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I have learned that just because the tutor does not outwardly display signs
of offense, it does not necessarily mean they weren't offended. It is
possible the tutor didn't want to "make a big deal" about it, or was
embarrassed, or was unsure how to respond. I don't think I would have
intervened on the spot (though walking out of you office and strolling
through the center may serve as a visual reminder to students that this is
an academic setting), however, I would have spoken privately with the tutor
and directly asked her about the situation, letting her know that you are
concerned for her feelings of safety and comfort in the work environment. I
think this is an opportunity for her to really evaluate her feelings about
the comment and feel like it is a safe place to honestly discuss it. It
could also be an opportunity to coach her in how to respond the next time
something similar happens. I have consulted with our Office of Student
Conduct and Academic Integrity on matters similar to this, and the advice I
received was that these moments are uncomfortable, but they are teachable
moments. These young adults may face similar situations in their workplace
in the future and through our coaching and support, they can learn ways to
handle these situations and take ownership of their feelings and their
responses. If it made you uncomfortable, it could have made her or others
uncomfortable as well. No one wants that.

Tonya V. Clonen
SMART Learning Commons
Coordinator, Individual Learning Services
University of Minnesota
[log in to unmask]
smart.umn.edu
(612)625-6508




-----Original Message-----
From: Open Forum for Learning Assistance Professionals
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Nichole Bennett-Bealer
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 3:19 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Tutor/Tutee Comment

Hello list (apologies for cross-posting to WCenter),

Our Learning Center Director and I are differing in our reaction to a 
student comment.  And we would like your input.

All of our tutees sign a contract that includes a clause on treating others 
in the Center with respect.

Yesterday, I was sitting in my office with music softly playing on my PC. 
The afternoon writing walk-in session table was set up directly outside of 
my office.  Our LC is very open.  Twelve-foot ceilings, but our offices are 
cubicles with six-foot tall partitions so sound travels easily.  There are 
no private consultation rooms; all tutoring occurs in the main area at 
tables.  So even though I can clearly hear most of what happens directly 
adjacent to my office, and some of what happens in the extended center, I 
try to respect the sessions and the tutors by not overtly eavesdropping 
(which would be why I often have music playing).

A tutee who knows our policies and signed our contract made a questionable 
comment loud enough for me to hear (which is not necessarily loud given my 
previous statements regarding the LC).  He was sitting at the writing 
walk-in table speaking with the walk-in tutor on duty.  As the new walk-in 
tutor (a female) approached the table, the tutee said "shake that sweet @ss 
over here."  The tutor did not appear offended or insulted.  In fact, both 
the male and female tutors and the tutee seemed to have a positive rapport 
with each other and spent considerable time discussing the tutee's project. 
I have just meet with the tutor, by chance, and she indicated that the 
walk-in session was fine.  A little overwhelming because the tutee had a 64 
page thesis project, but nothing else was troublesome.

Our director believes that I should have intervened at the moment I heard 
the comment.  She believes that I should have exited my office, interrupted 
the exchange between the tutors and tutee, and reminded the tutee that this 
is an academic setting and such language is not acceptable.  She now wants 
to call the tutee in to discuss this incident.

While I do not appreciate hearing that comment, I am sure there are many 
such comments -- and worse -- that happen in the Learning Center throughout 
the semester which I do not hear.  My feeling is that if the tutor was not 
offended, then my offense is something we can talk about in our monthly 
staff meeting, but not something I should interrupt a session to discuss. 
Plus, I do not want my tutors or our tutees thinking that behind every 
cubicle partition is a supervisor lurking and listening to every 
conversation.

How do others handle the immature or thoughtless comments students can make 
when they feel too comfortable in the center?

Thanks,

Nichole

Nichole Bennett-Bealer, PhD
Assistant Director/Writing Specialist
Claude J. Clark Learning Center
SUNY College at Plattsburgh
518-564-2265 

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