Feb 1st, 2018. Ashley Arnold is an online sociology student at Southern New Hampshire University. She is a 27-year-old mom living in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
For her final class, Ashley was required to complete a project comparing a social norm in the US and another country; she chose Australia.
Like other students, Arnold paid more than $1000 for this final class, investing in her professional growth. But something shocked her terribly when she received her project back. It was marked failed. Why? The professor said, “Australia is a continent, not a country.”
Ashley Arnold said to a source, “At first I thought it was a joke. This can’t be real. Then as I continued to read I realized she was for real.”
In her defense, the professor disqualified Arnold in multiple sections of the assignment because she believed that Australia wasn’t a real country.
“With her education levels, her expertise, who wouldn’t know Australia is a country?” asked Arnold. “If she’s hesitating or questioning that, why wouldn’t she just Google that herself?” About the teacher, she has a Ph.D. in philosophy, according to her LinkedIn profile, and is a contracted employee of Southern New Hampshire University.
Arnold was not about to let this go at this point in her academic career. She wrote an email (here comes the most expected part of the story) to the professor trying to convince her that Australia, the country, does indeed exist. She even provided references:
“I believe I got zero or partial credit because the instructor said, ‘Australia is a continent; not a country.’ However, I believe that Australia is a country. The research starter on the SNHU’s Shapiro library written by John Pearson (2013) states, that Australia is the ‘sixth-largest country in the world’ (n.p.). The full name of the country is the Commonwealth of Australia, meaning Australia is both a continent and a country. Therefore, these sections of the rubric should be amended.”
The references weren’t enough for the teacher. She replied to Arnold showing her unconvinced position:
I will gladly re-examine your week 2 milestone project report.
But before I do I want you to understand that any error in a project can invalidate the entire research project.
Research is like dominoes, if you accidentally knock over one piece the entire set will also fall.
Australia is a continent; it is not a country. That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly.
As I mentioned above I will look over your week two paper once again and see if you earned more credits than I gave you.
Of course, Arnold replied again, this time including a link to the “About Australia” section of the Australian government’s website:
Australia is both a country and a continent. It’s the only country that is both. I provided a resource in the first email that clarifies that for you. If you need further clarification google or the SNHU Shapiro Library has that information you.
Again I mean no disrespect but my grade is affected by your assumption that Australia is not a country when it in fact is.
Thank you and let me know if I need to provide further resources proving Australia is a country.
Finally, the professor responded:
Thank you for this web-address
After I do some independent research on the continent/country issue I will review your paper.
Let’s take some air. Do we have some proof that Australia is rightfully a country? Of course, we do!
Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull
Some members of the Australian women’s soccer team, the Matildas
Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, speaking at the United Nations
Ashley didn’t give up! This young woman’s determination to help her teacher realize her mistake was merit-worthy. Arnold said, “I’m not going to fail because I chose a country that is a country.”
She made this story publicly because she was worried other students might have been incorrectly graded by the professor, said Arnold to a source.
Later that week, Arnold’s professor sent her a new grade: B+. Even though she never apologized for the error directly, she did acknowledge she had a “misunderstanding about the difference between Australia as a country and a continent.”
But that’s not all. The teacher had another warning to Arnold, taking into account before writing her final assignment: “Please make sure the date, the facts, and the information you provide in your report is about Australia the country and not Australia the continent.”
“At SNHU, we hold our professors to a high standard of excellence and strive to provide high-quality degree programs for all students,” the spokesperson said. “On this question, the student is right. We take this concern seriously and our academic team is working to resolve the matter.”
Ashley Arnold assured her professor might have been confused because of her older age, among other things.
“When did Australia become a country? Maybe she thinks it’s still part of England,” she said. Then, Arnold was told that happened some 117 years ago, so said, “Oh, she’s not that old, so there’s no excuse.”
Feb 9th, 2018. SNHU announced via Twitter that they had apologized to Arnold and had replaced her professor. Besides, a huge surprise for Arnold, she received a refund for the course.
SNHU said, “We deeply regret the interaction between our professor & our student. We have apologized to Ashley, replaced the instructor, and are reimbursing her tuition for the course. To our friends in Australia, we know that you are a country and a continent. Best of luck in the Olympic games!”
At the end, Arnold said, “So I am happy with the results.”
More info: Buzzfeed