NewsSeptember 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

The Worst Thing To Happen To A Class Ever

How annoying is it when you drag yourself out of bed to class and the professor isn’t there? You’re all like, what the hell is this guy doing, worst class ever,  etc… and then you find out, via an email sent while you’re waiting in class, that the professor isn’t there because he died. And the department forgot to tell you.

That’s what happened in PSCI-291 last week. After the jump, read the awkward email explaining the “oversight” of not telling a class that the professor had passed away over the summer.

——Original Message——
From: Jennifer Bottomley
Subject: PSCI 291-301 Canceled
Sent: Sep 13, 2011 2:23 PM

PSCI 291-301 is canceled.
We are so sorry for this last minute cancellation.
With Dr. Henry Teune’s passing, this course should have been cancelled
over the summer and
was an oversight.

If you have the chance, be sure to check out the DP‘s coverage of the passing of Dr. Henry Teune, a well-loved member of the political science community.

36 People have left comments on this post

By Pete B on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

This professor passed away in April …..this is September …Penn staff could find someone to take by this time ???? .. ….INCREDIBLE !!!

By okay... on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

why is it that the students didn’t figure this out, either?

By Joan Drucker Winstein UPenn '70 on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Not only did they fail to tell the students….Professor Teune is STILL LISTED as an active faculty member on the Poli. Sci. website !

Reminds of 1969, when CAS changed its graduation requirements over the summer, and did NOT tell any students. I came back to campus for one last term, enrolled and paid, signed a lease and THEN was told that I had already fulfilled all the requirements for graduations. Thanks, SO much…..

By Bruce Schaedel on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

The head of the department should have gone to tell the class in person, and follow up with an email in the event a student missed the class.

By REB on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm


By agree on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

the school should of addressed this however oversights are made everyday, im sure you make them too…have a lil respect for family that is greaving process and dont get these comments started

By jonabelle on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

So what happened now to the tuition that the students paid the school? Or should I say that the students have applied for aloan for?

By Judi on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

And this is college???????

By tess Gump on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Shame on you, Penn campus ‘communications’. It makes Mark Twain’s quote pale by comparison. You remember . He said “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated,

In Dr. Teune’s case, he might have said “The reports of my death have been greatly ‘oversighted.’ ‘
Did he even get a retirement party?
I think you ought to have a Dr. Teune Day or something to sing his ‘tunes’.
Just a thought.

By walt on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

AND how many tax dollars go to Penn each year? AND it was the adminstration that made the flub…..

By Cmdr Colstel on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

There are two types of education. One involves book-learning and the other is social interaction with members of society. Obviously, you don’t have to be educated in both to belong to an institution of “higher learning”.

By Josh Goldman on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Sounds like Jennifer Bottomley may be out of a job…

By Mandy on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

What are the students supposed to do for credit now that the school took away one of their classes??? I mean really, no one caught that the professor still had classes on the schedule??

By Spencer Farmans on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

It might e a nice idea if a few of the students write and post why
the loss of this professor was so heartfelt and difficult. Teachers
are so frequently overlooked in this area.

-Spencer Farmans

By Gwen on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

At least there was an email sent Before emails, I had a French class, taught by a professor who was a health nut and who was rather unkind to those he suspected of not being healthy. He often spoke of the distance he covered in his morning jogs. One morning as I approached the classroom, many students were standing at the door reading a note tacked there. It said: “Due to the death of Dr. XXXXX this morning while jogging, this class has been cancelled.”

I cannot tell you the reactions of those who read the note…you wouldn’t believe it!!


By Original Tipster on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm By bbbb on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

To OKAY who posted “why is it that the students didn’t figure this out, either? Oh I’m sure that “professor is dead” is somehwere in between their list of possible excuses as “he’s running late” and “maybe he had car trouble”.

By Namers on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

@WALT Penn is a private school. Penn State is a public school. Of course, you’re an idiot regardless.

By Dr Simon on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I can tell you, from experience of working in a UK university, that the administrators never take responsibility for foul ups and are never reprimanded for ‘oversights’ like not communicating key things like this. We lost 10 MSc students (and thus something like £40,000 in fees for the year) because an administrator forgot to send out the offer letters. Yet our jobs are on the line for under-recruiting, not hers for being incompetent. So Penn State administrators should take a long hard look at themselves and start taking reponsibility

By okay... on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

i meant if you’re signed up for a class in the spring and you see an article in the DP in april saying a professor died…couldn’t you just put two and two together?

By grow up on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

A man passed away and your biggest concern is that you were minimally inconvenienced due to an oversight in automatic scheduling of annual course rosters??
Seriously, Penn students take fewer weeks of classes and have more weeks of “shopping” in which they join and drop classes and miss weeks of material anyway. How difficult could it possibly be to just register for a different course to fulfill your PPE requirement? I’m pretty sure the fact that you were annoyed by showing up to a class and then finding out it was cancelled doesn’t even rank on the list of worst things to happen to a class. Get over yourself.

By cathy on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

so then they all bought over priced books at the bookstore which
now when returned will be considered used? the school where my daughter
went did stuff like this all the time I am not suprised at all!

