Tall, Dark, and Mysterious


Someone else field this one

File under: Righteous Indignation, Those Who Can't. Posted by Moebius Stripper at 4:23 pm.

Dear Moebius Stripper,

I don’t understand why you won’t just give me the mark that I want in the course whose exam I missed for legitimate reasons, even though you have explained it to me twice already. Other students might make up excuses for missing their exams, but not me! I can even provide a note explaining my absence. I think you’re being very mean. If I were making up an excuse for missing the exam, then I could understand why you’d be giving me an incomplete in the course and making me go through the ordeal of setting up an appointment, at my convenience, basically anytime during the next five weeks to write it. But since I’m honest, and going through some difficulties in my personal life, I think you should just give me the mark I want.

Obviously you don’t understand how hard my life is right now. I paid for a tutor to help me do better in this class of yours that I’m paying for, and I did okay on the rather easy last test. This should be enough to convince you that I don’t need to take the final exam to prove that I have learned the first two months’ worth of material, can deal with problems out of context - or even that I still know the concepts that I hastily committed to memory back in late March. Please understand that it would really cramp my style to have to actually write the exam in the next month, because I was counting on not having to write it and so I stopped studying three weeks ago and have forgotten everything I learned. See how desperate I am, telling you that in writing! If that doesn’t convince you that I deserve to be exempted, then you either don’t get it or don’t care.

All of my other professors are nicer than you. Could you please reconsider your decision? I know that you said that me writing the exam - which I even said I’d do last week, before I broke my appointment with you on two hours’ notice! - was “nonnegotiable”, but I suspect that when you said that, you just didn’t realize how much I was counting on taking advantage of what seemed to be a gaping loophole in the system.

My Life Is Hard, And So Is Math


  1. Don’t you just love these types? I got a similar email last week (although the situation doesn’t have the history of this one) that went something like this.

    Dear Cheeky Prof,
    As you may have noticed I was not at this morning’s exam. I know it’s no excuse, but I hit the snooze button on my alarm and fell back asleep. Although sleeping through my alarm is not a legitimate reason for missing the exam, I was hoping you’d let me come by and take it. Please get back to me.

    The C- Student Who Sits at the Back of the Room Rolling His Eyes at You

    - Cheeky Prof — 4/25/2005 @ 4:30 am

  2. Dear So-and-so:

    Consider this a relatively cheap vocabulary lesson. Now you know what “non-negotiable” means. This will come in handy if ever you buy discount airline tickets.

    Here’s an extra vocab lesson: ever heard of the term “at-will employment”? I have a feeling you’re going to run into that concept many times in your life. You’d better do some research into it.

    Yours Truly,
    Ms. It’s-Not-My-Problem

    - meep — 4/25/2005 @ 5:43 am

  3. My boyfriend just did this. Missed a midterm, cause he didn’t know about it, and then e-mailed the teacher a week later. She already had a make up exam. And he kept getting Angry at her like it was in any way sortof a little bit her fault. I smacked him around about it a lot, but it still bothers me. Where do people get this sense of entitlement. Spoiled brats.

    - Shinobi — 4/25/2005 @ 7:49 am

  4. Cheeky - you mean you make students show up for exams, even if they’d rather sleep? You’re atendence policy sure sux.

    Here’s the lowdown on this student I’m dealing with, by the way. I almost wish she’d done something as unambiguously irresponsible as oversleep the exam or forget about it entirely, because then my decision would be clear-cut, and even if she opted to bitch about it, I’m sure that deep down she’d understand. Whereas in my case, since her excuse is legit, and since she is going through some very difficult times, I’d be a pretty horrible person if I didn’t make some accommodations for her. What she doesn’t accept is that she does not get to dictate the terms of the accommodations.

    Also - I am wondering if this student is beginning to regret all the times during the term when she whined to me that my tests were too hard and totally unfair, and that she was going to skip the review questions because they were difficult, and would I please give easier work and easier tests next time? If she hadn’t been so forthcoming about her mathematical ability and the amount of real thought she was putting into my class (both very low), maybe I wouldn’t be so convinced that she needed the final exam to prove to me that she understood the material. Feh.

