals in the boxing ring. Obviously he is the superior one within that context.

You believe your students are narcissists? As an American who finds my values from John Locke and the enlightenment, I hardly can agree that being unequal in skills somehow removes my right to respect of even the right to have opinions and yes even be right. Humans are seen as equal even when they are unequal in results. I may be able to see an answer that someone entrenched in a self perpetuating system simply will not. But yeah continue to believe that professors have some near god power to be right and correct above the vast majority of people. Are not all people biased and fallible base of of psychology and basic human actions.

While we are indeed committed to enhancing and encouraging our students to become professionals of integrity and application, the key word here is become or becoming. As students in our classrooms, they are clearly not professionals in their field yet. That is why they are in our classrooms. If we investigate history for the countless examples of how people (men and women) have risen to greatness in their work, it is more than conclusive that it was with the tutelage of a superior in the field that they refined their ability to succeed. Mind you, the word superior here is used not to describe a person that is a superior human being in all aspects to another human being, but rather a person with superior development of professional skill as compared to the skills of another. In this way, the tutor/professor does warrant respect from the student.
The other lesson from history that is highly relevant here includes the story of what happens in when a collection of undeveloped thinkers, unpracticed craftsmen and inexperienced people believe incorrectly that they know what is best for themselves and everyone else. This group feels entitled to mutiny all others who truly have the ability and experience to guide everyone to the highest good. The mutiny often ends with disaster, death and tremendous loss for everyone. In my 18 years of teaching college students, this is exactly what happens when a collection of students lack the appropriate level of respect for their professors, parents and elders - their entitlement, intimidation, and incivility in the classroom are the weapons of mutiny from which grave disaster results for everyone (students included). Point being: students are NOT our equal in professional skill and work/field experience and that is why they need to respect their professors.

Hi -- I am not an educator. I am a 50 year old (gen x) female who recently returned to college after a long hiatus of raising my three kids and being a "stay at home" mom (for lack of better wording). I really appreciated the article. I just had to defend -- actually defend -- my professor of law to a group of KIDS in an online college course. I have to say it was a crazy experience. Professors and I are NOT equals and I do not see saying that as demeaning of me. The Merriweather example given earlier was perfect. The reason I am taking the class is because I don't know (for example) immigration law. Even if I had a prior background working with immigration law (and I do) -- the law changes frequently, and I didn't have the experience of working in that area as a lawyer with 40 years of solid experience applynkg that law to client's situations. It is for that reason that the person in front of the class is a Professor or Professor Emeritus and has a law degree and I don't. I am the customer, but what I am "buying" is a chance to sit and listen and learn from someone who has more life experience, more career experience, and more knowledge in this area than me. The fact that they have more experience and more working knowledge than I do already means that this Professor is not my equal. If we were equals I would also be a Professor, and I wouldn't need to take this course. My experience in this particular class was a little weird because I came into the class at 50, from a time when we were taught to respect teachers (wow amazing), where we did not beleive we were entitled to anything, where we were expected to work hard for every single thing we had and understood that life can be unfair and sometimes even if you are a good person and work hard you still don't always get what you want but there is something to be respected in trying your best and having integrity. I also come from an era when things were not on the internet. We had to go sit in the library on campus at 3 a.m. and actually read the damned book. We had to take our own notes with our pen and our hand. There was no email, there were no laptops, there were no Zoom meetings. You had to go use a card catalog and microfiche and look things up. You had to show up in person on time to class and actually pay attention, read from a blackboard or tape the lecture and take notes later, you had to raise your hand, your teachers KNEW you. So maybe I am old fashioned (odd for a very open minded and rebellious Gen Xer to be called old fashioned). But it starts on the first couple of days of class. You are NOT equal to your students academically. You may be equal as PEOPLE, or under God, etc. but in academia you are NOT equal and if I want to be equal to my Professor that is earned by first respecting them and busting my behind in his or her or their classroom. I just watched a bunch of kids make a professor give them notes and slides so they didn't have to actually listen, pay attention and write things down. I just watched them make her change her syllabus. I just watched them make her ignore questions from the more inquisitive and intelligent students in the class because what was being discussed "wasn't on the exam" and I just watched them make her set up her exam to suit them. I just watched them try to bully her into not giving us quizzes every so often to see if we understood the material and ask the class bullies "Permission" and if this way of teaching was "ok for them" before using certain teaching methods in class.

