A sacrificial lamb

It was my first year as a lecturer at this university and I was incredibly excited to have a job there.  The head of department decided that I should teach on a course run by a very senior professor, despite that professor openly stating that he did not want me teaching with him.  Within the first week of term I was shocked to find the teaching materials replete with sexism, racism and homophobia – both in terms of the content and the language used to frame questions.  One student exercise compared the application of case law to fact with foreplay and orgasm; the ‘bad guys’ were almost always racialised in a particular way and teaching materials would include random references to ‘prostitutes’ and ‘homosexuals’ (which had nothing at all to do with the content of the course).

As the professor had already made it clear that he had no interest in anything I had to say, I approached my head of department with my concerns, which he laughed off.  He described me as ‘a sacrificial lamb’ who would improve the course as he knew there were ‘problems’ on it.

As the course continued it was increasingly difficult for me to teach the material and therefore to retain a relationship of trust with the students in my classes.  Being a new, young, queer woman who had different understandings of the course material than the very senior white male professor running the course, it had not been an easy job from the start.  Although I only taught on this course for a couple of hours a week, I spent almost the entire week trying to prepare for these classes so that I could teach the professor’s materials while also trying to undo the sexism, racism and homophobia throughout them.

One week, I started my class and quickly discovered that the professor had diverted from his own materials and lectured something completely different from what was scheduled without informing me.  I was thrown and knew very little about whatever it was he had taught on.  I’ve never ‘lost’ a class before but I felt it that day, it was the worst day of my university life.

It got worse when I went back to my head of department with a strongly worded/desperate email saying what had happened.  I was taken off the course immediately, the reason being my inadequacies as a teacher.  The head of department wrote me an email saying my anger at the situation was inexperience and self-preservation.  My union rep told me that on the scale of bullying at this university this was fairly low, and probably not worth pursuing.

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