Racism at Oakland University? - page 3

In Dean Catherine Vincent's pediatric pathophysiology course, all of her white middle-class students did exceptionally well but a Mexican-American student in her class failed miserably. What was the... Read More

  1. by   moonshadeau
    Sorry Manuel you aren't going to like what I say.
    Keep in mind I am not writing this in regards to race, it is not a factor. I spent a considerable amount of time reading your exams. I also read all the comments that your instructor gave to you. I zoomed in to ensure that I understood the questions and could read the handwriting of that of your instructor and yourself. Yes, the teacher may have been unfair in the grading of particular questions. In some instances your instructor offered an opportunity to regain points by showing your sources that you described. Many times you didn't answer the question the way it was looking for. Questions would ask for manifestations and you described little if any. Your instructor wanted much more patho given on your test than you provided. SHe is repeatedly asking for more information about the patho. I read your comment that you are trying very hard to memorize the information. You need to find a way to make sense of the information so that it really isn't memorized but is part of a jigsaw that makes sense. The same way you got through nursing school the first time. You had to learn why things were the way they were, and have an understanding that you can apply. You are trying to be a nurse practitioner, you need to know this stuff to help save someone's life.

    You also sound like you have some test anxiety. I can't think of a nurse who hasn't at some point in their life. You need to try to negotiate with the instructor to help you find a way that will provide a better environment to test. Perhaps she is one of those instructors that believes in a "fair playing field" for everyone and won't make exceptions. But you have to try and you have go in without the notion that race may be a factor. I can't assume that there isn't racism in southern Michigan. But does that include everyone that your classmates as well. Are there not people out there that want to have study groups?

    Basically, I can't say that this is a race issue or not. But there is a problem with your tests and from what I can see, your not answering the question the way she wants is really the problems. If this is a race issue, well I guess that I am sorry that this is happening to you. But remember that prejudices can run both ways too.

    For those that believe I am being too harsh can look at all the exams and come to a conclusion for themselves.

    Manuel- Good luck
  2. by   SharonH, RN
    That was very, very interesting. I understand why you felt the way you did. I'm glad that you are calling this woman out, I wouldn't let her off the hook. What is your next step from here? Are you planning to go for your NP somewhere else?
  3. by   pebbles
    hmmm....

    where I live, people do not talk about *race*, although racsim IS a problem. The term people use is "culture" - although using different words does not disguise the bias.

    If members of different cultures tend to look at a set of exam questions differently (because they come from a different mental and cultural background and standpoint)....

    therefore they give answers that do not match what the instructor (who is usually white) is looking for....

    does the lower grade count as "racism"?

    Or is race and culture just another (large) factor that educators need to consider when designing exams, teaching, coaching students, encouraging students to form study groups, etc.

    I just don't know if it's fair to label an instructor as racist just because a hispanic student did poorly. Maybe race is not a factor in why any particular student did not give the answers teacher was looking for.... happens all the time to students of all colours, I'm sure.

    I think it is unlikely that a university professor would be so blatant as to say "aha... this student is hispanic, therefore.... " and give someone a lower grade.

    What is the root issue here is how to resolve the difference in viewpoint on how to answer the question between teacher and student... racism is over-simplifying the issue.
  4. by   fergus51
    My instructor once told me the most important thing on a question was to answer the question....answer the damn question....ANSWER THE QUESTION!!!! I think a lot of the answers you gave weren't what she was asking for, that's something I had trouble with in school too.
  5. by   manuelvillanueva
    I do realize I answered problems incorrectly on my exams. My point is I can't believe everyone in my class answered her questions perfectly. It is my understanding that everyone in that class got "A"s. If she was so particular on my exams, I don't understand how everyone else escaped the same scrutiny. I want to see the other student's exams.

    To answer someone's question, I did run out of time on the second exam. I have already made my appeal with the school of nursing and lost. I'm not sure if I will continue with the nurse practitioner program. Even If I take her course over and pass it. I'm sure other teachers will jump at the chance to get even with me for accusing the Dean of being racist. I've already borrowed $17,000 for school. I think it's time to cut my losses. If I invest in my education again it will not be in nursing.
  6. by   pebbles
    You can't see other student's exams, because it violates their confidentiality. That is why you need to see a student advisor who can get help from other faculty members - they can access the exams written by other students and judge whether you were graded unfairly.

    This is one class. Dropping out seems kind of drastic.
    How are you doing in the rest of your classes?

