Saturday, September 20, 2008

Some Solemn Last Words on Funerals, Excuses, and Why Grandma Has To Die For Your Fucking Final Grade.

  • Fucktard of "On Obituaries" fame has his/her own tragedy going on--a reading deficiency. Didja miss the part about it being an EXAM the TWO students had missed? That jumps out of the realm of excusing some incidental absence...or not excusing it. Missing an exam and being allowed a make up opportunity needs some level of hoopage for jumping. It ain't the same thing as missing a class at all. My own advice to our original questor is DO THE MATH...These snowflakes are lyin'--or I'm dyin'--and thus the aplomb to accept their fate. Notice: They EMAILED THEIR EXCUSE NIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM. Hence they had time to drive back before the exam. And they didn't. Had to have been a Sunday night, right?, since they had gone home for the weekend. Death wasn't sprung on 'em suddenly--and if it was, didn't matter--didn't go to the service anyway. Accept their humble "my bad," give 'em the zero, then give 'em opportunities (err in their favor) if they demonstrate continued humility and willingness to play well for the remainder of your time together!

  • Before a college instructor, a person allegedly trained in rational discourse, reduces himself/herself to telling peers that they suck, it makes sense to understand the issue in question. The issue was not whether the instructor should allow an excused absence or not; the question was whether the instructor should take the time and effort to create a make-up exam. There’s a huge difference. I point out to my students that college is the only place where people want less for their money—less homework, less research, less reading, less rigor, you name it. My students are adults by chronological standards. On any given day, they can come to class or not. It’s almost never my day to worry about where they are and why. It’s the student’s dime and s/he can spend it anyway s/he wants. However, if said student wants me to take the time to create a make-up exam, then I expect documentation of the crisis. Failing to require documentation of students’ dead grandmothers would cause the death rates of grandmothers to rise astronomically and I just couldn’t live with knowing I was responsible for killing so many sweet, little old ladies.

  • What does your syllabus say? Mine specifically precludes "not having a ride," along with traffic delays, cars not starting, etc, from being justification of excused absence, so the second student would be toast anyway. But I haven't usually required that an obituary mention the student by name, so the other student could have slid by in my class (usually they bring a program from the funeral home, but not always.) Another possible mitigating circumstance: does a zero on this exam keep the students from passing, or just drop them by a letter grade? If a letter grade or less is the only penalty, I am much more inclined to enforce the policy in the syllabus strictly. (After all, I have had students who missed funerals and weddings and family reunions to take exams.) I would say, yeah, they deserve the zero, if that's how the policy in your course goes. But you have the prerogative to take into account the performance of each student over the whole term when you set grades. If the students have otherwise been consistently good, you can push them over a borderline at the end. If they've been consistently marginal, that tells you something too. You could always arrange some other sort of compromise, like letting the final exam grade count twice (only recommended if your final exam typically has the same or lower average than the other exams, otherwise you're setting yourself up for other students in the class to be pissed off.)

  • Grandparents die at an alarming rate around finals time, and they really ought to look after themselves better. Is somebody on this?Asking students to supply evidence for their absences when there are grades involved is perfectly okay, but I feel like the Question Poser was kind of mean in not making the evidence requirement clear upfront. If a student is at a funeral out of state, don't you think it is better to tell him/her to bring home whatever evidence you are going to require, rather than assuming he/she is going to souvenir the funeral order of service or whatever it is you are going to want to see? I have had students who are upset about this requirement get Mommy to email me, and my response to Mommy is "I am being asked to give this student an exception that could be seen as favoritism which affects his/her grade, and I need to be able to show why I allowed that." I have never had a parent have a problem once the explanation is given, even though often the emails start with "How dare you question my snowflake's integrity! Nana was an important part of our family!" The point is, don't make it a "gotcha," because then you seem like an asshole, even if you do catch them out in a lie. If you suspect them of lying, call the whole class out on it. By which I mean, tell them, "If you lie about your grandma dying to get an extension on your essay, she will die, and it will be your fault."