This is a disservice to me and I am a consumer too. I didn't sign up for a class in law to just regurgitate easy stuff I can look up on the internet to get an easy A and a certification that means nothing because onee behind the desk -- these kids don't know what the hell they are doing and the reason they don't know what the hell they are doiing is because they didn't have to THINK and they didn't have to learn any concepts or any history behind the subject matter. They just regurgitated stuff. To tell a professor only to convey what is actually going to be on the test and nothing more as if using your brain and thinking is a scourge is ridiculous and its why we have so many half literate, selfish, biased, incompetent, uncaring, and utterly clueless people in positions of power.

I am paying a whole lot of money too and I expect to LEARN something. Not regurgitate information as if it is a Survey Monkey multiple choice internet poll. I want to be good at what I do and be that person who is in the field a long time who everyone may not like, but respets because she knows her stuff. And if the academic standards are being lowered to accommodate whiny millenials to the point where disrespecting the person who has to control and teach the class -- then I am not learning and I paid a great deal too. And I am sorry but your need to be egalitarian and be "friends" and not make waves in the administration because some whiny rich kid who didn't bother to read more than 3 lines of text doesn't give you the right to take that away from the other students who aren't self entitled brats and do want to learn.

I can't beleive I had to be an "upstander" to the mean girls (not males) who were bullying a female teacher who expected us to work for our grade. She was the nicest professor I ever had, and they took full advantage.

And I agree -- not every setting is a corporate Bob and Phil situation. Maybe in corporate America standards of address are different, we have business casual and calling your boss by their first name. That is a different setting and a differnt culture. Academia doesn't have to model that all the time. I was raised to use Ms. Mr. Miss and Professor, Dr., and Rev. and I think there is value to that. If we are all equals in knowledge (which is not the same as being equals socially or in terms of human dignity and rights) then why bother to go to school at all? We are not equals. We treat each other with equal dignity and respect. And being a bully to your professor is not acting as if you think people are equal, either. It really needs to stop. You in academia are not helping these young people by catering to them in this way. You are in a very kind and sugar coated way setting them up for a lot of failure in life and in their career and taking their money while doing so -- and you are helping to dumb down our nation. Stop it. And stop justifying it with vitriol about how allowing your students to degrade you and dictate to you how classes and universities should be run is "egalitarianism". Its not. It is indeed enabling narcissism. And no, not all the students are narcissists and we are not qualified to "diagnose" them (oh look I am not EQUAL to a person with MD next to their name who is a clinical psychiatrist either O the Indignity I feel so oppressed). But it is "narcisstic" temper tantruming 2 year old behavior that has no place in a setting where we are suppposed to be adults, learning something from another person who is taking time out of their life and profession to pass a torch to us. And I am sorry -- professors do not really make a lot of money. They really don't. It has been a long time coming to respect teachers and if other teachers think its ok for themselves and their colleges to be "equal" in a classroom setting to the point where the students run the situation and actual learning is out the window -- I don't see how that is ever going to happen.

Just my informal and long winded 2 cents.

The article reflected some of my experience as a university teacher. However, the idea that I help perpetuate entitlement by insisting that I be called Steve and dress relatively casually seems absurd. My students are my equals, in everything except knowledge of the law. I very rarely have to deal with disrespect and when I due the student involved is usually in some way unwell.

Outside of the classroom, students and professors are equals, but within the context of a classroom, they are not. I'm just glad that this piece offers instructors a tangible solution and that is to keep doing what is best for the institution and ultimately the student and that is to continue to hold students to high expectations. Too many education reform efforts/ think pieces suggests that teachers change to bend to the demands of students.

