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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Students relieved by professor’s dismissal

By Ryan Shelton

Several political science students applauded the dismissal of their professor Friday and said starting over from scratch — a week and a half away from the end of the semester — was a relief.

Political science professor Richard Sherman received an e-mail Thursday from department chair Matthew Burbank informing him that he was “relieved of the responsibility and authority” of teaching his three courses for the remainder of the Spring Semester.

Both Burbank and Sherman declined to comment, but in a series of e-mails The Daily Utah Chronicle obtained, Burbank said that as of Thursday, Sherman’s salary and benefits would not be affected by his dismissal.

Burbank’s e-mail to Sherman stated that he was being dismissed because of repeated absences and student complaints about his instruction style and failure to return assignments in a timely fashion.

Julie Pitcher, a senior in psychology enrolled in Sherman’s political analysis class, said students had been complaining to the political science department’s administrators for weeks about Sherman’s pattern of missing class and lack of classroom dedication.

Burbank and political science professor Peregrine Schwartz-Shea are teaching Sherman’s classes till the end of the semester.

“I’m much happier with this situation,” Pitcher said. “I think we learned more in the first class (with the substitute) than we did in the rest of the semester. The class literally applauded when we found out that he wasn’t going to be teaching anymore.”

Sherman defended himself in an e-mail sent to Burbank and to the students enrolled in his classes saying the decision was based on “inaccurate information.”

“The real problem is that the majority of my students have been doing none (!) of the assigned reading, attending class sporadically, and relying on individual help from me to make up what they have missed due to these poor (or anti-) study habits,” he wrote in the e-mail.

In an e-mail to students, Burbank wrote that Sherman would no longer be teaching classes because of his poor health.

“I have received a number of ‘get well soon’ messages, which surprised me as I am quite well, by my own standards at least,” Sherman’s e-mail said. “Evidently Matt Burbank mailed you saying that I would be unable to continue teaching the course due to health reasons. I was unaware of that.”

Burbank would not discuss the e-mail.

Melanie Hayes, a sophomore enrolled in Sherman’s political analysis class, said students were given the option of receiving a tuition refund or a credit/no-credit grade and that, because the department cannot refund the time and effort put into the class, most students will attempt to complete the class for credit.

Students said Monday that the method for determining their grades is still up in the air. Hayes said she suspects grades will be based on either the final exam or on the average of two assignments.

Annie Richards, a freshman political science major enrolled in the class, said despite an awkwardly weighted grading structure, she feels more confident in the class with Schwartz-Shea’s teaching.

“It’s nice to have someone explain it to us,” she said.

Sherman, who moved to Salt Lake City in December, has previously taught at Leiden University in the Netherlands and Syracuse University.

Burbank would not say whether Sherman would be permanently fired from the department.

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