The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
Your letter of excuse has arrived.  I receive the letter but do not admit the excuses except in courtesy, as when a man treads on your toes and begs your pardon--the pardon is granted but the joint aches, especially if there is a corn upon it...  ...Lord Byron, Feb. 2, 1821.
Commentary of the Day - November 12, 1999:

Guest Commentaries by Leigh Palmer and Oren Quist:  The Dog Ate My Homework Again:

Anyone who has taught for any length of time has heard a number of lame excuses from students about why they don't have their homework finished, can't turn in  a term paper on time, can't take an exam, or need some other exception to the rules.  The following contributions from Leigh Palmer of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia and from Oren Quist of South Dakota State University are excellent examples of this genre of creative communication from students.

Leigh Palmer writes:  On Friday I gave an examination in my large introductory physics course.  An hour and a half before the examination was scheduled to begin I received a phone call in my office from a student.  He said he wouldn't be able to sit the examination because he had been in an automobile accident. I said I hoped he would recover quickly and not to worry about the exam, but to be sure to get a note from the physician who was attending him.  He then told me that he was unhurt; he was at home and didn't have a car to get to school. I suggested that he take a bus.  He lives half an hour from the university on a frequently serviced bus line, and the weather was fine.  He told me that he had never taken a bus and didn't know how.  I suggested he call a taxi, to which he replied "Oh, OK. ... Can you give me the phone number of the taxi?" I won't go on with the story, but I did not become abusive. I may well have become a bit sarcastic, however; who would blame me?

And Oren Quist provides us with this little gem:  Last May, a student came in to my office (as physics department head) with a petition to withdraw from his physics class.  The class was over and his failing grade had been turned in approximately a week previously.  Although, I suspect he hadn't received his grades yet.

The petition was to have the withdrawal be dated early enough in the semester so that the course would not count on his record.  My first thought was that it was so he could get some of his money back, but that was not the case.  I told him I would do some checking and for him to come back in a couple of days.

I checked with the professor for the course and found that this student had never been to class (except possibly for the first or second class period when records were sketchy) he had done none of the labs and he had taken none of the exams.

When he returned, I asked him if he had not planned to go to class, why didn't he withdraw in January, or why sign up for the class in the first place, or at least withdraw when he recieved his mid-term deficiency report???   He responded that the earliest he could have withdrawn was approximately the first week of April and he had neglected to do so -- besides, that would not have removed it from his record.  It turned out that the school's basketball team had a chance to go to a national tournament and if he had dropped the class any earlier, he would have lost his eligibility to play basketball.

I refused to sign his petition.


The Irascible Professor thanks both Leigh and Oren for their contributions and names them honorary Irascible Professors of the week.  Do you have a similar story out of school worth sharing with our readers?  If so, send email to the Irascible Professor.  He will consider it for publication.


The Irascible Professor invites your comments.
©1999 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.