KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A University of Tennessee student, set to graduate in December, is challenging her professor about a question on a quiz. She blogged about what happened after the grades were posted.
The headline on Kayla Renee Parker’s blog notes how the disagreement cost the professor her job. Parker never mentions the professor’s name, but the professor had been teaching on and off at the university since 1986.
“I wanted to have one final thing to say to her and it was that I forgive you for taking my focus last semester,” said Parker.
Words seemed to pour from the keyboard to the screen Wednesday and Parker shared her journey from the beginning of last semester, to today.
“Writing this was incredibly therapeutic,” she said.
The blog post boils down to a quiz given in Parker’s family sociology class, specifically one question about family relationships during slavery and two of its answers.
The question asked:
Historical research on African-American families during slavery shows that:
a. family ties weren’t important in the African cultures where the slaves ancestors originated; consequently, family bonds were never strong among slaves.
b. two-parent families were extremely rare during the slavery period.
c. black family bonds were destroyed by the abuses of slave owners, who regularly sold off family members to other slave owners.
d. most slave families were headed by two parents.
Parker marked C on the question, but the professor said D was the correct answer.
“My concern is how my history is being portrayed in class,” she said.
The disagreement began when Parker says she got the question wrong and asked her professor for more research. She says there were arguments over email, in the hallway, and she presented her take on the makeup of African American families during slavery in front of the class.
Parker says things just kept escalating.
“Had the question been as is and I had received a response that proved to me she was listening, and she was trying to hear, and she would do some additional research, research that didn’t come from textbooks in the 1960s and 70s, I would’ve been totally satisfied.”
The University of Tennessee says the professor was a lecturer, on a non-tenure track and a year-to-year contract. They say the professor was told last summer this would be her final contract because the Department of Sociology would be undergoing curriculum changes.
“College is a place for you to discuss issues you agree with and disagree with,” said Parker.
UT says the professor was relieved of her teaching duties in early April, officially retiring from the university. Based on a provision in the school’s faculty handbook, the professor was paid the remainder of her contract through July 31.
“I will always want to speak truths to power if it brings this kind of outcome,” added Parker.
She says during this whole situation, she’s learned more about herself and hopes to inspire other students to ask questions.
“I don’t forgive you though for being willfully ignorant while teaching students because it’s incredibly irresponsible,” she said.
The professor’s attorney did not wish to comment. Representatives at UT say because of student privacy laws, they cannot speak about this incident.