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

Campus News

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.