Friday, November 21, 2008

Oh Sweet Jesus, Here Comes Another Bright-Eyed Proffie, Courage, Integrity...Oh, Dear. Call Us When You Need Some Scotch.

Let me just say how much I love this site. I started reading in a couple of years ago, when I was a senior in college and was starting to seriously consider going to grad school, with the ultimate goal of being a college professor. While reading your site (in combination with reading PhD Comics) was not enough to dissuade me from pursuing grad school, it did make me much more prepared for what I would be facing. I did not enter grad school with blissful naivete, and although I am still appalled at the behavior of some students, I am not shocked, nor is my will broken. So thank you for that.

I also want to thank you for giving me an appreciation for how great my department has been thus far. Only two months into my first year in my MA program, I caught my first cheaters. I won't bore you with the details, we've all seen cheating before, but I will say that this was about as cut-and-dried case of cheating that you will ever see. At first my instructor (who is a recent graduate of the MA program I'm in, and therefore not especially experienced in these matters, although he too had caught cheaters as a TA) and I were rather giddy. "Take that you dirty rotten cheaters. You are so totally failing this test." But as we were faced with the reality that the students were not going to accept the 0 on the test but were going to persist in lying, that enthusiasm for upholding the standards of academia quickly faded. We had to meet with the administrative head of the department, then with the administrative head and the cheaters individually, blah, blah, blah, more lies, more lies. And threats. I can't forget the threats. One day after class, one of the miscreants approached the instructor to inform him that he didn't want to take this any farther, but "oh by the way, I'm going to see the chancellor after this, who happens to be a friend of mine." Oh really? Is he now? Well you know what? You just went from being an idiot cheating, lying student to being a complete asshole. Good job.

I don't know how you all do it. The instructor and I had the complete backing of the head of our department and the administrative head, which from reading RYS I gather is rather unusual, but I still felt like if it were up to me, I would have given up the whole process and just let the kids pass the class, regardless of how they did for the rest of the semester. I can't imagine having to go through all of that, without any support, only to have the decision replaced by some bleeding heart administrator. No one should have to deal with that crap, but you have to do it all the time. I can only hope that by the time such decisions are mine, I will have the courage to stand up for the integrity of my classes.

But even now, my situation isn't closed. Both students are still in the class and one in particular, the "friend" of the chancellor, has been particularly vocal the past few classes. All benign and encouraging comments, unless you know what's behind them. The instructor will be out of town in a couple of weeks and I will have the class to myself, and I have to tell you, I'm dreading how he will act then.