You can't teach and possibly think that students are just grateful to be educated.. They are not.. When you think students deserve respect as an "equal".. Here's what happens.. You teach Chemistry (let's just say for arguments sake) and in your syllabus you let them know they must purchase Chemistry 13e.. But the student buys Psychology 101 because "the book is prettier".. When you let them know that they have made an extreme error in judgement? They respond with anger and vitriol that you are hateful and you are not supporting them.. They chose the prettier book, therefore it is YOU that is the problem.. Not them.. They are your equal and as such you are failing to support their equal decision to buy the book they find more esthetically pleasing.. When they can't study the right info at all and when it comes time for quizzes/exams and they fail? YOUR FAULT! You are not only unsupportive of their book choice but NOW you want to fail them! You are purposely hateful and should be banned from teaching! If you leave it up to the students.. The subject matter would be taught in 5 min increments by holograms of Lady Gaga.. They are NOT equals and should never be seen as if they are! The students lack the knowledge and the skills to dictate what is taught, how it's taught and what they will learn.. They are not equal enough to dictate anything.. It IS respect to see them as needing to be taught and have a thorough understanding of what they signed up for.. It is ludicrous to treat them as if they are equal in the subject matter.. They will learn nothing while you cater to their idea of what they think you should be teaching.

In my experience, academic bullying & Intimidation comes almost exclusively from feminist students & professors & is directed at male students, who are shouted at, condemned, graded unfairly, & prevented from participating in classroom discussions. When an inflexible dogma like feminism, which has a unilateral objective--the creation of a female version of white privilege--becomes so prevalent, then intolerance & bullying invariably result. A more balanced analysis would acknowledge that feminists are as guilty as male students, perhaps more so.

I am sure that this happens in a variety of academic settings and the fact that you jump to feminist studies, instead of education or other fields that have just as many female professors, demonstrates your implicit bias.

This article was very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

Your student entitlement section is bullshit. Is it really so much to expect a professor to be on time to class and a consistent grader? Because, in my experience, the professors who complain the most about students are those who give the least thought to how their class is run. And students know this. They know that when you don't give a shit about teaching them, they're going to have a harder time academically. They're going to struggle when they DO improve their performance but you don't recognize it because the grade you give depends on how YOU are feeling at the time. They're going to struggle when your lazy teaching has not prepared for the class yours is a prereq for. They're going to curse you when your class doesn't teach them the skills the professional world requires of them because you stubbornly teach from an academic standpoint and refuse to recognize that MOST of your students aren't going to become grad students. Meanwhile, said students are getting a worse education than the previous generation, with a harder job market post-graduation than you did. It's funny how the previous generation complains about this generation being "MEMEMEME" while completely shirking their own responsibilities for funding public education. Really shows you who are the narcissists.

It seems that the response of the intensely impassioned few to this article is a call for a more careful study of what is really happening in our classrooms nation wide. Of course, this is a risky business for the impassioned voices with decreased vocabulary and grammar skills since it may expose a truth about the majority of college professors, teachers and instructors in colleges/universities across the country or even worldwide. The truth that the majority of professors actually care and invest a huge amount of their effort into quality education for the students would conclusively reject the unpolished response above. Furthermore, to automatically assume that all professors (including those who have replied to this article) are lazy and apathetic to the students in their classroom is contrary to basic logic and the evaluation of all possibilities in a large sample size of professors. The above riposte also lacks a clear and objective thought process due to the deficiency of relevant background knowledge in support of the primary argument. Naturally, this renders the above retort as less than effective or acceptable.
Were you in one of the many courses taught by one of the many invested professors, you would now be encouraged to revise and reevaluate your statement to enhance your skills and abilities to write a more professional response to this article.

I am a fellow student in academia here. Well said! I have encountered many passionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable professors who care about their teaching and their students. However, I have also encountered a few narcissistic, authoritarian professors who want students to worship them and their words like god and god's words. They want students' full worship and it is sickening. A classroom is a democratic table. True learning is socratic, and the role of the student and the role of a professor are mutually important and equal. Frankly the grading system is truly a way to destroy democratic education, giving irresponsible professors the power to abuse their authority which can jeopardize student's academic access and career future.

Weird title in my experience and other colleague's comments to me Jewish students where no more likely then other Caucasian students to grade grub and never did I experience or hear of physical intimidation by any Jewish students. As to some groups why typically identify as non Caucasian and non Asian the exact opposite was true. However administrations actively suppress any reporting or discussion of these things as being race or ethnicity related.

