‘I’m not qualified’: Professor ‘relieved of obligation’ to teach course after critical remarks

UPDATE Sept. 14, 10:28 a.m.: The University of Victoria has contacted the Martlet to clarify that Jianping Pan was not suspended from the university as originally reported, but rather “relieved of his obligation to teach the course.” We’ve updated the headline to reflect this; the original story as it was published on Sept. 12 is included below.

ORIGINAL STORY Sept. 12 — A Computer Science professor has been suspended by the university and faces a disciplinary meeting on Monday, Sept. 12, following a confrontation between himself, the university administration, campus security, the police, and his students.

The issue began on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the first day of classes, when Jianping Pan told his students in CSC 349A that he had little to no experience with the material, was unqualified to be teaching their course, and would effectively be learning along with them.

According to students in the class, Pan claimed that although another professor in the department was more qualified, the administration had instead selected Pan to teach the course. Pan allegedly suggested that the students email Ulrike Stege, the chair of the Computer Science department at UVic, and express any concerns they may have.

However, Pan told the Martlet that he did not explicitly tell students to email Stege, but wrote Stege’s email on the whiteboard when students asked for it.

Stege replied in an email to students on Thursday, informing them that a new professor had been selected to teach the remainder of the term. Stege also said that “every faculty member in [the Computer Science department] has the expertise and knowledge to teach most of the foundation courses,” and that the department does not “assign courses to faculty who are not qualified to teach them.”

Pan showed up again to teach the course again on Friday, however. According to several students, Hausi Müller, associate dean research in the Faculty of Engineering, announced at the beginning of the lecture that it was cancelled, and a new professor — Richard Little — would be taking over the class on Tuesday. But Pan refused to leave the lecture hall, and instead told his students that while they were not obligated to stay, he would present the lecture that he had prepared.

Two more members of UVic staff arrived afterwards and attempted to halt the lecture, asking Pan to step outside with them. Video of the incident by Reddit user HypnoFish is included below:

Campus security and the Oak Bay police were then brought in to refuse other students entry and to ask Pan and the students to leave the lecture hall. “Several campus security members were definitely trying to intimidate students into leaving the room,” said one student who asked to remain anonymous. The lecture was ultimately allowed to finish, but not before most of the class had been pressured to leave. Pan was then escorted off campus.

In an email to the Martlet on Friday, Pan said, “All I did [was] make sure students can get the best education whenever possible, but [the university] suspended me and escorted me off the campus without any formal notice.”

In a statement to the Martlet, the university acknowledged the “awkward situation” in which students had “unfortunately” been placed, but denied that Pan was unqualified to teach the course.

Another CSC 349A student speaking anonymously told the Martlet that, “It seems to me that [Pan] went over [UVic’s] heads, and made them look bad by basically saying, ‘Hey, the admin put me in this position and I don’t even know the material. Are they really serving your interests?'”

The Martlet reached out to Stege for comment following Friday’s lecture, but received no response. Both Pan and the university declined further comment until a disciplinary meeting took place Monday morning.

UPDATE 1:02 p.m.: The university told the Martlet that it “can’t speak to specifics” regarding last week’s incident and that the matter is “between the university and the faculty member.” The university reiterated that it is “dedicated to provide the best experience possible” with students’ education and that issues with faculty are “being dealt with in the appropriate forum.”

Sept. 13, 12:39 p.m.: In an email to the Martlet, Pan said he did not explicitly tell students to email Ulrike Stege, but only wrote her email on the whiteboard when students asked for her contact information. This is in contrast to students’ reports from the class, but we have updated the story to reflect Pan’s account.

This story is still developing.

27 Comments

Avatar Eric

As the story unfolds, I see pan more at fault. According to
times colonist, he was assigned to each this course last fall. He had a
whole year to get out of it or at least prepare for it. Every prof
should be able to teach a course like numerical analysis specially when
they are given a year notice! It is totally understandable that the
department may assign courses to profs outside of their expertise.
If Pan cannot teach a course outside of his comfort zone, maybe he should look

for a job that does not involve teaching.

Again, the department says they notified Pan on the 8th that he
was relieved from teaching that course, but he still showed up to the
class on the 9th. I can’t believe he only went to the class to teach and
help students. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be there but still chose
to go.

He told the martlet that he was suspended, but in fact he
was relieved from teaching that course only and he is still teaching
another course.

We have to hear the other side of the story from the
department and university before we judge. However, I cannot value the
feedback of people who introduce themselves as his current students and
are defensing him. There is clearly a conflict of interest.

Avatar 3Swords

Are you kidding? No matter what Pan did, the reaction from Muller and Stege was outrageous. That’s exactly what needs to be “judged”. Given such an adversarial work environment, I expect Pan may have thought he had no other choice than to take it to the students as his leadership wasn’t listening

Avatar Andrew Gorrie

I don’t know Jianping but I know Dr. Muller. He would only act with integrity and diligence.

All I see is a lot of grandstanding in the Reddit video. Call it me being out of academia for a while but if you get emailed you are no longer needed, then show up, and then get asked to leave: you leave.

