Thursday, December 23, 2010

B-ball Blane Begs and Bullies

I was so angry and baffled that I had to sit on this one for a while before I could even write this post.

B-ball Blane was a terrible student all semester. He registered late, skipped the first two weeks of the semester, and then showed up (about 5 minutes into a class) as if I were supposed to know who he was. When I asked his name, he said, "B-ball Blane," and rolled his eyes. Whatever. I told him to speak to me after class about his enrollment and continued with the day's lesson. He sauntered out of the room about 45 minutes later without stopping. Ok.

Half way through the semester, he received an academic warning explaining very clearly why he was in danger of failing, and what he needed to do to pass. He had several generous opportunities to raise his grade, but chose not to take any of them. Yet, he still continued to show up for class, as though, somehow, just being there would be enough.

At the end of the term, even though I knew he failed, I calculated his grade carefully, and submitted the F he earned to the Registrar.

A day later, I received the following email from him:
"I got a F in ur class."
That was it. There wasn't a greeting, a question, or even a closing.

I wrote back simply:
"Yes, I know. I entered the grades yesterday."

He replied:
"Ya i know u know, but i was wondering what my percentage was overall."

So I emailed him not just his actual number grade (at least 20 points away from even a D), but also the breakdown. Yes, I did the math for him, and clearly explained every step of the way. A day or two passed, and I received another email, begging me to give him a chance to improve his grade. I did not respond.

After a few more days, he wrote again, even more desperately, asking to please allow him to improve his grade because he, B-Ball Blane, really needs b-ball in his life, and will lose his coveted b-ball scholarship if he fails this class, and he won't even be able to return for the Spring semester, in time for b-ball season, so like, this whole semester will have been a waste since he didn't get to play b-ball at all! He went on to say that he would hand deliver his work to my house if he had to. And then asked me to please be considerate.

At that point, I wrote to him, once again explaining his grade, and his failure to take opportunities to improve his grade during the semester, and that once final grades are submitted, it is too late. To avoid further contact from him, I told him he would need to speak to my Chair, and gave him the contact information. (Yes, I'd been forwarding all our correspondences thus far to my Chair, as I had a feeling B-ball Blane was going to become a problem).

My final email from B-ball Blane was downright rude. Once he realized he wasn't going to get anywhere by begging, he became a bully. I won't post the actual email because every time I look at it, I get angry. The tone had gone from imploring to nasty. The content was borderline threatening. Fortunately, he concluded that he would not bother contacting me again because "I'm not getting anywhere with you."

Nope, he's not getting anywhere with me, or my Chair. She didn't like his last email either. I won't bother with disciplinary action, since B-ball Blane will need to find somewhere else to play B-ball come Spring.


  1. I am currently the chair of our department, and have spent the past two days dealing with such individuals, even though final grades went in over two weeks ago. One of the more onerous jobs.

  2. I've dealt with a 2-3 athletes (5th year eligibility types; grad students) and I filled out forms for their coaches at least twice during the semester stating their progress and current grade. That's a good system, assuming the resources are there.

    One of the athletes was very smart and COULD have been an A student (easily). But... he seemed too distracted and finished with a solid B.

  3. Don't be mad. Being B-Ball Blane is punishment enough.

  4. Dr D: I have to admit that I don't fill out those forms, mostly because so many of my students, like the athletes, work long hours to pay for school, and encounter many of the same difficulties in scheduling classes, finding time for homework, etc., but without the same degree of support. It doesn't seem fair, to those students or to the athletes, who aren't gaining the same basic self-monitoring and time-management skills as their peers.

    But I do make sure that all of my students, including the student-athletes, have information about their progress (which, of course, they are free to share with anyone they choose) available. And I'm probably emboldened by the fact that I know that several senior members of my department also ignore the forms. And I might, indeed, regret my decision should I find myself in a situation like the one above (and might, frankly, be tempted to fill out the form the second time it came around if I did).

  5. I don't return those forms from coaches, because they have a legally dubious standing (student athletes are often not told that they have the option not to sign them at my campus, and they often feel considerable pressure to sign anything the coach asks them to sign). You don't need to feel guilty about not sending them back.

    However, perhaps I am just a SlackerBunny. I no longer spend a lot of time pursuing students who are failing or in the "low D" range. They know what their grades are. If they are failing at mid-term, I fill out the required form from my college dean's office. The rest is their responsibility. I will, if asked, calculate their grades and go over things with them in detail. And of course I will talk with them in office hours. But I no longer feel any additional responsibility to the student who screws up/screws around all term and then expects a favor.

    Yeah, they hate me. But the good news is that I appear to have made it onto some secret university athletes' list of "Professors Not to Take Because They Are, Like, So Mean to Athletes."

    I'm sorry about B-Ball Blane. Even if you feel that it is only "borderline threatening," you might wish to communicate your concerns to campus security. You should at least report this - in a letter, not an e-mail - to the relevant athletics director. I won't start ranting about my concerns with campus athletics in general, because that would be a long, long story indeed.

    By the way, some of my best students in fifteen years of teaching have been athletes. Straight-A students, actually; super sharp kids. All women, too.

  6. I actually don't mind the coach-note thing. If the student actually wants to work and is looking for a way to get help (not from me) to make up for time and energy spent on the field, then I can always point them (and the coaches) to our writing center, tutoring center, and so on. But I did teach one place where I got WEEKLY notes like this. Bullshit.

  7. Blane has likely been told by coaches or advisors that he'll get the grade he really wants. I've had a lot of student athletes who get told a pile of lies about how easy the college part of this deal is going to be, and then it's the instructors who take the brunt of the misery.

  8. One year I got one of those detailed forms from the football team's advisor. It had the names of all the players in my various classes, and a ton of questions about what "we" could do to keep the players on track.

    I stapled my syllabi to the fucker and sent it back.

  9. This is one thing I do like about BB/webct; your coach can look at the screen over your shoulder if he or she is curious about your academic performance.

  10. @Wisconsin Will: You are my Hero of the Day.

    Mathsquatch out.

  11. @Wisconsin Will: Love it! Going to start stapling my syllabi to those forms too!


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