This was the most validating piece I have read in ages about the difficulties of teaching in a time and place where students lack basic respect for other human beings, not to mention their teachers, and where they expect to be given As for merely showing up to class. I bend over backwards in my classroom to give an informative class worthy of taking, and this, apparently, frightens students who have never worked hard in their whole lives and were given trophies for just showing up. They are victims of capitalism and consumerism, but at the same time it does not excuse their behaviors as adults. Having empathy for where students are coming from does not mean approving of immaturity and rudeness. It means upholding one's standard as a teacher because one believes that students are not inherently the shitshow they appear to be, but were socialized to be entitled, and that this socialization can be unlearned. Thank you again for writing this.

Any instructor who is treated disrespectfully, subjected to disruptive behavior, or is the victim of bullying has my sympathy and support. If I am in your class, you can count on me as an ally. Bad behavior is simply unacceptable.

The other side of the coin comes to a white male in his mid-60's, returned to college after retiring from a strenuous career. That's me. Through 110 units of college work, this has been an enlightening, enlivening, inspirational, and delightful this has been a wonderful experience.

This semester I am in a class with avoid social justice warrior; everything for her is through the lens of race, gender, nationality, religion, and any other form of group identity. She assigns readings that have a consistent, extremely liberal point of view, and ner lectures simply extract bullet points from those readings. The only apparent way to please her on project and in exams is to recite the bullet points that she lecturs; investigation, differing opinions supported by serious citations, and any other form of independent thinking certainly costs points and draw terse comments.

I will not tolerate bullying, whether directed at others or at me. How has the university come to this? Where is the administration? Why are faculty, and the odd student, left to their own devices? It seems to me that a PhD is no substitute for having a Drill Instructor on call for the occasions when conflict resolution calls for it.

With regards,
John Smith

I am a private tutor and work with college students. I totally commend you for sharing your thoughts, especially how your professor appeared not to really allow different opinions. I wonder what the higher ups would say if this was made known. It is disheartening to me to witness the current attitudes of many students. We were taught to love learning and felt it a privilege at attend a good college. Maybe it is time for courageous educators to no longer tolerate this. Standards seem to be getting lower, expectations lessened and respect a thing of the past. I am taking the summer off to recover from the rude behavior of some students that I gave my best. Something must change before our educational system fails to produce outstanding young leaders. Dianne Reif, Owlsnest Tutoring, Winchester, VA

The structure (system) is the failure, not those who continue to try to make it work (faculty)! What I find is that most of the time it is not the faculty at all. It is the broken system that the faculty is trying to work within.

That system causes what is described in the article. We have turned education into the right of all, and the salvation of the masses. According to those that control the system, education has become the answer to all of our social ills. We even have courts sentencing students to school in lieu of jail. Faculty is neither supported, nor equipped, to fill these expectations!

Education was originally designed to be in support of parents, community and the home. It has become, for many, the parent, community and home. For so many of these students, they are told it is THE answer to their future.

Again, rarely is the problem the faculty!

As a final year PhD Candidate and a casual academic with 5 years of tutoring and lecturing experience, I find it very disheartening when I am told that it is impolite to tell the student 'there is no need to be disrespectful' when they write to me that my feedback on their work 'is pulling at hairs'. This, however, to me is a disturbing sign of a deeper, whole-society issue that people are not able to express their disagreement in a constructive, professional and respectful manner

Thank you for verifying I am not alone in feeling bullied by my students. I suffer from depression and these nasty notes from my students exacerbate my depression. My boss is completely non-supportive of me so I sit at home and cry. All that is cared about where I work is that I pass as many students as possible no matter if they plagiarize or bully me into a higher grade. I feel bad for the students who actually do the work as well.

I'm reading this while recovering from a hangover from that double margarita I resorted to last night after a bad week. I, also get annoyed and shocked by the rude, uncivil emails and behavior shown by students in class. I'm pretty much at my breaking point. If I hear the insipid term "effective classroom management" one more time, I will throw up. Why? Because this term puts the onus and blame 100% on the instructor and let's the students get a free pass to be uncivilized animals. Students are more entitled and rude than I remember when I was in school, but it's also true that the professor ultimately is either in control of the class or not, and this doesn't depend on the student.

