By Ben Verde
Cerissa DiValentino was returning to Purchase for her sophomore year after taking medical leave, and was looking to fill out her schedule. It was Aug. 28, the second day of classes, when DiValentino found a class that fit her schedule perfectly and satisfied the language and culture core requirement, Chinese Culture and Social Life.
DiValentino, a creative writing major, had missed the first class, so she figured she would email the Professor, Kevin Lawrence, asking for the syllabus and letting him know she had joined the class a bit late.
The response she received shocked her.
“It is absolutely incredulous to me as an instructor that Purchase College allows students to sign–up for a course after it has actually begun,” Lawrence wrote in a chain of emails DiValentino posted on Facebook. “You have already missed 14/15 of this class–the most important session of the course– it is on your shoulders to prove you can carry this into a passing grade."
DiValentino was confused, especially about the “passing grade” remark so she wrote back.
“I’m sorry but I don’t understand, will I be penalized for joining this class during the add/drop period?” she said.
“Yes, of course you will be penalized for joining this course after the first class session was given,” Lawrence wrote back. “Frankly, I find it astonishing that anyone would expect otherwise! The world/I doesn’t/don’t revolve around your personal schedule and you should start expecting as a working adult to adhere to group dynamics rather than expecting everyone to revolve around your personal schedule.”
DiValentino immediately dropped the class, but she felt she couldn’t leave it at that. She spoke to several administrators, who told her that she had every right to add and drop classes during the first week.
“Students are allowed to add and drop during add drop week without any penalties whatsoever,” Ross Daly, Interim Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences told the Phoenix.
Lawrence eventually apologized to DiValentino after she spoke to higher ups, and said that her absence would not be counted. “I also want to apologize for the brusque tone I took with you,” he said in an email.
Lawrence said that due to his position as an adjunct, he wasn’t aware of Purchase’s add/drop policy. He told the Phoenix that after being informed of the policy, he told students who registered for his classes late that they would not be penalized.
Lawrence said he follows a formula for absence grading, in which a students total number of absences is divided into the number of class sessions, but in the emails with DiValentino, he told her her grade would be below passing, and that she would have to work to improve it throughout the semester.
DiValentino said she doesn’t understand how he could be unaware of the add/drop policy if he’s taught here in the past.
“He has either entirely ignored Purchase’s policy for the time he’s been here, or knows about it but deemed it something he disagrees with, so continued to disregard it,” she said.
After DiValentino posted her exchange with Lawrence on the Open Forum, several students registered for other classes with him commented that they would be dropping his class, which DiValentino said is encouraging, but she hopes the school will take the next step and remove him as a professor.
“People can drop his class but he’s still here, I’m just honestly hoping for his removal.” DiValentino said. “He clearly doesn’t have the thought in mind to better his students, as professors should. All I was looking for was the syllabus.”