By Raneem Alozzi
This story has been edited from its previous version.
Despite offering his resignation last term due to student complaints, a Ryerson criminology professor is still teaching classes this semester. The department didn’t accept his resignation.
Last term, about 50 students in Bryant Greenbaum’s violence and communities (CRM318) class wrote and signed a letter directed to the chair of criminology, citing an “unpleasant learning environment” and a “condescending and unhelpful” attitude toward students. After students presented it to the department prompting for him to be reviewed, Greenbaum offered his resignation.
But in a written response directed to the class, Greenbaum said the chair of the department indicated it was not necessary for him to terminate his one-year contract at the time. Given that the first term was nearly done, he was told that he should finish teaching the course. Students signed the petition anonymously because they were worried their marks would suffer as a result.
The Eyeopener spoke to six students to confirm these claims.
Cassandra Hines, a second-year criminology student, was one of two students who brought the petition to the chair of the department, Tammy Landau. The two sought clarification for some of the course content used, and expressed concerns with their professor.
According to student Sarah Smith*, the letter was signed by approximately 50 students in the classroom. The Eye obtained a digital copy of the petition. It outlined concerns and included allegations that Greenbaum was “rude” to students. The letter stated Greenbaum consistently “cut off students while they [were] answering or asking questions. If he does not agree with [students] he simply will not let you finish your thought.”
“I don’t understand why no one ever came into class and sat down to audit it”
The letter also stated that, “[He] leaves the students feeling powerless and hopeless as there is essentially no one to clarify the material as we are all struggling to understand.”
Landau refused to comment on the matter citing confidential human resources issues.
Greenbaum told The Eye in an email that the allegations against him are inaccurate. He sent positive reviews and comments he said he received from students’ course surveys. Names were not attached and The Eye could not independently verify the statements, some of which said the allegations against Greenbaum were false.
Greenbaum confirmed that he tried to resign a little over a week before the class’ final exam. Mike Waltz* said the class learned that his resignation was denied, and only then did they receive the proper format and outline for the exam. Waltz said the class was left with no explanation and very little time to prepare.
About two weeks after penning the letter, students pooled into the hall for their 8 a.m. exam on Dec. 7. While Greenbaum explained the exam at the front of the class, he noted that the class was already 10 minutes behind, said Waltz.
Waltz said he put his hand up to ask for clarification on when the exam would end, since they had started later than usual, “it was just a simple question,” he said.
According to Waltz, Greenbaum screamed “at the top of his lungs,” and banged his fists on the table, repeatedly saying, “Why would you ask that?”
Each of the students The Eye spoke to confirmed these events, but Greenbaum denies doing this.
“It was very uncalled for,” said Smith. “There was no need to personally berate [Waltz].”
Waltz said he didn’t know how to respond, and put his head down and tried to focus on his exam instead, but said the incident ruined his ability to write the exam. Waltz ended up failing the test.
Greenbaum did not respond to these complaints when The Eye presented them to him.
Hines said she felt like the department blamed the students for not bringing the issue up sooner, and that the students’ allegations did not lead to action.
“The reason we went to speak to Professor Landau was because we felt like we couldn’t talk to Greenbaum, like it wasn’t doable. It wouldn’t have gotten us anywhere. Quite frankly, even if I had went to talk to him, I would’ve preferred if another professor was there to witness it,” Waltz said.
According to Waltz, Landau told him she hadn’t received other complaints from students after the exam. Smith and Waltz both said many students contacted Landau with complaints, but still no steps were taken in response.
The Eye obtained emails and screenshots which show students did email Landau after the incident.
“We felt like we couldn’t talk to Greenbaum, like it wasn’t doable”
Neither Landau or Greenbaum responded to these complaints when The Eye presented them.
After their midterm, Smith said, she and a group of others wanted to speak to Greenbaum in a group so they could better prepare for their final, but their request was denied by Greenbaum who would only see them individually.
When the students spoke to Landau later, Hines said she asked them if they had spoken to Greenbaum about their concerns. Hines said they felt unsafe doing so because of how Greenbaum spoke to them in class and how he reacted to their questions.
“I would’ve preferred if another professor was there to kind of just witness it and I don’t understand why that never happened. Why no one ever came into class and sat down to audit [it].”
According to the Ryerson Faculty Association Collective, limited-term faculty (LTF) members are assessed once per teaching semester. The departmental evaluation committee is not to conduct any other assessments of LTFs and does not submit a year-end assessment of their performance.
Ryerson’s website outlined that when complaining about a course or instructor, students should try to resolve the issue with the instructor and then follow-up with the chair of the program or the dean if necessary.
Following the incident during the final exam, Smith said she felt like the letter had no impact. “[It] boiled over when he yelled at that one student and that was just completely unnecessary. I was scared,” she said.
“It was very immature that when students raised legitimate concerns about his teaching abilities, he just [tried to] quit. You shouldn’t be focused on your ego, but rather on how you can help students and improve on yourself,” Waltz said.
Greenbaum took medical leave before the end of the term and students were told to contact Landau for inquiries. Greenbaum is currently teaching classes this semester.
Smith said she thought the class would change but it didn’t.
“I honestly also expected them to maybe come and ask some of us what really happened in class. But they didn’t do that … No one told us if it was dealt with, how it was dealt with and again there was no apology for that happening or even an acknowledgement that that shouldn’t have happened,” she said.
*Names of Mike Waltz and Sarah Smith were changed to protect their identities.