I agree that the real problem is that a university education is no longer earned but bought, and this is the fault of politicians interfering in academia. A university education is an opportunity for personal growth and an avenue for people to contribute ideas, beauty, and passion to the world. A university education was never meant to be a guarantee for a vocation nor an investment that a consumer can simply purchase. Too many dull students come across my path, students who should really be in a trade school.

I recommend to any other suffering professor or college instructor out there to accept the situation, make the best of it, focus on the polite smart kids whom someone took the time to raise properly, and detach from taking anything personally. Yes, it sucks. Focus on the good, even it's just that 1% of that week.

Deb, I'm depressed as well. I'm also anxious. I never drink, but last night I went out and had drink and was so sick. I am on anti-depressants and benzos for anxiety. Last night I briefly considered the fact that I shouldn't take my prescribed sleeping pills after having had a drink, but then considered taking the entire bottle. This, after having to deal with one of the worst group of students since I started as an assistant professor just two years ago. But, later last night when I was dry heaving and had a splitting headache (I never drink, so that one drink hit me hard), I realized that this physical pain was so bad that I don't really want to die. Though, this semester I have considered ending my life many times. This semester has been the worst. I teach at a third (or fourth?) tier "university" and, well, the fact that a university can exist without a philosophy or history department and that I'm teaching at one is reason enough to want to die. Or so I thought. It's only a few more months till summer, and hopefully regroup. But, I wanted to tell you that you are not alone. I think that academia sucks at all universities right now. But, focus on the positive side, like the fact that we aren't in the hell of teaching secondary school.

Don't take any of the current insanity that is higher education personally. Think like a historian and step back and simply observe in a detached way, imagining how this insanity in context. It could always be worse. Take heart.

I read your response to Deb with a shock of recognition. Adjunct as I am for the past, oh, seventeen years at a state "university" (without a solitary Latin or Classical Greek course), I've watched as the students continue to lose their abilities to reason. I am quitting after this semester to recuperate from anxiety and heart problems that are direct results of the feeling that I'm surrounded at times by circling sharks. Students rip solutions to homework problems from the internet then are outraged when they flunk exams. They go to whine to other profs when they can't follow a lecture based on the assigned reading. Asked for questions or comments on the assigned homework they give me a fish-eyed stare with slack jaw. Then I see them with their phones in their laps, scrolling and furtively texting. I decided I don't need this. And I admonish anyone I care about: do NOT choose an academic career. It is a horrible way to grind out a living.

I forgot to mention: last Friday, a credulous prof who just got tenure a year ago, told me two or three of my students ("my top performers" he said solemnly, as if they were clients of an advertising agency, and called all the shots) came to complain about my lectures, the style of my exams, and asserted (falsely) that I gave help to some and not others. Now all instructors know not every lecture can be a riveting experience, and if you've taught long enough you know that when the stress mounts, the students have bitch sessions. But the shocker, to me, was that this guy, who hired on nine years after me, asked to sit in my lecture to "reassure the students that everything was alright". And he took every beef of theirs as valid. I am a lowly choice. My teaching followed a career in government research and having children, so I don't need the load of tenured teaching. But I wonder what's wrong with people who cave in to students' whining and cater to them the way this colleague was prepared to do. I told him no, absolutely not, he wasn't going to sit in my lecture so as to reassure the little dears that all is well. But his intrusion, his collusion with these kids is the last straw for me. Health problems have been mounting and this convinced me that I am in a sick department. But where will all this placation end? We have constantly striven to make life easier for the students, but in my field, physics, why should it be easy? Whoever said it should be an easy degree to pick up? I'm done with it.

I too am depressed by teaching. I am a younger female PhD student, which makes me an easier target for students. Two bad semesters in a row with combative and entitled students, and I am ready to walk away from academia forever after I graduate. All the wrangling for grades and incivility has caused me to have depression and anxiety, as well as a profound cynicism about students and higher education. Luckily I can still walk away early as a PhD student before I commit to a lifestyle of appeasing the student-as-customer.

