Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Ombudsman's Verdict

Hi all,

A letter from the ACT ombudsman arrived today. As I suspected, it found the University of Canberra was not at fault with my dispute with it, but in reality it could only investigate one of several complaints I had about the university. The one complaint it could investigate was why only one assessor marked my major assignment for the Freelance Writing Project. The ombudsman said:

“the marking scheme for this unit did not require more than one assessor. Therefore, it was open to the University not to have a second assessor and I do not consider that this is a matter that merits further investigation.”

Other subjects in the course had more than one assessor. The comments Professor Jennifer Webb made on my assignment, in both their relevancy and refutability, make me suspect that a second assessor would probably have given me a both a higher grade and more relevant and insightful comments.

Most of the other aspects of my dispute come under the area of “academic discretion” (as relayed to me in a telephone conversation with the ombudsman). And just as well by the comments in his letter, because the ombudsman felt my questions wanting J Webb to clarify her comments on my story’s supposed “loose ends” and its “sense of completion” where covered in Jennifer Webb’s email dated the 24th June. (I will post both this email and the ombudsman’s letter as well as all other communications on this dispute on my website soon). J Webb did answer a question about one loose end in that email, but she did not answer my questions on the other supposed loose ends.

The loose end she did try to clarify, about twin foetuses, showed how badly she had read my story - as I pointed out in later emails, which she failed to respond too. If she had read my story properly she could not possibly have failed to read a prominent scene where the womb of the main female character was examined by an ultra-sound machine and it showed only ONE foetus. Jennifer Webb’s response just re-enforced my feeling that she rushed the reading of my major assignment for that unit and then just quickly wrote down ill-thought out comments.

The ombudsman also did not look into the university’s, particularly Professor Jennifer Webb’s, overall refusal to communicate with me.

I can see no point in taking the matter further with the ombudsman as he only really can investigate the one assessor matter, but I may still seek other legal avenues.

If you are aggrieved university student, I recommend going through the complaints process, sheer weight of numbers may eventually get university to do something about suspect assessments. If you are thinking of taking the Master of Creative Writing course at the University of Canberra, I would suggest looking elsewhere. Although there are some excellent teachers/lecturers like Belle Alderman in the course, they don’t make up for the lose of Moya Costello, and the fact that J Webb and Greg Battye now take three of the revamped course’s seven subjects.

Finally if you are Professor Jennifer Webb and reading this, your lack of constructive, relevant criticism combined with your refusal to communicate leaves me with the realisation that your teaching was of no value to me. How many of your other students have a similar attitude? I feel that there are many. And here’s some constructive criticism, your condescending attitude during our one telephone conversation made it a lot easier for me to make these complaints.

The end (or maybe not).