    - Moebius Stripper — 4/25/2005 @ 10:02 am

  5. Is there a way to penalise students who ask for ridiculous things like this? Did she not realise what she was asking for?

    meep: I like your explanation. Maybe this could be a printed hand-out …

    - Hack — 4/25/2005 @ 10:18 am

  6. Here is my idea of a response:
    Dear [My Life is Hard, and So Is Math],

    You have several options.

    One such option is to accept a zero on the final you missed, and the course-grade that results from it.

    Another option is to follow up with me, make the appointment, and take the make-up exam. After this, you will have to accept the course-grade that results.

    Other options might arise. However, the action of continuously bugging both me and [Dept. Chair] with your problems and desire for a gratuitous grade will probably not earn the friendship or cooperation of either.



    I am reminded of a student I had a year ago. I had given the class an option to earn extra credit in a limited area, shortly after the second exam. In the week after I assigned grades at the end of the term, I got an email from someone asking if he could follow up on that extra credit.

    I sent a response, basically saying that I didn’t have any records that he’d turned in the required material after the second exam. I added that if he could show me the work, with my notation of extra credit on it, I could give it to him.

    He tried several times to get some other way, and I sent (roughly) the same response several times. Finally, he got tired of it.

    - karrde — 4/25/2005 @ 4:02 pm

  7. Hack - although I try to stick to a marking scheme, I must confess that I can’t always keep my emotions in check to the extent necessary to be as generous to my more belligerent students as I am to the others. So, in short, Hack, there is a way to penalize such students…

    Also, since I am no longer officially an employee of Island U, Department Head is dealing with the situation, and - oh, he is exactly the successor I would have hand-picked myself to deal with this student. Like me, he has lots of patience for students who want to learn the material - and absolutely none for students who play mind games. Without going into details, suffice it to say that he is being even more shameless in dealing with this student than I would be. Man, this is fun.

    Karrde - hey, this story comes just in time for another student email:

    Dear MS,

    I notice that you submitted the grades yesterday. I see that I got a D. This shouldn’t surprise me, as I have failed every test and quiz since January, and I did especially miserably on the exam! I had several opportunities - for instance, after each of the eight quizzes/tests I failed - to meet with you during office hours, but I never did. But, better late than never, right?

    Will you be in your office later this week? I would like to discuss my mark with you. I am deliberately leaving the exact topic of discussion unspecified, figuring that you are less likely to say no to me face-to-face than over email.

    Can’t Blame a Girl For Trying

    - Moebius Stripper — 4/25/2005 @ 4:18 pm

  8. I have to admit - I have a certain grudging respect for CBAGFT… At least she’s honest about it.

    - Independent George — 4/26/2005 @ 6:38 am

  9. er, maybe I’m reading it wrong, George, but I don’t think those are verbatim emails. I think those are reconstructions of the general idea of her messages with MS inserting what she reads between the lines, not CBAGFT’s frankness.

    - Jen — 4/26/2005 @ 8:32 am

  10. I know… that was my attempt at irony :)

    - Independent George — 4/26/2005 @ 12:35 pm

  11. God… I really want to compile a list of posts like this from you and Becky Hirta, et al… print them out, and hand them out to students the first day of class with a big 18-point title - “This Is What We Profs Think of Your Antics. Don’t Piss Us Off.”

    - dr. dave — 4/26/2005 @ 2:44 pm

  12. MS–

    In my case, I did my best to not mention that the TechU I’m at has a “grade challenge policy”. I’m not even sure what the statue of limitations is for grade challenges–he might still be perfectly within his rights to challenge the grade I gave.

    On the other hand, he didn’t see any need for extra credit until he saw his final grade.

    I like Meep’s take on the vocabulary lesson. Perhaps you should refer this second student to a dictionary (or thesaurus) for a hint at the meaning of the word “final”, especially in conjuction with the phrases “examination” and “marks for course”.