I saw couple of posts about depression and anxiety from teaching and I’m going through that right now. I have a full time job and decided to venture into teaching to share my knowledge. The college where I teach is not very organized. I gave the students last week a test and I know they found it hard. 90% of the students complained to the Associate Dean that I was late for my test and they feel the quality of the program is being affected. I have a pending meeting with the Associate Dean this week but I’m seriously deciding to quit teaching all together. The students just want the good grades. If they feel things don’t go the way they want, they complain of the product just because they can. I know I should not care so much but the anticipation of what will happen to me with the Dean kills me. I can leave half way but it’s not my style but like some of you mentioned students have so much power and the worst combination is most of the students who don’t want to learn but just want the grades. It was not like this when I attended post secondary in the late 90s. Maybe the Dean will cancel my contract halfway. I’ll be sad but maybe happy at the same time as this sucks so much of my energy not to mention the amount of workload for the amount of pay. Thanks for hearing me out.

Thank you for this. It is strange comfort to know that I am not alone. I have a student sending uncomfortable anonymous emails that border on harassment, along with a classroom of students complaining about demanding coursework. It's ironic that I have provided more supplementary study materials and extra-credit opportunities for this class than for any other I've taught. The latest saga has left me exhausted.

I recently got bullied by another self-absorbed teacup about her C. What often happens where I teach is the previous teacher may be lax, and w the paltry adjunct pay, I'm not surprised. However, student athletes have almost dared me not to pass them. I am civil and courteous and will admit a failure if I've made one. But my butthole is tired, y'all! From micromanaging she-warrior task master admin to 40-somethings who will bring their hubbie to sit with them in my office and argue over how i wasnt fair enough! Good God almighty. Will someone pleaseeee hire me outside academia? I can copy edit or ghost write.

I so appreciate this reading along with the many responses who have experienced similar if not identical situations. It feels so good, unfortunately, to know that I am not alone. I almost was reluctant to reply because it doesn’t seem to matter. However I will say that I am without a job due to insubstantial opinions, “chatter”, &complaints expressed by mere neophytes who are granted consent and power to determine the fate of a hard working, selfless, passionate Instructor. Needless to say my passion is gone. My desire & motivation is totally shot. Goodby world of Education. I will not subject myself any further to student assault I.e - bullying and entitlement.

It is now April 2019. The content of this article is even more accurate now than when it was written in 2014. Its getting worse every semester. Professionalism in academia is declining. Now, more than ever, students seem to think that having the ability to find 'the answer' on google is just as good as learning. It's sad and frustrating...... 10 years to retirement!

So, I just found a typed letter slipped under my office door. It explains why they are unhappy with me and is signed by maybe 10 out of 16 students. They say I grade their homework and they can't understand my comments; that I move too fast through the text (we're not going to get through all of the material as it is); that I use terms they can't find in the textbook (which they don't seem to read), and that I gave extra time to a student on an exam (who happens to have an academic accomodation, but that's actually none of their business). This is an upper level course in physics for majors and these are majors but I have never seen such a lack of resilience, in seventeen years of teaching. The same students who can locate the solutions to the homework on the internet cannot locate "terms" I use in class. Nor do they seem to be able to raise their hands to ask me to clarify anything. This is a nightmare, or would be if they didn't seem like they were acting out the parts of pampered brats for a sit-com. I give up. I'm out of ideas.

My college protects the abusive student bullies as they fear "lawsuits" plus they want to collect tuition so they throw their faculty under the bus- which is easy since 70% are adjunct part time with no benefits. They care less about our safety, or well-being. They expect us in the front lines of the battle field to be a teacher, a nurse, a psychologist, a cultural specialist, a para professional, a website content manager, accountant , and volunteer for committees and attend support events for free.
When will this treatment be exposed to the world? We need to launch app to allow avatar AI to teach this new generation of narcs. My superiors are narcissist and many of my demanding abusive students are as well. They have all the power. Those suffering are the respectful students who are there to learn and willing to work, and the teacher who wears so many hats yet is underpaid, isolated and marginalized by the very institution claiming they are against oppression.