I don’t know what’s really going on here but the Administration had cause if he was informed.

Avatar Eric

He was informed he was no longer needed, but he still went to the class. In the class, he was asked to leave but he didn’t. And he is trying to make it look like he did that only for the students. Does not make any sense. Probably there is a reason the administration did what they did.

Avatar leon

You are right there is conflict of interest, and that’s why I spoke it out (as former student) and didn’t hide it. (I believe there is, and much more, conflict of interest between Muller and Stege.)

I also fully agree with you that we are not aware of the details behind and should not judge. So let’s only focus on what happened in the class: the reactions of the admins could be improved.

Also, if insisting to infer what happened behind, quoting Eric’s words, “Probably there is a reason Pan did what he did”.

Out of curious, is 349A a undergraduate or graduate course?

Avatar Eric

I think you are still a little bit biased :). I agree what happened in the classroom by the admins could be improved. Absolutely. But let’s also focus on the fact that Pan was asked to leave the class and he didn’t and that he received a notification the previous day to not show up to the class but he still did.

349A is numerical analysis: An introduction to selected topics in Numerical Analysis. Typical areas
covered: error analysis, roots of equations, systems of linear
equations, linear programming, interpolation, numerical integration, and
ordinary differential equations.

Honestly, it looks like a very general course that any professor should be able to teach very well. I think the issue wasn’t that Pan was not qualified, but the issue was that he DID NOT WANT TO teach the course.

Avatar leon

Let’s hold on to the principle of do not judging too much and only focus on what happened in class.

“what happened in the classroom by the admins could be improved”. Looks like we are agreed on this 🙂

“Pan was asked to leave the class and he didn’t”: true according to martlet. However, note that Pan also informed the students that “they were not obligated to stay”, but “most of the class had been pressured to leave” by the admin.

“he received a notification the previous day to not show up to the class but he still did”: This is something behind the class that we are not aware of the details. Let’s try not to judge. Similar thing on whether “Pan was not qualified, but the issue was that he DID NOT WANT TO teach the course”.

The last thing I’m not quite sure: what are the duties for the associate dean on research? Literally, this seems to be a unfortunate case in teaching. (I got no knowledge on these duties, just want to be clarified)

Avatar 3Swords

An important point that the Martlet didn’t mention is that Hausi Mueller, Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Engineering, is married to Ulrike Stege, Chair of Computer Science. I certainly don’t condone Professor Pan’s comments that he’s not “qualified” as all professors need to raise their games at times and get out of their comfort zone. However, for the department chair to sick her husband on the professor for stepping out of line is absolutely deplorable, underhanded, passive aggressive bullying. Such behavior towards professors is rampant within UVic’s administration at the highest levels. Furthermore, to bring in campus security shows emotional intelligence and sociopathic behaviour reminiscent of Donald Trump. Professor Pan deserves a public apology from Ulrike Stege for such boorish behavior.

Avatar 3Swords

Thanks – it’s incredible that these two are allowed to have such asymmetric influence on the Faculty of Engineering. Dean Tiedje needs to step up and start disciplining his staff.

Avatar Feisty Feline

If they’d only kick out the tenured socialists and communists teaching their agenda. Free speech has been dead on campus for years.

Avatar Alejandro

I support Jianping, and this looks like a minor disagreement between faculty and admin (happens all the time in every department) that has been blown out of proportion. That said, on the face of it, I think every CSc prof is qualified to teach Numerical Analysis, even if they have not seen the material prior to preparing their class.

Avatar Dave

qualified to teach does not mean can teach well.
the university should always put the right person to teach the right course, otherwise why student pay A LOT of money to university, instead of just youtube it.

my experience with uvic is that the admin is ridiculous and not pro-active to a irresponsible prof. I was a TA for an ELEC lab, which changed materials that term. and I always get the materials one day before the lab from prof. how come I can prepare the lab in one night especially the materials are brand new? comparing with this kind of prof, I think pan is much better…

Avatar henry

Ok so let’s say Jan was manipulating us (I was there). Why call security and the police!? The admin looked ridiculous. They could have made this a non issue, and instead made us all feel confused, frustrated, bullied, misinformed, etc. And by the way, for sure a girl asked for ‘some way to petition the department’ before he wrote down an email address.

Avatar Eric

I think Pan handled the situation very unprofessionally. If he thought he was not the right person to teach this course he should have talked to the department chair before the semester started. It was very unprofessional that he told the students he knew nothing about the course and asked the students to go talk to the chair. Students should not be involved in a fight between a prof and department.
Also, for a full prof with many years of experience, he should be able to teach any undergrad course. Even if he had never taught this course before, he probably had enough time to prepare before the semester started.
And Pan’s comment doesn’t make any sense “All I did [was] make sure students can get the best education whenever possible”. If he knew nothing about this course, how did he want to give the students best education possible!!!
To me, it looks like Pan is very manipulative and is putting the students in the middle of a fight.