    You don't HAVE to be a victim - whether this instructor is racist or not. If she is, and that is proven, she is not allowed, by LAW to hold your race against you in grading. So if you have the guts to take this to an advisor at your school, you cannot flunk this class just on racism alone... but you can flunk if your answers don't match the accepted passing standards. You are choosing your response to this obstacle.

    For you to get so discouraged over doing poorly in one class...
    I have to wonder how much you want to be a nurse anyway.

    I'm sorry that this one instructor has poisoned the idea of nursing for you.... please try not to judge the entire profession or even the entire academia by this one bad experience. To do so would be almost prejudiced in it's own way. Nursing can be a wonderful and rewarding career - and YES there are struggles to get there, there are even struggles in doing the job after you graduate. But you have to really want to do the job. We ALL had instructors who hated us, who we didn't like, etc. I failed many of my skills lab practical exams because the instructor hated me and would bully and intimidate me during practice time and during exams. It's an obstacle like any other. I overcome my obstacle, and now I enjoy my job as a nurse.

    Racism is a truly serious issue that plagues our society.
    I just hate seeing people who trivialize it by playing the race card every time they feel they are hard done by. ie maybe it wasn't your skin color that made you flunk, maybe your answers just weren't as good as the rest of your class.... and focussing on racism is detracting from focussing on solving your real problems.

    No one knows for sure if your instructor is racist - that has never been proven. By not giving her the benefit of the doubt, you are only short-changing yourself out of a good career. For you to be able to do well, part of what you have to do is learn to conform - learn how to answer the questions to what the instructor expects. Have you received feedback yet on your complaints about the instructor, and how you were graded? Where does your responsibility lie in not doing well on these exams?
  7. by   live4today
    VERY WELL SAID, PEBBLES! GOOD POINTS TO PONDER!
  8. by   manuelvillanueva
    Hello Pebbles. You might think dropping out of the program is drastic but as it stands I'm already suspended from the program until I take peds pathophys over. I feel burnt out about right now. Maybe over time I might feel differently.

    If you're wondering what kind of grades I have so far:

    NRS 620 Pediatric Pathophys 70%
    NRS 531 Research 85%
    NRS 611 Adult Pathophys 95%
    BIO 503 Gross Anatomy 90%
    NRS 500 Theory 88%
    NRS 540 Ethics 98%
    BIO 501 Pathophys I
    NRS 605 Anesthesia Pharm 80%
    NRS 610 Health Policy/Finance 98%
    BIO 502 Pathophys II >90% (can't find my grade card)


    As far as my wanting to be a nurse, I have been a registered nurse for 10 years. I do whatever I can for my patients. I enjoy practicing nursing. I have been an ICU nurse for five years. But I don't enjoy the politics, the short staffing, and the racism. Being a minority leaves me with the shifts that no one else wants like midnights, having the assignments that no one else wants, and stress that no other nurse puts up with. I have to be watchful of everything; always under someone's scrutiny. I can't take the stress anymore!

    I have already gone through the entire faculty (including the Dean). They will not look at the other student's exams. That is why I have posted my grievance on the Internet.

    I don't believe Dean Vincent's exams reflect my knowledge of peds pathophysiology. The material was not difficult. It was all memorization. I have never failed a college class before and this is very demoralizing. Plus the fact that I have been pulled out of ICU at my new job because the white nurses feel I don't know what I'm doing. I will point out that there is not one black nurse that works in this ICU even though Detroit's population is 83% African-American.

    I do not "trivialize" my experiences with racism. Because of all the beatings and name calling I experience growing up, I become extremely angry when confronted by it. I can feel the adrenaline and my heart pound. Maybe that's why blacks and hispanics have higher incidence of hypertension.
  9. by   Rustyhammer
    This is what I said in an earlier post on a simular subject.


    Being Hispanic AND a nurse let me say that I have never encountered any racism during my carreer.Either it hasn't happened or I am truly blind to it.
    no llores Manuel!
    -Russell
  10. by   lgcv
    Manuel,
    It seems that there are a lot of things going on in your life right now that you attribute to racism. While some, or even most of it may be real, I wonder if some of it while constued that way is not. As you stated you have experienced it frequently in your lifetime...maybe it is getting harder to distinguish racism from other issues. At any rate, with all that you are dealing with right now it seems to me that it would be a good idea to find a counselor. If nothing else to help you work through the issues in the most productive manner possible.
  11. by   manuelvillanueva
    Russell, I am glad you have not had the opportunity to experience racism. But did you consider it is due to the fact your area of the country is 42% Hispanic? That is a large percentage. I remember going to the mall with my cousin in San Antonio and was surprised to see almost every face I saw was Chicano. It was a good feeling. I remember visiting Colorado Springs. There were many Hispanics for me to talk to. Again, I felt at home. I would move today If I didn't own a house here in Michigan. I grew up in Ohio which has a Hispanic population of 1.9%. I live in Michigan with a Hispanic population of 3.3%. Michigan and Ohio are completely different than New Mexico.