This is a great article on the new trend we’re seeing in higher ed regarding student behavior. I teach at both the high school level and the community college level, and from what I experience, this behavior is learned through years of bullying and intimidating k-12 teachers. Students, and their parents, have learned that if they act this way school administrators and teachers will give in to what they want, so they are using the same tactics in higher ed. This is what we have to be weary about, and if you have been following the trend in education, the abuse is going to get worse.

I have to share with all of you and email I received from one of my college students:
Today is a holiday. I feel as if it's unfair that you have not only a project due, but you are also assigning monday work that you are making due on tuesday. I think it's a slimy thing to do. Why can't we have our holiday. I understand you assigned the annotated bibliography a while ago and we had time to do it, but the clauses, phrases, fragments assignment is really throwing me off. I hope you understand my frustrations.

Yes, this was sent to me. Also, the holiday this student is referring to is Columbus Day (or Indigenous Peoples Day). Our college is in session on that day. I founs this very rude and disrespectful.

This morning I received an email from a parent demanding that I change a grade on his student's late assignment. How dare I not take late work.

It is written in my syllabus that I do not take late work unless the student emails me asking for an extension and I write bakc with approval. This is for any assignment.

This is what we are dealing with. Students and parents have bullied and threatened the K-12 teachers, and now they believe they can do this in higher education. When will it end? When wil lsome administration stand up and say No, enough is enough?

This line is spot on.

"They believe that their own perspectives are just as valid as those of any expert."

But this is not the explanation...

"Perhaps academia is partly at fault. The recent practice of addressing faculty members by first name, for example, perpetuates the idea that the student and the professor are equals. In this respect, faculty members might have assisted in the erosion of the dignity and authority of the professor. Faculty members also erode their own position as classroom “experts” when they dress as casually as—or more casually than—their students. Is it any wonder that students feel entitled to argue with and denigrate their professors when such a sense of equality has been established?"

Maybe that contributes in a small way. But the big contributor to why students think their perspectives are as valid as any expert is mostly due to post-modernist thinking. Students are taught that there is no truth, only discourses. Students are not taught to appreciate data and the scientific method, and see knowledge as a series of facts asserted by power structures. They don't believe in objectivity anymore. They are given assignments that ask for their personal reflections on things, rather than asking them to do research and construct a coherent argument based on previous work. They get angry when asked to cite sources and thoroughly research a topic because they have never been taught that there is a difference between a naive viewpoint from "lived experience" and synthesizing a large body of previous data that has been collected to answer a particular question. Asking them to do this makes some kids feel stupid, and other kids succeed, and we don't want to make anybody feel bad, God forbid. This is the k-12 educational system's fault. It has very very little to do with first names and clothing. In fact, I beg to differ that if you told professors to start dressing up and demanding to be called Dr. Lastname, without changing these other things about teaching approaches, we will get even MORE backlash because it will come across as unnecessarily elitist.

I am not understanding why so many educators are experiencing anxiety and depression. Then again I do! I believe as an educator/parent youth with test the boundaries but YOU set the BOUNDARIES! !! If as a professional you have earnestly demonstrated diligence, consistency, fairness, empathy, etc. then stand YOUR GROUND not YOUR EMOTIONS!! If you are truly passionately about instructing/teaching solicit other instructors and administrators to establish a support system to promote civility in the classroom as well as personal support. If educators are going to survive in this new culture we have to do more than teach our discipline; we have to educate our learners on civil discourse! It is all of our business!!! Thanks

I am not a professor but I taught highschool level science courses for many years. Reading your article was confirmation of my thoughts on my teaching experience. Last year I reached my final straw and called it quits. Teaching this generation is discouraging and belittling. I have believed for many years that when my students left highschool they would adjust to higher level education and become more studious and productive because universities would curb the behavior they had grown accustomed to in the high school environment. However, it seems to continue.
I know of few other careers where one must complete graduate degrees, maintain certification and invest ones own money and personal time without reimbursement all while facing scrutiny and answering to those they are hired to instruct who view themselves as equally knowledgeable. I realize that something must change about how Americans view the classroom and educational process. Students must be held accountable for their own performance and when grades are not satisfactory it should be the student's efforts, study habits and comprehension that is questioned not the instructor lectures.
I have had many occasions when a student performed poorly where I had to detail my resume to teen students and prove why educational level, experience and knowledge qualified me to instruct them. Many times administration would require me to allow students to retake tests or provide study guides with all answers that would be on the test. I feel now as I did then that my role as a STEM instructor was to teach basic facts and theory focused around the ability to use logic to derive at reasonable answers. I worry that highschools are producing graduates who are incapable of higher level reasoning who continue on to colleges with this same perspective. As a result, our graduates are struggling to compete academically on the global scale.