    - karrde — 4/26/2005 @ 6:30 pm

  13. Karrde, I don’t know the grade change policy at my current school. But the policy at my grad school was a thing of beauty, in the most elephantine sense of the word. It went something like this: the student would go to the records office to file a petition to have their exam reviewed; they would have to give a reason. Then, the records office would pass that petition onto the instructor for the course, who would sign it and submit it to the department head. The thrice-signed form would then make its way to the dean, who would decide at his leisure to sign it and send it back to the records office. Once the form had gone through channels, the instructor could decide whether the grade should be changed. If the instructor decided to change the grade, this decision would get bubbled through the department head, the dean, and then the records office. Ditto if the instructor decided otherwise - in that case, a committee would be required to review the exam, which it would do whenever the hell it had up and formed itself. If the grade was changed, and the student had not graduated, moved away, started a family, had grandchildren, and died by then, then the change would be made. Oh, and it cost the student something like $75 to do this, which would only be refunded if the grade went up (and the grade going down was an option).

    - Moebius Stripper — 4/26/2005 @ 10:20 pm

  14. “… I am wondering if this student is beginning to regret all the times during the term when she whined to me that my tests were too hard and totally unfair, and that she was going to skip the review questions because they were difficult, and would I please give easier work and easier tests next time?”

    Gee, I’d give her the chance. After all, Real Life and the corporate world is just like that, isn’t it????

    - Mike — 4/27/2005 @ 11:13 am

  15. I’ve played the Real Life card several times before. Never seems to go over very well. In particular, when my students complain that I am making them actually think about the material rather than providing them with the exact templates for every question they could expect to see on an exam, I point out that there are approximately zero safe, interesting, non-minimum-wage jobs out there in which employees are given step-by-step instructions on how to do every single thing that their boss or client might ask them to do one day. In all other situations, they’ll have to apply their knowledge to the task(s) assigned.

    The sad irony is that a lot of the complaining students are in university specifically so that they will have career options beyond the boring, low-wage jobs where they’ve been working for the past decade or so.

    - Moebius Stripper — 4/27/2005 @ 11:20 am

  16. I teach high school physics. I tell my students I can be kind in two ways. 1) I could make the class SO easy that everyone gets an A and I would be universally loved while the students were in my class. Or 2) I can make the class tough and push the students to think and learn so that when they get into college physics/science/engineering classes they will be well prepared and be able to handle the work.

    I tell them number one would be easy for me but number two prepares them better so I opt for number two. Interestingly enough, not to toot my own horn, I am one of the more popular teachers at my school and I have students come back from college or email me from college telling me that they are doing so well in their physics/science/engineering classes because I was tough and made them work hard in high school.

    - JAH — 5/1/2005 @ 3:49 am

  17. Dear Life Is Hard,
    I don’t understand why you won’t let me give you the grade I want to give you rather than the grade you insist on earning. I am forced by my contract with the school to objectively evaluate your test and exam responses. But you insist on not bothering to follow through on those requirements even though you have paid tuition to be able to attend.

    Obviously you don’t understand how hard I am working to get you to meet those requirements. I spend almost every waking minute trying to find ways to pass on the knowledge you need to know in order to do that. Not only do I hold classes periodically through the week (and in fact the entire term) even though I have a need for an active life outside the university, but I have shown you that I am available for assistance outside of class, both during regular scheduled office hours and through appointments at any other time we can negotiate. Please understand that it already really cramps my style to have to write, give, and then grade exams not just for you but for all the students in your class and all the other classes I’m forced to give. When you say that you don’t want to take the test, all that work I’ve already gone through for you goes down the toilet; if that doesn’t convince you to take it, either you don’t get it or you don’t care.

    All my other students take the test. Could you please reconsider your decision? If you don’t, there’s just no way I can keep my job and still give you a non-zero grade on the exam. I suspect that you just don’t realize what “nonnegotiable” means.

    - ThatTallGuy — 5/1/2005 @ 9:21 am

  18. TTG’s mimicry is scarily effective.

    - KimJ — 5/1/2005 @ 10:25 am

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