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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


Really, we are not idiots!

But I think students sometimes think we are.

I have a student who is at great risk of failing the course. She failed to turn in several papers, but I let students who were at risk of failing turn in late papers. Only two students took me up on this. Luckily, she was one of the two. She came to my office and cried noting that it has been a rough semester because it is the one year anniversary of two very significant deaths which occurred within 7 days of each other. Given that one of those who died was a parent, I had a great deal of empathy and wanted to be flexible - within reason.

She turned in her final paper on time. However, when my TAs and I read it, it was clear that it didn't fit the assignment. I have my students turn in proposals early in the semester, and the paper she turned in was not on the topic she proposed - not even close. It also didn't fulfill the assignment which was to integrate the course materials with a very specific topic. She didn't cite the textbook or lectures, or bring up any topics from the course at all.

In fact it seemed like it was a paper for another class that was submitted to my class. One of my TAs noted that it was exactly like a paper he had written for another class.

So, I emailed the student, forwarded to her her proposal and noted that the paper she turned in didn't fit the assignment, wasn't the paper topic I approved, and seemed so unrelated to the class as to be suspicious. And do you know what her response was? She argued with me! Argh!

I have now gotten 2 *urgent* emails since last night (which is a full 4 days after I emailed her originally - isn't that funny how they can take days to respond, but then all of a sudden it is urgent?) telling me all about how the paper fits the assignment and the course. I respond by simply reiterating that the paper does not fit the assignment, her proposed topic, nor the assignment.

In my original email I said that I was hoping she just accidentally turned in the wrong paper, and that she should turn in the right one ASAP. Instead, she has just argued with me, sending me super long emails defending her paper, and claiming that she couldn't do the topic she originally proposed because there wasn't enough research.

Well, first, the proposal they were to have submitted required them to do research to create it so that they could make sure there was enough research. In her proposal, she listed 4 references - all of which should be helpful. That leaves 6 more references - 3 of which could be my lectures and the textbook. Second, the topic she proposed is my area of research. There is plenty of research on the topic.

I hate being in this position because I feel like I am being such a bitch. So I phrased my last email carefully and told her she had two choices: to have us grade the paper she turned in, which would likely not receive a passing grade, or to take me up on my offer to *let* her redo the paper. The choice is up to her. I hope she chooses to redo the paper.


At 11:07 AM, Blogger Ianqui said...

I know you aren't a fan of advice, but here goes anyway...Do you think the chair (or the person who hired you) would be sympathetic? Because you may want to inform someone about this now, in a casual way, if you think this student is going to try to bypass you or appeal later on. It sounds like your TA is in agreement with you, which is good, although I'm sure your chair would be on your side anyway.

At 10:47 AM, Blogger Limon de Campo said...

Your students never cease to amaze me with their total dumbassery. I wonder if you just got a bad group or if the school somehow fosters this kind of student. Regardless, you deserve a medal for your work this term.


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