Student Complaints Regarding Upper Division Math Class

During Fall Quarter 2020, students enrolled in MATH 11 and 183 have complained about how Professor Parinaz Ezzati has been unresponsive to their concerns and taught material unrelated to the course. They have cited her and her teaching team’s failure to respond to emails, unclear and contradictory answers regarding course material and project requirements, loud music being played in the background of lectures, and unresponsiveness to student’s questions. The severity of the situation has led the department of mathematics to alter their requirements and allow for a no-fault final. 

Additionally, for a project for the Math 183 course, multiple changes were made to project requirements the day it was to be submitted, such as requiring the project to be turned in on Gradescope rather than Canvas as previously instructed. 

Students voiced their frustrations about the project on Piazza. “It seems like instructions were very vague and the rubric was graded very differently than expected,” an anonymous student wrote. “I spoke with a TA about my project and the TA helped me change things and add things and then I went back and the TA said it was fine. However, I then got 0s in places where the TA advised me on what to add….Given the vagueness of the project and the amount that we learned I feel like the grades were very harsh and unreasonable and I am hoping that project 1 can be taken away or changed in a way that is more fair to everyone.” 

Moreover, students felt like they were censored when they tried to voice their opinions to Professor Ezzati. The course uses Piazza, a platform for students and teaching staff to communicate, however, students began to notice that their posts on Piazza were being deleted. Comments on Piazza about unfair grading on a project and petitions for a Pass/No Pass option for the class were deleted by the teaching staff. 

The large volume of complaints against Professor Ezzati has led to the creation of a separate  Reddit megathread dedicated to Ezzati’s MATH 11 and MATH 183 courses. Complaints against Ezzati started from Week 1. Students from both classes have compiled lists of misconduct and complaints in these posts.

Students have also expressed concern about being unprepared for future classes. Some students have looked at previous MATH 183 podcasts taught by Professor David Quarfoot and have noted that the material is unrelated to what the source has been in previous years, “the depth and breadth of content covered is nothing like the class I am currently in.” They worry that the instruction provided in the course was unrelated to the course descriptions and did not prepare them to continue the next class in sequence, MATH 189.

Ezzati is also teaching a course called MATH 1005 at the University of Sydney. Students noted that they have been learning material that is outside the scope of MATH 183 and that Ezzati mentions MATH 1005 instead of MATH 183 in lecture materials on numerous occasions. This has made some suspicious that Ezzati is using shared materials to teach both classes. 

Students who communicated concerns with the Department of Mathematics early in the quarter received unclear responses.

“Our undergraduate Vice-Chair and committee on Teaching Visitors have read through your complaint and they have reviewed the course and its instruction – and understand at least some of your concerns,” a Department of Mathematics representative said in an email. “Additionally, we are meeting with faculty that have previously taught the course (who are reviewing the instructional material for themselves) and have discussed the problems experienced by TAs.  If deemed necessary by our Vice-Chair, the Mathematics Faculty Council will meet to make a decision on how to proceed in a way that maintains the standards we expect, and students demand.”

However, in a Dec. 7 response to a student, the mathematics department revealed that they asked Ezzati to refrain from deleting responses, will review final grading for the course, and will discuss ways to provide additional guidance to students to enable them to succeed in their future courses. The department also shared with students that they will automatically approve P/NP petitions for MATH 183 this quarter to satisfy requirements for students in any major. 

A MATH 183 student shared his final thoughts about the experience and the outcome of the class with Professor Ezzati. 

“With regards to thoughts, 183 overall is quite pleased with the no-fault final, though some are displeased that Ezzati is continuing to teach,” he said. “Personally, I do not think this quality of instruction is befitting one of the best universities in the world, but it is my understanding from information from a student who spoke with her provost about the issue that Prof. Ezzati is part of a union and is contracted. This complicates the department’s ability to do much.”

After many student complaints, Professor Ezzati will now have the option of a no-fault final, in which finals scores would either have no effect or improve students’ grades. As of this publication, Professor Ezzati will be part of the teaching staff for MATH 10B and MATH 11 for Winter 2021. 

The UCSD Guardian reached out to Professor Ezzati for a quote but did not receive a response. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Lazo for The UCSD Guardian.

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