U of T professor prioritizes likes over learning

Image by: Amelia Rankine

Students are busy enough with their school agendas—they shouldn’t be left searching for hidden personal agendas in their assigned readings.

A professor at the University of Toronto (U of T) is offering students up to five per cent in additional “engagement” marks—for tasks including following him on Twitter and acquiring a signed copy of his book.

The professor has defended the bonus grades, citing the advice in his book and the value of networking as justification for his controversial marking policy.

There’s room in syllabi for materials written by a course’s professor. After all, they’re experts in their given fields. Niche textbooks and articles relevant to the area of study are reasonable to include in assigned readings, and frequently serve to supplement student’s learning.

However, it’s a different circumstance altogether when a professor uses a syllabus to actively promote their own original work and brand.

Social media follows, book sales, autographs—there’s no academic enrichment to be gained from these gestures. Students shouldn’t feel pressure to bolster their professors’ personal or professional endeavours outside the classroom for extra marks, particularly when they offer little for student learning experiences. 

Networking is beneficial for students, and the professor’s book might offer sound advice, but these resources should be made available to students at their own discretion, without impacting academic performance. 

There’s no official distinction between when it is and isn’t appropriate for a professor to include their own work in course readings, but it’s obvious this particular case is an abuse of academic norms. 

As a professor, it’s unprofessional to use students as a means to bolster your social media presence and book sales. Profiting off students’ drive to improve their academic performance is purely self-serving.

In allowing these extra tasks to remain a part of the course syllabus, U of T fails students who can’t afford to buy a non-mandatory course text or who feel uncomfortable using social media, and as a result, no longer have the same academic opportunities as their peers in this class.

It’s clear that academic guidelines must be drawn to prevent professors from exploiting students to promote their own works. Universities should be actively looking to protect students from profiteering by professors when reviewing finalized course syllabi.

Class readings should be assigned based on the value they offer to students—not to a professor’s Instagram follower count.

—Journal Editorial Board


professor, Reading, U of T

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