I won't give you your exam until you pay your tuition

Mar 20, 2015 • Karl Broman

In college, I had a small state scholarship that paid part of my tuition, but each year there was a different set of bureaucratic hassles in order to get the money transferred from the state to the state university.

After the first midterm exam in my college physics class, the pile of graded exams didn’t include mine. I asked the professor about it, and he said, “You haven’t paid your tuition. I’m not going to give you your exam until you’ve settled with the university.”

He was snarky about it, and he was completely unwilling to listen to any explanation. And it was relatively public: there was a group of other students right next to us, fishing for their exams. I was thoroughly embarrassed.

Up to that point, I was enjoying the class, and I thought he was a really good teacher. But I couldn’t enjoy any of the lectures following that one 30 second experience.

What could have been done afteward to fix it?

I ultimately got my tuition paid and got my exam back, but I don’t remember how that went down.

I think that one bit of toxic behavior is close to unfixable. But I suppose he could have met with me privately and shown some recognition of the seriousness of his ill behavior, with a promise of a change in his interactions with future students.

Looking back, I totally don’t understand the situation or his behavior. If the university gave me a list of students who’d not yet paid their tuition, I’d put it in the shredder and then complain to the administration. I’m sure a lot of students are having difficulty paying; faculty members shouldn’t be in an adversarial role in that. The university shouldn’t either.