Where were you when you first heard about the country called Australia?
It’s a defining moment in many people’s lives. It could have happened while you were watching the Olympics or the World Cup, or perhaps, it took place in a history class. Whenever or however it was, the information probably stuck in your mind, and for the rest of your life, you can walk the Earth knowing that Australia is, in fact, a real place.
That is all to say that, if there is one thing on this garbage pile of a planet that we can all agree on, it's that Australia is a country. It might be the one single thing that is not controversial. I really want to stress that before I get into today’s most bonkers news story about a student failing a project because her college professor said that—sigh—"Australia isn't a country."
That’s gotta be a joke, right? Unfortunately, it’s as real as Australia’s government. Ashley Arnold, a 27-year-old stay-at-home mom from Idaho Falls, Idaho, was recently doing a project for an online sociology degree with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The final project required her to compare a social norm in the U.S. and another country, so Ashley chose to look at social media use in Australia.
But when Ashley got her project outline back on February 1, she was shocked to discover she had failed the assignment. Her professor said it was because Australia is not a real country.
"At first I thought it was a joke... Then as I continued to read, I realized she was for real," Ashley told BuzzFeed News.
Australia enjoys the truly wild status of being the only landmass on Earth that is both a country and a continent, but apparently, Ashley's professor was only aware of it being a continent. Ashley asked that the professor—who, according to her LinkedIn, has a PhD in philosophy—remain anonymous so as to not cause backlash.
Ashley responded to failing the assignment by writing an e-mail to her professor to try to convince her that Australia is indeed a country. She listed a few reasons for the professor:
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 so-called professor wrote back and essentially confirmed that, yes, she is crazy. She offered to re-grade Ashley’s project outline but only after Ashley considered the consequences of her horrible crime to the institution of research.
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.
Ashley, seemingly undeterred, replied back with a surprising level of politeness. She provided a link to the "About Australia" section of the Australian government website, an exclusive feature that is only unlocked once you beat the final boss of the "So You Want To Be A Country?" video game. (I do not know how countries become countries. I only know Australia is a country.)
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.
Her professor thanked her for the information but still said she needed to conduct "independent research" on the "continent/country" to make a final decision. Seriously, lady, what is going on with you?
Thank you for this web-address
After I do some independent research on the continent/country issue I will review your paper.
Ashley then rightly took the issue higher up in the university and filed a report. "I’m not going to fail because I chose a country that is a country," she said.
Honestly, the worst part about all this is that Ashley did get a new non-failing grade after her professor looked into the very complicated matter, but she only got a measly B+. The professor didn’t even apologize. She merely admitted to a "misunderstanding about the difference between Australia as a country and a continent."
Then, to make matters worse than they already were, the professor added a passive-aggressive note to her revised grade of the project: "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."
The story does have somewhat of a happy ending. A spokesperson for SNHU told BuzzFeed News that they "hold our professors to a high standard of excellence and strive to provide high-quality degree programs for all students" and that "on this question, the student is right."
"We take this concern seriously and our academic team is working to resolve the matter," the spokesperson continued.
On Friday, SNHU announced that they had replaced the professor. Arnold was also refunded for the $1,000 class.