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Olaf H. Prufer of Kent State University
Anthropologist against Immigrants

By: Ehimwenma E. Aimiuwu
Dec 2007

 

I am writing this message to encourage all immigrants, women, and all minorities to always stand and fight for their rights no matter what they have to lose.  Even if you do not gain much temporarily and at the moment, a lot of others who would have being in the same situation as you would. 

It was in summer of 1997, my last semester in college and I was determined to get a perfect 4.0 for the first time before graduating from college.  My highest ever was a 3.63 and it was my last chance.  I decided to take Prof. Prufer’s Cultural and Personality class because I took his class the fall before and it was a wonderful experience.  I got an “A” in the class and believe that I could do it again. 

Now, Prof. Prufer had a bad reputation as a man who used foul language, did not care much, and did what ever he pleased.  Some students like him for this and his carefree attitude, but a whole lot of others did not.  I did not care either way.  He was an interesting instructor to listen to and I liked his teaching style.  At the end of summer of 1997 exams, I ran to check my graduating GPA at the registrar’s office before the official result came out.  I was expecting to see a 4.0, but to my surprise, Prof. Prufer gave me a big fat “F”.  I was in shock.  How could this be?  I was always in class, answered and asked questions in class, and turned in my final work two days before the deadline.  I ran straight to the Anthropology department in search of Prof. Prufer to explain the reason for his mistake.  Unfortunately, he was unavailable.  I was so upset that I went to Prof. Garrison who was then the Chair of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University.  He calmed me down and instructed me to go see Prof. Richard Meindl, who was the chair of the Anthropology department. 

 

When I got to Prof. Meindl, I told him to whole story.  He then picked up to phone to search for Prof. Prufer.  He was able to track him down and they talked for a while.  Prof. Meindl’s face appeared to be in disagreement with the conversation but was convinced to accept the outcome.  After he hung up, he told me Prof. Prufer did not get my final paper and that I had to go see a particular Dean in the school of Arts and Science to resolve the matter.  I then asked what the Dean has got to do with my grade in Prof. Prufer’s class and that I submitted the paper two days before the deadline in his office.  Prof. Meindl then convinced me to go see this Dean (I think Dean John), who will better resolve the issue.  When I got there, it became obvious to me that the Dean has already received a phone call that I was coming.  After I sat down to tell my story to an uninterested ear, the first question from the Dean was about my country of origin.  It was when he realized that I was not only an American, but also a son of Kent (my birth place) that his behavior changed towards me.  Without saying much, he immediately sent me back to Prof. Meindl and told me everything was okay.  I was confused because he never addressed my issue.  When I then asked how my issue was going to be okay, he then explained to me that they thought I was on student visa and that is why they sent me to him. 

It all did not make sense to me because student visa has nothing to do with my grade, but I went to Prof. Meindl anyhow.  When I got there, he then told me that he had spoken to Prof. Prufer and that he found my paper.  He also told me that my paper was late and was going to give me a “C”.  Despite my protest, Prof. Meindl told me that his hands were tied on the issue.  I immediately went back to Prof. Garrison in the Department of Pan-African Studies to reports my current situation.  He advised me that since I was trying to get back in there for a Masters in Anthropology, it was better for me to graduate with a “C” than to make enemies within the department before beginning my Masters.  I took the advice and also graduated.

I was still confused about the incident until I discussed it with some international students.  They made me realize that it was a very popular practice in many colleges towards international students.  I heard that some international students on student visas have been deported or asked to leave the country the day of or the day after their last graduating exam. It was also made known to me that some international students after returning home, try to find visas to come back and dispute a grade or two that prevented them from receiving their degrees.  It then became clear that Prof. Prufer's intention was to make my educational investment a waste and to hinder my career advancement.  He was very aware that I was graduating and that it was my last semester.  By giving me an “F” grade, it would not only lower my GPA but might also prevent me from graduating.  This will greatly reduce my ability to compete effectively for a reputable work place as a new graduate.  By challenging the grade, I will then be sent to the Dean to verify my ability to stay in the country and to see if my student visa has expired.  What if my visa had expired on graduation?  Would they have changed my grade? I would most likely be sent out of the country, but because I am an American, I stayed and got my grades changed.

This practice is immoral and must be discouraged by any means necessary.  My heart goes out to all international students who may have suffered from this unjust practice in higher education.

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