So, I turn to the internet and my virtual colleagues for solace. I share many of the concerns, doubts, and criticisms I see posted already. I come here today because I just learned that I will be placed on a professional development plan. Before I tell you why, I should share something about me and my approach.

I teach at a community college, where I have seen a great deal of negative change in the more than 10 years I have been there. It has always been my mantra that students deserve an education that both prepares them for higher-order thinking and sharpens the skills they will need in a competitive world. As such, I take a holistic approach, emphasizing respect, responsibility, and self-motivation (in addition to the many hours I spend refining my courses and furthering my understanding of my discipline and pedagogy).

I am convinced that students—particularly community college students—should not be handicapped by low expectations of them. Unfortunately, that is where we are, and I lament the classist nature of that reality. I had an administrator tell me that all opinions are equally valid, that a student who submits work should get at least a “C” and likely a “B”, that we are just to teach “the facts,” and that one particularly atrociously written essay was “good writing.” The student had demanded a 100% on an essay, because he/she “answered all the questions” (never mind that was not close to being true). I have had an administrator tell me that expecting students to be in class on time is irrelevant to students who “just don’t want to be on time anymore.” This he/she said when I asked for advice on curbing tardiness, which was certainly affecting students’ grades. I have also been told by another administrator (his/her boss) that it is not my job to teach these students “how to be an adult.” To be sure, there are plenty of mature students, but the cohort of students at my college averages about 23 years of age. At any rate, we all at one time or another need reminding of things we should do differently. We are all flawed adults. We all need expectations of us.

Over the course of my career, I have amassed more student complaints than my peers. These have been a litany of frivolous complaints dealing with the amount of reading I assign (one chapter per week!) to whether I should respond to student emails asking about thinks that are clearly on the syllabus. While I am not here to denigrate them, I must say that colleagues make my job harder. Instructors who require NO reading, do not expect a certain level of decorum from students, who inflate grades, and who quickly and comprehensively answer every misspelled, nonsensical, callow email about things already in the syllabus compete with me for student enrollment (not to mention the title of “coolest professor”, which I never win).

SO, here is the latest. Although I posted the syllabus this semester and then followed up with an introductory video and reminder emails, I still received student emails asking me simple questions about matters I had covered ad nauseum already. When a student complained that I did not return an email, I was told I had to be put on a plan. I think I give up.

I am so sorry you had to endure that. I too have had a similar situation where because I did not grade the students as they wanted they banded together complaining that I didn’t want to teach them, I only wanted to prove I was smarter then they were.
Needless to say, that landed me with a PIP. I have done everything the PIP has requested I do, but now I face 1 student that threatens to destroy my career because they feel slighted by my grading and my comments on their paper on how to improve the next assignment.
I would never have treated my professors this way.

You don’t go into teaching to become rich; you go into teaching because you want a society where the people taking care of you are not going to kill you.

I love teaching, but this experience has me wondering if I should quit and pray I never have to rely on these students.

I’ve taught at the college level for ten years and have experience in private and public institutions, four and two year colleges. I’ve had students scream in my face while admin supported the students. I have terrible PTSD now from that and other negative experiences from students every semester. What is the solution to such poor behavior in students? How do you deal with it mentally so the depression and anxiety I’ve dealt with for years doesn’t get worse? How do you keep going in the profession? I’m an adjunct teaching nine classes a semester at five different universities just to get full time work. I love my subject matter and left teaching k-8 art because of the same issues I’m dealing with today, and as others have stated, in higher Ed. How do we keep going and not let it get to us so much? The student in incivility is maddening. How can I salvage a career without committing suicide because of all the injustices and complete antithesis of what we think college should be? How do we make any positives from this?


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