Thursday, October 7, 2010

A question for the collective

I've got a story and a question for y'all. (Note to self: get out of the south)

I pick up some extra cash by free-lace tutoring.
This week I had the following e-mail exchange with a prospective student.
Their words are lightly edited for anonymity, mine are what I wanted to say.

Entitled Snowflake: Do you tutoring on BW15 (honors) advanced Introduction to Basketweaving? Please reply as soon as possible.
Me: Not specifically, but I've taught BW11 Intro to woven materials and BW20 Basketweaving. So, no  problem.

ES: BW15H is an Advanced course and the grade solely based on the TESTS. What we need help is getting a good grade on the tests! Better way is to have taken the course and know the teacher and the tests (with previous test papers). And we need help NOW and want to see the good result on the tests NOW. What do you think? Or can you recommend one?

Me: Excuse me? What exactly were you expecting to be graded on? I don't have old tests, but I can teach you how to weave baskets. Basket weaving speed is based on practice, so you're on your own with that part.

ES:What we need is a quick fix NOW. Short cut is to access to prior quizzes/tests, going thru them before the test dates. Is there anyway you can do this? Can you try to get all the old quizzes/tests?

Me: Go away you petulant, entitled child!

And now my question.. If you were this student's professor would you want to know about their behavior?


  1. Yes! I would want to know so that I can decide whether or not to significantly change the exams/quizzes. Or so that I can pass out old quizzes/tests to even the playing field.

    Trying to purchase old material may even be academic dishonesty. One might even construe this as an attempt to bribe you into getting a hold of the tests to give to them.

    I'd forward the exchange to the prof and perhaps department chair. But that's me. Fortunately I'm no expert in these matters.

  2. This semester the student bathrooms have been absolutely plastered with ads for past exam papers and assignments (usually you get one or two "enterprising" students doing this, but an epidemic has broken out this year). I've taken to mailing the notices to the unit conveners and left any chasing of the cheaters to them.

    In this case I'd tell the professor, so that they know to be especially wary of this student and grade them appropriately hard.

  3. It's just passes the vomit test, so I doubt a case could be made in an honor court (playing devil's advocate here: the student appears to want to study from old tests, which some professors do release, and he(?) is asking for the tests not from some fly-by-nighter but someone whom he knows to be a professor, if only by the first response).

    But, as the honors professor, I'd want to know, because we all know what's really going on. And the professor can 1) nip this crap in its blighted bud and 2) keep the yard toxins handy for this particular weevil and compatriots.

    In your place, I'd be a little queasy since my role as personal tutor is one of some trust (as long as the student doesn't cheat), and you could argue, as above, that Weevil McNastypants hasn't unequivocally crossed the line. On the other hand, though, you haven't actually entered the tutor/student relation. I'd sleep on it, but my temptation would be to let the proffie know about the exchange without names. And if the eccentric diction and syntax would be the tip off, I might include the exchange verbatim.

  4. Tell the prof. I'd want to know not to use old test questions (and give a good talking-to about how one addresses other faculty!).

  5. So this clown is too lazy to call the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who had the class last year and paying $15 for a third generation photocopy of the test. Fuck `em; they show no initiative and cunning in cheating, which means they have no drive. This person is too dumb to get the grade honestly and too lazy to BS their way through. The only way this fuckwhistle should be in higher education is as a cadaver in a medical school! Isis, it is your duty to destroy this scumfuck as a warning.

  6. The student association at my university sold copies of old exams with permission from faculty. If you were lucky, one or two questions might match, but most of them were changed enough every year that having access to the older versions was more like attending extra review sessions. Useful, but hardly guaranteeing you an A or even a pass...

  7. If I were teaching this subject, I'd certainly appreciate a "heads-up" from you about this student. I recommend, however, that you do this verbally. Don't leave a paper trail: especially don't use e-mail for this, since it may provide the snowflake with an opportunity to scream, "violation of confidentiality!" or "FERPA!" or some similar nonsense.

  8. P.S. I always thought a southern accent was charming, when coupled with an education.

  9. Tell the kid you've got lots of the old exams and you'll sell them for top dollar. Substitute any old exams that you have. Just get paid before ES takes the test. You're losing a customer but you don't want that customer anyway.

  10. Using, buying and selling old exams are not cheating. Assuming that the professor returned the graded exam to the student, the student owns the exam and can do whatever he wants with it.

  11. Occasionally I've had students write and ask me to write their papers for them. I forward these e-mails to the Ministry of Very Few Penalties, a.k.a the Office of Student Disciplinary Affairs.
    And yes, I'd tell the BW15 professor. Whether or not the students were cheating is immaterial. E-mail sent to or from university addresses is public property, so I would not be violating their confidentiality, and what the professor decided to do with it would be his/her business.

  12. I had a random person from another school contact me about a class (I was TAing for that class, and the webpage listed me as Tutor. I found out later that if you put Course_Subject Tutor into Google, I was in the first 5 hits).

    Either way, we didn't have a very good relationship, he wanted me to proof his problems before turning them in, I didn't really feel like creating solutions for his work and for my own class.

    The kicker was him sending me what really appeared to be a midterm test. It was multiple choice, and crafted so well I had to admire it.

    I tracked down the professor teaching the one and only distance ed class of the subject at the school he attended, and queried him. The replies were as brief as civilly possibly, and I got the impression that either a. I had failed to communicate my concern, or b. he knew exactly what was going on and did not care.

    Either way, I am much less likely to try to help random people, or pass on concerns to their profs in the future.

  13. Yes, tell the prof, verbally. I have recently learned the virtues of the "no email or paper trail" approach to higher education communications, so I second Froderick's suggestion. I am also a fan of "y'all," because I think our language needs a second-person plural form of address. But, I have also found the South to be very much to my liking, despite my birthplace in Back of Beyond, New York. So...maybe I've got a touch of sunstroke?

  14. Wow! Lots to think about... I like the in person communication idea. That way they know to look out for the little brat, but there's no confidentiality issues.

  15. RE: Email/paper trail vs. verbal communication, there are good times for both. Sometimes, to cover your ass, you need a paper trail to prove what you/they said. Other times, you've got to stay the fuck away from email, so you can have plausible deniability if you get into a jam with the higher-ups.

    I've learned this shit the hard way, having created an email trail that got me into trouble. That was my lame error, but boy can it happen fast, without thinking...CLICK! and you're fucked.

    So always think through your words with students and other profs., and choose verbal communication as the default unless you really DO need textual evidence to back you up in a jam.


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