Professor threatens teaching strike

In a two-day scramble, the University has found classroom space for a biology professor threatening to go on strike due to “inadequate” teaching facilities he was assigned to.

Biology professor David Morris sent an e-mail to his students Monday evening threatening to go on strike unless he was given a new lecture room for his introductory microbiology course by Friday. Two weeks into the semester, he described his classroom as “totally inadequate for a course of this nature – as the classroom lacked adequate electrical outlets and basic laboratory equipment access.”

Columbian College Executive Associate Dean Roy Guenther said the University was in contact with Morris to rectify the problem, following the e-mail.

“The issues, which are typical of new construction, have been resolved,” Guenther said. “There will be no affect [sic] on Professor Morris’ classes, which will continue to meet as scheduled.”

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said electrical outlets in the room were repaired and Morris has now received a cart for his projector and a table to lecture from.

Morris could not be reached for comment.

Morris said he was originally assigned two different classrooms to teach two simultaneous microbiology sections. To rectify the problem, he said in the e-mail he was reassigned to the room in Smith Hall, but resorted to squatting in other classrooms as they became available.

“I feel that both myself and my students have been treated with an indifference that is not only staggeringly disrespectful but abhorrent for any institution of learning,” he wrote. “Thus, I feel that I can no longer teach this class or, indeed, any of my others… This is not a decision that I come by lightly, but the indifference of the administrative powers gives me no alternative.”

Morris teaches three classes, which he listed off in the e-mail: two sections of microbiology totaling 34 students, two sections of biotechnology totaling 30 students and cell biology with 70 students. He said the number of his students comprise more than half of GW’s biology majors.

“I am contracted to do the University’s business – for heaven’s sake give me the facilities to do so!” he wrote.

Morris, a tenured professor, has taught at GW for the last 23 years and received the Trachtenberg Prize for Teaching in 2008.

Asifa Habib, a junior, said she chose to take cell biology with Morris because of his reputation around campus, calling him “a great professor.”

“I feel like he’s just doing this for his students. He’s just trying to get an adequate room for a class we pay so much for,” Habib said.

Habib said Morris had contacted the University many times about the room, and that “he went to the extremes because nothing else worked.”

Shreya Patil, a junior, said she was initially concerned when Morris said he would cancel the class, but said she supported his decision after learning his rationale.

“I think it is ridiculous that this situation even happened in the first place and even more so that it hasn’t been fixed yet,” she said in an e-mail. “It is understandable that mistakes in scheduling and assigning rooms can occur. However, if these mistakes occur then they should be fixed as soon as possible.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.