January 22, 2020

University Retroactively Adds Teaching as Coursework to Ph.D. Transcripts, then Removes After Social Media Objections

Levi Hall houses the office of the provost.

Courtesy of University of Chicago

Several graduate students in the Division of Humanities found last week that teaching requirements were coded as courses and retroactively added to their transcripts. After they pointed out the additions to their transcripts on social media, Shea Wolfe, dean of students in the Division, announced through e-mail last Friday that the courses and their corresponding grades would be removed.

The University said in a statement to The Maroon that the courses had been removed from transcripts by Friday afternoon.

Despite the Division announcing that the courses would be removed, some students say they remain disturbed that their teaching was classified as coursework and that the changes were made without prior notice.

Emily Smith, a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in near eastern languages and civilizations, taught three courses on elementary Hittite between 2016 and 2018. Last Wednesday evening, she noticed her transcript recorded that she had been enrolled in “PTPT 69001: Graduate Student Lectureship” for each quarter she taught, despite never enrolling in that class at the time.

The courses do not appear on an earlier unofficial transcript from October 2018 that Smith showed to The Maroon.

On Twitter, Smith said that the change to her transcript was “obviously a sneaky way the university is trying to redefine our teaching as purely for our own training rather than as work.”

Smith also tweeted that her classes had never been observed, and no one ever reviewed her lesson plans.

The University said in their statement that “the removed courses were marked with an ‘S’, which signified that the requirement had been satisfied; it was not an evaluative course grade assigned by an instructor.” However, the transcripts themselves did not indicate anywhere that the courses were graded for completion.

Graduate Students United (GSU) urged other graduate students to check their transcripts for similar additions.

Laura Colaneri, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian studies and a member of GSU, was also retroactively enrolled in PTPT 69001 after teaching a Spanish course. She also was enrolled in “PTPT 65001: Teaching/Course Assistantship” after working as a Teaching Assistant for a different class last quarter.

After seeing she was graded for Teaching Assistantship, Colaneri, also confused about the grade assigned to the course, immediately e-mailed the professor asking if he had evaluated her teaching or provided input that may have factored into her grade, she said. He responded that he had not.

Colaneri said that she was “disappointed with [the Division’s] response” because it contained “no apology for their error.”

“It affects those on the job market,” she said. “The changes go as far back as November 1—maybe earlier—and people submitted applications during that time.” Because the course appears among courses students actually enrolled in at the time, Colaneri explained, it may give the impression that their teaching was a part of their Ph.D. coursework.

She also said that the grades are redundant: When applying for jobs, students already include the teaching they have done in other materials. “We have the classes we teach on our CV and put together teaching portfolios,” she said. “There’s no reason for it to also appear on our transcripts. No one asked for this.”