    I don't know what you mean by "llores." If you are implying I make all this up then believe what you want. I will not reply again to messages stating what I say is make believe. I have the scars on my body to prove it.
    Last edit by manuelvillanueva on Jun 8, '02
  12. by   pebbles
    I do not deny the reality and existence of racism. It is a cruel and vicious, inhumane thing, that pits people against other people... racism truly hurts us all. There is much racism where I live too, I see the consequences every day, the hurt behind peoples eyes - they don't trust me because I am white, they have had too many hurtful experiences of being treated harshly based on their own skin colour. That hurts me too....

    I DO think that maybe your past experiences are over-shadowing your school experience now. Yeah, it does stink that you flunked this class. If we could find a way to show you exactly how to think, how to learn the material, how to spew it out on the test in exactly the right way - I think anybody on this board would gladly help you. But we can't.

    But, why does the reason you flunked *have* to be the racism issue? That is what I do not get. Since you have received no feedback from your faculty - your claim of racism is at best an *assumption* - yes, based on your past experiences, as all of our assumptions are. But I just don't know if it is a fair claim to make.

    You seem to blame many of your hardships on being a minority - lousy shifts, etc. I do not deny that sometimes racism can play a part in even these day to day hassles. But such systemic bias is illegal, and does not stand up to public scrutiny once employers are made aware of what is going on - even if only fear of lawsuits is a factor. I have to wonder if there is more going on. Are you getting lousy shifts because you don't assertively demand a good schedule, or some other behavioural factor? Even white nurses have to fight tooth and nail for a decent work schedule... To say "life is lousy because I'm a minority and people treat me badly" is waaaaaay over-simplifying things. And it's not fair to those others, who may have NO ill-will towards you at all.

    You say you are burnt out - and I wonder if that is in more than just work. Are you just angry and tired of fighting to the point where you can't see the *other* issues that complicate so many aspects of life? I hope you do take a break, get some perspective.

    And nobody would pull a qualified nurse out of ICU without good reason (especially not over race - visions of lawsuits) - I'd say you need to take a good hard look at yourSELF underneath the skin colour and figure out what you have been doing wrong. Make an appointment with your boss to talk about it an be prepared to be HONEST with yourself about where your weaknesses lie, what mistakes you have made. Your employer WILL provide this feedback, especially if you ask for it. Do not tell yourself that they are lying to cover up racism... But listen to what they are telling you.

    If you go on about racism making you lose your job, even in your own mind, you will get more burnt out, and the downward spiral of depression and anger will continue. Can you afford to let that happen to yourself? Get professional help if you need to, but please look after yourself....

    I also think that regardless of whether your claim of unfair treatment is valid or not - it is shocking and disgusting to me that your faculty has not provided feedback on this issue. Almost every university has a grievance procedure for students that ensures impartial and fair treatment - so that things such as racism, sexism, and other issues cannot poison a student's grades. If your claim was found to be invalid, there should have been a meeting with you to discuss their findings of why they came to that conclusion. I really think you should look beyond your faculty to the larger support structure and student counselling network of your university. You are not the first student to feel he has been graded unfairly - and the university will have legal policies on how to deal with this type of situation. If the faculty of nursing does not comply with university policy, they could lose funding.... Again, get off the internet and go digging at your university. The tools to find out what is really going on are there, if you know how to find them and use them. Could a fellow student or student council rep help you?

    Manuel, I hope you get the help you need to get your life back on track. There is no easy answer... "they" are not always wrong.... but neither are you always wrong. Rather the truth lies somewhere in between.
    Best wishes
    -Pebbles
    Last edit by pebbles on Jun 8, '02
  13. by   live4today
    Hi Pebbles
    You speak with a lot of compassion, wisdom, and sensitivity which are excellent qualities to have, and I applaud you for that.
    Reading your post really moved me, and I hope it helps Manuel also. You sound like a wonderful nurse, and our profession is blessed to have you. :kiss

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