Avatar henry

I don’t disagree that he may have manipulated the students, but he told us in our first class that he had asked the department and that they had refused to make the change. I don’t see why he would lie about that – and check it out, now they’ve made the change exactly as he wanted. So again, maybe it was manipulation, but if so his approach was tame and worked, while the response looked engineered by a scared child.

Avatar James

This is so silly. I think the problem is that a lot of faculty at UVic are highly qualified but under skilled. To compensate for this, they busy themselves with petty squabbling and displays of power such as this so they can appear busy. There is no way a faculty member should involve the police to try and kick students out of a classroom just to spite a prof she is mad at. It’s not just the CSC and SENG departments that have a lot of problems (though they have many as most of the staff tend to be students that only went to UVic themselves) but the whole school is run by some bizarre way of doing politics. For example they literally create new jobs just to give to students who graduate so the school can brag about the high number of students who get jobs immediately after they graduate. And then the admin try to escape responsibility by coming up with excuses like “the policy says due to privacy we can’t comment but let it suffice to say we have the student’s learning in mind”.

Avatar uvicStudent2016

This makes the administration look bad, but believe me, the university will be better without Jianping Pan. He is a monster in sheep’s clothing.

Avatar WIND AND STORM

Out of curiosity, why do you say that?
It’s unclear whether you’re making a comment out of personal grudge, or legitimate statement backed by experience.

Avatar uvicStudent2016

The University should not have involved the class in this bit of theatre, and instead wait until after the lecture. However, this is the not the first time this professor has been under review. I know this from hearing of the experiences of several students, though I should not go into the details. His position at the University could be filled by someone more positive and good, rather than someone as destructive and hateful as Jianping Pan.

Avatar George

Your unsubstantiated accusation that he’s “destructive and hateful” is difficult to accept. I agree with you that, the administration shouldn’t have attempted to interfere with an innocuous lecture after it had already begun. If they didn’t want the lectures to go forward, they should have cancelled it and dealt with the prof in advance, or just waited until it ended. The CSC administration is at fault here: Pan identified it by revealing to his class that he wasn’t the right person to teach the course in the first place, and then the administration reaffirmed it by interrupting the lecture which they had initially condoned. How can they deny that he isn’t qualified to teach this, the prof himself is saying it.

Avatar Dawood

I have spent 2 years of my life under the supervision of Jianping Pan as his post-graduate student and it is my pleasure to say that he is one of the most supportive, caring and diligent persons that I have ever seen in my professional and academic career. I know that some people including his former students and faculty members might not like his working style, but he is always ready to hear students’ concerns/comments. In contrast with some of the supervisors that are hard to catch, all the time he is accessible for his undergrad/post-graduate students. I am not saying that I am always agree with whatever he says, but the nice point is that I can easily discuss with him regarding different subjects and still we respect each other and have a constructive and professional relationship. Please note that nobody is perfect for everybody and even if you attend the lectures of the best teachers in the world, still there are some students that complain about something and in most cases it is due to the miscommunication and misunderstanding between the students and the instructors/supervisors. I don’t know what have you seen or experienced with Jianping Pan (or you may just heard something from someone and misjudging him!), but as a person who worked with him (and many other people), I strongly believe that he is an honest and well respected professor that is doing his best for his students and the university.

Avatar hermit

Those are some pretty tall accusations to make without any basis other than “I heard” from some people. Tsk tsk. How about some material to back up your libel?

Avatar Juans2No

You are only going by what you “heard” you don’t actually know. It’s too bad that you rely on hearsay to make your mind up for you. Regardless of the details, you appear to know nothing firsthand and are just making unsubstantiated assumptions, which is destructive.

Avatar leon

Why such personal attack based on just what you ‘heard’. I cannot agree as a former student of Pan. Do you know why those reviews and who initiated them? To me, this is like a fight between discipline and the power. Btw, it seems the associate dean Hausi Müller is the chair Stege’s husband.

Avatar Fei Tong

I suggest you learning Dr. Jianping Pan by yourself through interacting with him instead of just hearing. If you really want to hear and want to hear more impersonal and fair judgement, I believe my words deserve your attention. I have worked with Dr. Pan for more than 4 years under his supervision as his PhD student. Recently I am writing the acknowledgement part of my thesis. After looking back the past 4 years of my UVic life, I found I have always been greatly supported and helped by him, whenever I encountered any difficulty either in my research or in my daily life. He is always ready to listen to our feedback and comments. He respects us and encourages us to have our own ideas and to be more independent. The key point is that he is very willing to spend time being together with his students, and know exactly how to help and improve them with his rich research experience and skills. Of course nobody can be a perfect man without any shortcomings. But if you once worked with him, you would find that it is very easy for us to express our own thoughts to him and he is always willing to learn from them. I encourage you to at least talk with him if you really want to remain good teachers and ask bad ones to leave. Miscommunication and misunderstanding lead to your unfair judgement. So finally, I wrote in my thesis: “To my dear supervisor, Dr. Jianping Pan, go my sincerest thanks and deepest appreciation. Thank him for always providing me with his great help, support, patience, and encouragement on both my research and life during the past four years.”

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