Excuses

I have reblogged the following (fantastic) list from Should a Grading Policy Be Absolute? No,No,No – Tenured Radical – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

This semester alone, I have heard all of these with only one exception (#3 in the “excuses students should never give” list). As always, I’d love to hear thoughts!

Excuses a professor should always accept:

  • I am sick. Who cares whether they are sick or not? But they probably are. They haven’t been sleeping or eating properly, and they are living cheek by jowl with a lot of other germy students. And just to let all of you know: right now there is a horrible gut thing and a flu-ish cold that lasts for about three weeks.
  • I am overcome with anxiety. Anxiety is a mental disorder that seems to be quite widespread: it has physical as well as emotional symptoms, and can make you feel as though you are hallucinating. More and more students seem to have chronic anxiety nowadays, and it is probably related to high-stakes testing and the inane, inflexible policies they had to deal with in high school. It may also be due to too much off-prescription Ritalin, which I think is a campus scourge. My advice? Whether it is organic or drug-induced, don’t risk tipping a student over the edge.
  • I have a learning disability I haven’t told you about before now. A great many students who have a diagnosis want to do college, so to speak, “on their own.” Usually the collapse comes before finals, but not always, and although said student is clearly not following the rules by not presenting official paperwork to the Disability Office before now, you can turn this into a “come to Jesus” moment by not being punitive. Shaming a learning disabled student is exactly the worst thing you could do, even though this means more work for you. Suck it up. It’s the right thing to do.
  • My computer crashed/I lost the document. There is a fifty-fifty chance of this being true, in my book, but I always believe it anyway. I have lost enough documents in my time to sloppy back up habits adopted while under time pressure, that I feel it is bad karma not to believe others. It is also worth mentioning that university computers are about as diseased as they will ever get during exams. Crazed students (faculty) also leave multiple windows open, an inducement to crashing if there ever was one.
  • My grandmother is dead. Sometimes further investigation will show that grandmother is not dead, and if you are that kind of person with that kind of time on your hands, go for it: send a sympathy card to the kid’s parents and see what happens. You will either get a lovely note back for your thoughtfulness, or the student will be spending next semester in some special circle of Hell that is parent-owned and operated.

Excuses students should never give:

  • My grandmother is dead (if she is not.) This goes for other family members too. Faking other people’s deaths to cover up your own flaws is lower than low.
  • My printer is broken. I used to tell students at the beginning of class that this was an excuse I would never accept, under any circumstances, since having access to a working printer was as fundamental as having a working car to get to your job — and a whole lot cheaper. Now I only accept papers electronically, which eliminates this as a point of contention.
  • My father/mother/parents’ travel agent already bought me a plane ticket, not knowing I had your exam/paper due on that exact day. Whose fault is this really? Discipline your parents. Extra points off if the family is gathering in Aruba or Vail for Christmas this year. There is nothing that pi$$es faculty off more than you, with an incomplete, taking a vacation they can’t afford.
  • I have another paper/exam in a class that is (choose one) a) more important to me; b) in my major c) more important for my medical school application. It may seem like an explanation to you, but really, it would be much better to be found in the Student Union using my picture as a dartboard than to offer this excuse. Your choice, though!
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