Abrasive Professors

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    Has anyone else had the experience of having a professor they just did not see eye to eye with?

    Having class with this person leaves me walking off campus feeling totally demoralized and disillusioned about the entire profession. I’ve never met someone who seemed so intent on seeing me screw up as this person.

    Just airing my dirty laundry now to avoid the heartburn later tonight.

    Cory Blaquiere

    I’ve run into this experience (exactly) with co-workers in the past. Generally, it fuels me to step up my game and put the gloves on. I hate it myself, but there are unfortunately people out there who feel everything is a competition and you’ll need to deal with them because they don’t stop until the other competition is gone. So don’t be afraid to challenge everything he says about your work, or even call him out on it. When someone is working right next to me and is visibly “testy” or breathing down my neck, it’s very distracting and I’ve told them to stop doing it.
    Anyway, that was my own airing. Hope you don’t get heartburn.

    Vance W. Hall

    I am not sure…..Oklahoma State Grads… did we have a professor like that??? hum…huh…..I can’t remember I must have suppressed the memory.

    I am sure we all had one Nick. It built patience.


    It’s like a ripple in the space-time continuum. The former reality you’ve come to understand ceases to exist and people start acting all weird. I’m going skiing.

    rebecca olson

    Andrew G has some great points.

    With this professor, what are you attached to? Probably a good grade. Or you have an emotional attachment to your work or how you expect to be treated. (or something else?) I apologize for getting zen here, but if you let go of whatever is causing the problem, it helps SO MUCH! Work hard and let the harshness roll off you. Easier said than done! Let go, breathe, let go… Good luck!

    Rico Flor

    Hi Nick.

    Call it training for your people skills. For sure they have their own issues, but we do too. And, hey, it’s fun to recall our unforgettable professors ten…twenty years…down the line…

    Kevin J. Gaughan

    Nick, I am not sure if this will relate to your situation, but I thought I should share it anyway. I had my first real design studio the first semester of my sophomore year. I thought I was doing some really cool design work in it, but I never really got that feeling from my professor. She would always ask me questions about my design and my process, and then never seemed satisfied with my answers. This frustrated me, especially since my peers thought my work was good.

    The final project for that class was an earthquake memorial in Taiwan. I thought I had come up with a really cool design and was feeling pretty good about myself, until my professor came over to do my desk crit. After looking at the sketches I had done, and little discussion about my concept, she flat out told me that she was very disappointed and if this was the quality of work I was going to do, I wouldn’t get into the program (we had a portfolio review after 45 credits to see if we would be accepted into the LARC Program). As you might imagine, my world was a bit shattered. First I was angry at her…I mean who was she anyway to tell me what is good or not. Then I was worried that maybe I was not cut out for the program, that I was some kind of failure. Mostly I was just stunned…I had never really had anyone call me out like that before.

    So, there was less than 2 weeks left until this project was due and I now had no concept. I worked my butt off the next two nights and finally got to a concept that I was absolutely in love with, and I felt that my design reflected the concept very well. The next studio class we had, I asked my professor to check out my new ideas first. She came over, and I was so excited about the design that I just kept talking about why I made every decision I did and why I decided not to do other things. She then stopped me, and said “I knew you had it in you Kevin.”

    I ended up getting an A on the project. And an A- in the class. And, clearly, I got into the program. She was hard on me, because she knew I had more to offer. She saw my potential, and she did not know how to get it out of me except by scaring it out of me. But the important part, was that she never gave up on me, and found it to be her duty to challenge me. That was definitely a life changing experience for me.

    From that point on, I always enjoyed tough criticism. It can only do two things, make me realize that there is a better solution, or make me determined to prove that my solution is actually the best.

    Keep doing your best Nick!


    I think all the points above, especially those formed from years of experience and wisdom are all right on point. I understand personality conflict and ego and like to think I can get past those things. What bothers me about this professor has gone beyond professional criticism and differences in opinion or even personality. This situation is entirely different.

    Without going into great detail I’m pretty sure the professor has some combination of personal issue(s). I don’t think it would be appropriate to air anymore of the situation via internet.

    Barbara Peterson

    I also had a professor when I was working on my masters that for some reason ‘had it out for me’. I’m sure that part of it was personality conflict (we are both hardheaded) but at the time, I had no idea what set him off.
    Long story short, he wanted me out and I thought ‘to hell with you, I’ll graduate from this program no matter what it takes’. I tried talking to the dept. head who started the conversation (before I could even get a word out) with something like “let’s admit that you are different”. (Side note…before I was able to talk to the dept head the dept secretary pulled me aside into the stairwell to ask me if this particular professor had hit on me or made any advances toward me….apparently he’d done that in the past and had also ‘ran off’ another female student….but no, he had not.)
    Needless to say, neither the dept head nor my professor were interested in talking. And I was not allowed to change committee chairs (yes, unfortunately I had selected this guy as my committee chair). (The professor that I wanted as a new chair told me that he was instructed to “stay out of it” and not talk to me……he wasn’t tenured and so didn’t have much choice if he wanted to keep his job.)
    Since I had a year left and wasn’t about to leave, I quickly got the Graduate Students Office involved who had told me to ‘work it out’ but really didn’t give me any advice. To cover my butt, I tape recorded every meeting from that moment on with my committee chair. When he told me that I couldn’t record our conversation, I told him that I would….I did. I then transcribed each of our meetings and sent copies of it to both the Head of the College of Architecture (our l.scape program was one part of it) and to the Graduate Studies Office….
    I graduated and received my MLA. Unfortunately, that experience left me with a really nasty taste in my mouth. The professor is still there and while I could care less about him now, I have not since supported nor will I support the department in any way. And it’s been almost 15 years.
    And quite honestly, no, I didn’t see it as having ‘prepared me for the real world of pissy clients’ or as a way to learn new people skills or somone that was trying to challenge me or push me to excell or anything that positive. I saw and still see it for what it was: a jerk on a power trip.
    That said, I’ve had a very successful career and have enjoyed the landscape arch. profession. And honestly, I haven’t run into clients with that kind of nasty attitude.
    What I would advise is for you to find a way to either handle or deal with the situation. But be careful: the head on approach that I took is not necessarily the best choice because it can backfire esp. if you have time left in the program. But do not let him / her push you out if this is the program if it is what you are really intersted in.
    As others have recommended, find a way to work with him / her; think about the crits that he / she gives and try to see if any of the advice (minus the nasty comments) have merit; and relax, after you graduate, you will probably never see that person again. (easier said than done…I know, I was there)
    You can make it work. And no, changing programs may not help…jerks like that are in every department. (I’ve heard those stories from other friends also.) Finally, find a friend or someone that doesn’t mind you venting every once in a while and vent.
    Best of luck.

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