Southern New Hampshire University has apologized to a student who failed an assignment because her professor insisted Australia was a continent, not a country.
“We have apologized to Ashley, replaced the instructor, & are reimbursing her tuition for the course,” the university said on Twitter.
Ashley Arnold, who is completing a sociology degree online, filed a report with the university when she received a failing grade on a project outline that was supposed to compare a social norm in the United States with that of another country, BuzzFeed News reported.
Her grading rubric was filled with multiple zeros because, according to the professor, “Australia is a continent; not a country.” She told Arnold that the “error made it nearly impossible” for her to have accurately completed the assignment.
Arnold thought the grade was a joke at first, she told BuzzFeed. When she realized it was real, she wrote an email to the professor, attempting to persuade her that Australia was in fact a country. She even provided references from the university’s library.
The professor, who has not been identified, remained unconvinced but agreed to re-examine the assignment.
Arnold responded by explaining that Australia was both a continent and a country, and she urged the professor to use Google or the library to search for it. She even included a link to the Australian government’s website.
“Thank you for this web address,” the professor replied. “After I do some independent research on the continent/country issue I will review your paper.”
After the professor’s research was over, she gave Arnold a B-plus. She acknowledged that she had a “misunderstanding about the difference between Australia as a country and a continent,” but she did not apologize.
Instead, the professor warned Arnold to “make sure the date, the facts, and the information you provide in your report is about Australia the country and not Australia the continent.”
In its apology, the university addressed its “friends in Australia,” saying, “we know that you are a country & a continent, best of luck in the Olympic games!”