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Purdue Northwest: Open Letter to Chancellor Keon

Updated on May 15, 2019
melbel profile image

Melanie has a BS in physical science and is in grad school for analytics & modeling.

Edit: The email responses and messages have been phenomenal! This note has already had hundreds of views!

Thank you, everyone, for your support as students with disabilities continue their journey at PNW. I have not heard anything yet from the university regarding this. I cannot recommend this university to students with disabilities.

Chancellor Keon;

First and foremost, I want to introduce myself as a former chemistry major with a 3.61 GPA. I was in student government, the honors college, secretary of the robotics club, a founding member of the chemistry club, Vice President of the Delta Sigma Science Club, I organized an exposition on campus for young girls interested in science, and I was a research student having presented my research in Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, San Diego, and twice here on campus having placed second in last year’s research competition. I am also a viral writer. In addition, I had the unfortunate circumstance of falling ill with a now-known condition and a condition whose etiology has still not been determined.

I am writing today because a short while into last semester, I began chemotherapy treatments for one of the aforementioned illnesses. My first round of chemotherapy was really rough on me. I had trouble completing two assignments and the professor allowed me extra time. However, he later notified me of a situation with a particular student who may leverage my situation to get himself extra time on assignments. The professor identifying the student and telling me he had been a problem at the other campus was a violation of FERPA. The professor then revoked the extra time. A student in the class approached me and said that he was sorry about what I was dealing with. He'd heard from the professor. Another violation of FERPA.

Following a major illness related to the chemo, I applied for disability services. I turned in an exam one day later than other students despite extra time being allowed on exams and received a penalty. In addition, I was given a 50% penalty on one assignment and a 75% penalty on another. I received a 50% and 25% respectively. However, a student, word-for-word, stole her answers from a solutions manual. The professor acknowledged this and told her no points would be deducted.

I emailed the professor repeatedly asking for assistance with the homework and he would not reply. I emailed him about being sick over the course of the take-home exam and he did not reply. I emailed him about accommodations multiple times as did the disability access center, to no avail. I was told his main means of communication was in person and on Facebook. Upon meeting with him, I was yelled at. At one instance, he sought me out in an office and yelled at me in front of another person.

I was penalized on homework for the professor having lost a portion in his email. Despite this being pointed out to his, my grade was not changed. I was marked off for not converting radicals to decimals. In addition, he assigned problems that required supplementary material (an index of values) students did not have access to. Despite using incorrect values to just show I could do the math, I was marked off. He assigned problems he did not intend for us to do, we completed them, but points were not given out. However, I did very well on all material following the initial two despite these issues with grading.

In the class, the professor stated, “If you do not understand the material, get out of the class.”

The professor removed two assignments and an exam because we “ran out of time.” However, we did not run out of time, we still covered the entirety of the book. In addition, he has made vague attacks on Facebook to the extent that other students have contacted me asking me if it's me he's upset with. (I'm not his Facebook friend.)

The professor assigned me both a grade that I feel is incredibly unfair but was also not contained within his syllabus. A student should not be punished for a professor's disregard for policy and for his own syllabus.

When I filed a grade appeal, I was told to meet with either he or the department chair to rectify this. I met with the department chair who stated he felt the situation was unfortunate but had been unable to reason with the professor. In addition, the chair stated that the professor is known for having a communication problem as the professor had missed meetings due to not answering/reading emails. He said I should instead try to reason with the professor myself. In doing so, the professor threatened to have my grade further reduced. (I was fortunate in being previously advised that Indiana is a single-party audio recording consent state and that I record these conversations, which I did.)

Due to the threats from the professor paired with a verbal request from the chair to not appeal, I withdrew my grade appeal.

I'm a senior and this dropped my GPA down from a 3.65. I am very unhappy with the actions of the professor, the lack of safeguards in preventing this from happening, and the lack of action on the part of the Disability Access Center and Dean of Students.

As a direct result of the situation with this professor, I withdrew from chemotherapy and ultimately changed my major in order to no longer have dealings with this professor. Later, I just didn't feel comfortable on campus anymore and wanted to just be away, so I withdrew from my courses and now no longer attend.

I have since filed a grievance under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, I feel this would be easiest and best to deal with this within the university. Being ill, my time at PNW has not been particularly pleasant. I have often had to divulge private information about my illness and just had an all-around rough time being a student and newly disabled. Believe it or not, there was a time I loved this school.

Proceeds from this letter will be donated to prevent a conflict of interest.

© 2018 Melanie Shebel


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    • profile image


      17 months ago

      If you're investigation does not bare fruit, perhaps you can go forward to a lawsuit. This is an egregious case, and PNW has many issues it would rather sweep under the rug but they are ruining people's lives and educations.

    • profile image

      Jeremy Diederich 

      17 months ago


      I am so sorry to hear that this happened to you. I understand where you are coming from and have had similar predicaments with professors having no compassion and if I may be so bold as to say they have no basic respect. PNW is not perfect but being a student and having the opportunities they have provided for him still makes me obliged to have some love and pride for the school. I hope you get the justice you deserve and I will pray for you and donate to scientific research to aid in the understanding of such devestating diseases.

      God bless,

      Jeremy C. Diederich

    • Larry Fish profile image

      Larry W Fish 

      17 months ago from Raleigh

      Oh Melanie, I am so sorry to hear about your illness and the trouble you had with the professor. It seems like showing compassion is something that professors seem to lack anymore. I wish you the best with your illness and trying to get resolved the problems with the college. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      Wow, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with all of that!


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