Mitchell Huynh is a sessional lecturer at UTM who has come under fire for requiring his students to buy his own book, get his autograph, and follow his social media accounts for marks as part of his introduction to personal finance class.
Huynh has talked to multiple news outlets and stands by his grading practices, though he did tell the National Post that the university has emailed him to ask for his reconsideration of the grading scheme.
In a now-deleted Reddit post, user XdaZxz posted a breakdown of the course’s grading scheme, which included five per cent of the final mark set aside for buying Huynh’s book Dumb Money, writing out the student’s name in marker, getting the book signed by him, connecting with him on LinkedIn, and following him on Twitter and Instagram.
Despite the online backlash, Huynh stood by his grading scheme, sending the Toronto Star a copy of anonymous student feedback that he had received from previous classes, which mainly held positive views of the class. His RateMyProfessors.com score is evenly split between students who praise the lecturer’s course and students that echo online backlash.
“Basically using the course to promote his book. Course isn’t hard and it’s easy grades so if that’s what you’re after it’s a good pick,” wrote a user on Huynh’s RateMyProfessors.com page.
A LinkedIn user wrote about his teaching: “I get that the book costs what it does, but really? Participation is completely bullshit… Teaching is about mentorship and humility. Asking students to conform so you can hit a line item of value for yourself is wrong. Teach your course but don’t add extras that have a monetary value.”
To this Huynh replied that the cost of the textbook is “anywhere from $6 on a good day to $28 at it’s [sic] peak. That’s 1 to 5 Starbucks lattes. Anything under $5 in price is a gimme, which is why the lowest the book has been is $6. The book needs to be valued to impart value to the students. This will increase the probability of the students hanging on to the book, so that it will be there when they need it.”
“Teaching and book sales together are less than five per cent of my annual income,” the instructor told the National Post, adding that he has put aside approximately $2,000 and will use the increased attention to his work to donate toward fighting the bushfires in Australia.
In a statement to The Varsity, a spokesperson for U of T declined to discuss the details of the specific case “because of personal privacy.” The spokesperson went on to write in an email: “The university does have policies regarding grading and fees for course materials.”
Huynh did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.