Students accuse LDC lecturer of insensitivity towards self-certified extensions

Students left fuming after “insensitive” and “patronising” email by UEA lecturer

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An email by an LDC lecturer has provoked outrage among students after it seemed to accuse some of them of abusing the self-certify extension system.

Dr. Petra Rau’s email, described as ‘patronising’ and ‘insensitive’ on social media, was sent to inform students their coursework is ready to collect, but went on to question the extraordinarily high number of students who used self-certifcation to get an extension.

Dr. Rau wrote: “this year we seem to have exhausted you in a manner that defies all known statistics…the number of self-certifications in the faculty now borders on the absurd”.

She then complains that the effect this has had on her and the other teaching staff has been like “Chinese water torture: drip drip drip”.

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Shocking: Dr Rau’s email was widely circulated among other students via Twitter

To finish her email, Petra adopted a ‘patronising’ tone and outlined simple grammar rules to her group of second year English Literature students, telling them: “it’s your native tongue: treat it with love and care”.

The email received several negative responses from students in the LDC School.

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However, other students have defended the tutor, claiming her reaction may have been triggered by stress brought on by pressure applied to Dr Rau by more senior staff.

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Lucy Morris, second year LDC student, told us: “I found self-certified extensions this year much easier to use and apply for than medical ones.

“Last year, I was constantly applying for medical extensions due to a mental health issue, which involved making a doctor’s appointment, waiting up to a week for an appointment and missing the deadline, and then explaining to a doctor that you were sick and having trouble.

“I think there need to be limits to self-certification – obviously, they are abused, and people do use them when they’re not sick or struggling. And any extension places extra stress on the markers.

“Petra’s email raised absolutely valid points. I think we really need a list of the circumstances in which it’s valid to self-certify, and which not.”

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Jess Brown, AMS student and the original poster of the email on Twitter, said: “Self-certified extensions are important to me because I have occasional issues with anxiety – issues I don’t feel comfortable taking to the Dean of Students or my advisor because that’s just not really how I deal with things, so I can’t get medical extensions.

“Deadline week for me usually consists of two deadlines on the same day, and one maybe two or three days afterwards. There is no real way to deal with this without taking out a self-cert extension.

“The issue is with the system, not the students. While I understand Dr. Rau’s frustration, being sent an email like that while I’m revising for my exams is really upsetting and is unnecessarily distracting.”

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When contacted by the Tab, Petra said:  “I don’t think I have accused anyone of abusing the extension system.

“Indeed my email explicitly acknowledged that some students work under extremely challenging circumstances, and work very hard and produce astonishing results. I have spoken to several of them and am deeply sympathetic.

“However, as I state in my email – not without humour – the number of students who now use the self-certification system defies any statistics across the entire faculty to the extent that everyone is affected by this process. This happened last semester and it has happened this semester, and it is the result of the changed regulations that say that students can certify for an extension once a semester.

“As a result, the number of late submissions has gone through the roof. It is now much harder to meet our deadlines because work comes in almost every day in very small portions.”

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As for complaints about her grammatical advice, Dr Rau said: “my email suggests that working to deadlines is a skill that is needed on the job market. The same applies to correct grammar and punctuation. There are many essays with presentational shortcomings and these are actually important.

“The intention of the email was not to offend or to be insensitive – and no student has actually emailed me to complain about the email – but to point out the reason why we have to return coursework in two batches.

“I’m very happy to apologise since I don’t mean to offend, but I also think that we need to have a discussion about the future practice of coursework submission.”