By cathy on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

answer for the posting by OKAY

Lots of students do not read the local papers

By Rico on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Reb, maybe you should enroll in some classes yourself…

By Donna on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

While I’ve never heard of this happening before, I work at a large university (not Penn) and can tell you how these things CAN happen… It’s the old “Somebody Else’s Problem” field. First of all, the initial news that a professor has died usually doesn’t even hit the University at large for at least a week, sometimes more, especially if they’re an emeritus or aren’t physically back on campus yet. For some reason, proper obituary press releases have to be written first.

Secondly, the people who are handling the news of the death are not the same people who handle course matters.

Thirdly, the people responsible for updating one or more different websites (usually one or more different people) are not alerted to all the places where references to the professor appears. More delay.

Fourthly, in summertime, nothing gets done on a campus. Everyone’s on vacation or working on projects that are supposed to launch in fall.

Although honestly this does seem like an extreme case, I can say that as someone tasked with maintaining mailing lists, I always make sure (on my own initiative) to immediately remove a dead professor or student from said lists as soon as I hear confirmation of their passing. Thing is, I have never received any directives from the top to do so. Just my own common sense. Sounds like this was a massive chain failure of common sense.

By gymmy on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I don,t attend any college , ect , but if what you are being tought , is like a dead teacher in limbo , my be what you are tought ,is in limbo , too ,,,, thank god for those who don,t go to college , ect ,

By C.R.E.A.M on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm


By diana on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

@walt – UPenn is private, not public so you should worry about the tuition-payers, not the tax-payers

By Jeff on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Worst thing to ever happen to a class? I’m guessing those kids who got shot up over at VT a couple of years ago would argue against your point, if they weren’t all dead.

By Whynie Bratt on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

What a bunch of whining ninnies! They are supposedly in the second or third year of college, and none of these rotten cabbage-heads were clued-in enough to have cared enough to remember that a professor who had been head of the department, died during the previous Spring semester.

Bring back the Draft. Sending these jerks to boot camp is about the only hope.

By Alexis. on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Some of these comments are rediculous. She wasn’t being insensitive. She was stating thoughts before the email. The person that brought up the Virginia Tech shooting obviously is just a dick. Its a blog. She can say whatever she wants. VT was a abnormally herendous event that doesn’t happen everyday. Teachers being late does. Then finding out your school is oversighting important information would anger anyone. Also, I’ve never known every teacher in my school so for them not to know of passing is completely understandable. & He was the head of the department in the 70′s.. Which means that the current students wouldn’t know that. Smh. The school should have known. He was there for over 40 years. Get a life people & get a grip on reality.

By Whynie Bratt on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm


“Rediculous! herendous!” indeed . Apparently they teach spelling as well as they teach communications at this “university”. (sic)

He was a teacher who was obviously teaching regularly. A student who is in the third year of college in a chosen discipline and has no clue about the school or its faculty is, indeed, “herendously rediculous”.

Gotta go post these under “American College Student Attitudes, Pre- US Collapse of 2011″

By Lisa on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

First of all I have worked at a STATE Univ for years. It’s horrible what happened at Penn (more for the family and friends). However, EVERYONE on a college/univ. level (in terms of staff) calls everything an “oversight.” I don’t care if “these things happen.” As an alum, it IS a pain in the ass when a prof. goes missing for whatever reason. In my last univ., we had students who had children and/or jobs (usually several jobs). We NEED to know if something has happened to a class or a prof. Now, as an employee, I can honestly say university staff are LAZY. There are a few of us that make the higher administration look good. MOST do not care about the students whatsoever. Unfortunately, for those few people who do care, they receive the most work (you can tell by the anxiety issues waging war on their aesthetics). So for those of you whining about the students, univ./college employees are to blame for their plight. And btw, I have worked in NY, Miami, and NJ so don’t attempt to fight about this post.

By Er. on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Honestly, I believe the Penn administration is fantastic. I’ve transferred from another private university and I can compare sub-par staff to Penn’s staff. They’re superbly helpful and efficient people, and definitely not lazy. But mistakes do happen. Those we were offended should forgive, and I’m pretty sure the inconvenienced students were not whining because they had plenty of time to add/drop courses (their first class couldn’t have been later than on the 12th – everyone was shopping around that time, anyway).

By Rickyrab on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I have an idea for arranging a class taught by a dead professor, if the prof is important enough: professors or TAs could try using the deceased professor’s works and ideas. (Due to copyright issues, however, I suppose the details might need to be worked out with the professor’s estate.) Other potential issues might crop up, however, such as obsolescence of information. For example, Benjamin Franklin’s physics theories are no longer quite cutting-edge. However, some of them might still be useful for teaching classes.

By Teune on September 19, 2011 at 1:33 pm

These comments are for the most part devastating to read. Thank you to the very few who acknowledge that this man – a respected Professor at this Ivy League Intstitution for a remarkable 50 years – since he was 25 years old – and devoted his life to teaching students like you – has passed away. The University has lost one of its most influential, valued and honored Professors, and at the end of the Spring semester. They also had to deal with this loss of a loved one – especially in his Department. He was a part of their lives every day. Also mine. He was – IS – my Father. His life will be honored at the University on October 5th. I’m sure the University will handle all regarding the “inconvenience” anyone experienced appropriately.

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