Tuesday, July 2, 2013

If It's Tuesday, Hiram Must Be Baffled By an Eager Student.

In my school email this morning (some minor details anonymized):

Dear Dr. Hannah,

My name is Skip Latouche and Ima high school senior whose taking some college corses in september. I signed up for your 1101 class and then went to the bookstore but the books there are too expensive. My dad says I can get free ones from you if you contact the publisher and tell them that you need extras. My dad works in publishing too.

Can you call your publisher and get me a set of all three books? I don't want to have to start behind the 8 ball and having those books this week would let me get going. I know that college teachers dont like high school students normally but I can ensure you that I'm different.

My address is: Skip Latouche, care of Daniel Latouche, 1111 Jefferson St., Hamilton OH, 33333.

I have a 2.8 GPA but that's because of all the sports I play. I'm a judo champion in Ohio and a junior tennis champion as well. So I travel alot with my parents to tournaments and that keeps me away from some tests. I know that I can do any level work and I know I will show you.

Well that's all I had to say. Im looking forward to the class. I see on Google that you are a connosieur of fine beers and my dad is too. In fact he makes beer in our basement and belongs to a club. I'll ask him if he can get you some special bottles in return for my free books.

I hope your having a great summer and I can't wait until September.

Sincerely,
Skip

25 comments:

  1. Dear Skip: I just thought you might want to know that someone has apparently stolen your email password and is using your account to send highly inappropriate emails to professors.

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  2. Can't you put him off for a while by sending an "I'm out of my office and will not return until July 32nd" e-mails. I'm sure he'll have found something else to get all Eddie Haskelly [too lazy to check spelling] over by then.

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  3. Free books? Someone's been tippling too frequently from those "Special bottles."

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  4. Well, hold on now. Skip is offering you some beer in return. I'd wait to see what he is willing to produce.

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  5. Oh, man. Wonder what kind of favors you could extract from the publisher daddy in exchange for the book freebies. (In addition to the beer, OF COURSE.)

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  6. Implicit threat? I am a Judo champion... and I'll knot your legs around your neck unless you send me them books

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  7. I once had a student take my well worn copy of the required text, say "I need this for a while", and try to walk out the room.

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    1. I'm not surprised.

      Shortly after I started teaching, I had a similar encounter with a student, though the issue was photocopying. The photocopier in the area where my office was located at the time was meant for staff use and, I recall, there was a sign saying so located at eye level right above it.

      One day, one of my kiddies came in, stuck his photocopier card into the machine's card slot, put his document on the glass and started copying. He didn't even bother to ask any of the staff for permission--he simply helped himself to the machine.

      When I saw that and then proceeded to evict him, I got a volley of swear words in return. The office area secretary saw it all and she sat there completely flabbergasted at what happened.

      Had the student asked if he could get a photocopy made because, say, he was in a hurry, I might have let him. However, he would have had to give me his card and document first, and I would have made the copy myself. That way, at least, he would have gotten what he needed, the conditions of use would have been met, and nobody in charge would have asked any questions.

      But no, that was too much for him and he had to finish his copying somewhere else. Fortunately, we were rid of him a few months later when he graduated.

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    2. Yeah, I had one of those too. Mine got as far as having left my office, but I was quick enough to chase him down in the hall and scream, "GIVE ME THAT BACK!"

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    3. P. S. Don't worry, I didn't touch the student, although I did grab the book with all my might and dexterity.

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    4. Wow. WOW. This is exactly why I make sure that the library has a copy of the updated textbook on reserve. If they claim a need to "borrow" the book (meaning MY book), I can assure them that they can just ask the nice people at the reserve desk for the library copy.

      As for photocopy problems, well, there is a print and copy center located IN THE LIBRARY BUILDING (as well as plenty of other locations around campus--so much for international copyright laws), so by hook or by crook the students have no real excuse for not laying hands on the weekly reading.

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  8. Skip flake can do any level work, but he excels at BS level work. Why do we ever let high school flakes anywhere near a college campus? The little cretins are despicable.

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  9. One thing that flabbergasted me with students like that is that they thought I was so stupid that I couldn't figure out that he was trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

    The bit about the beer reminded me of something I heard while I was an undergrad. While I was living in a certain on-campus residence, one of the grad students staying there mentioned how an undergrad tried to bribe him after an exam. The kid in question slipped a fiver in with his paper and the grad student felt doubly insulted--first that there was an attempt at bribery and, second, that the kid thought he could be bought for so little.

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    1. One of the great things about being a scientist is that one can pretend to be so socially inept, one can plausibly not understand that it was supposed to be a bribe. What's the matter, haven't you ever seen "The Big Bang Theory?" Just hand the five back, and say, "Oh, you must have given this to me by mistake."

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    2. The incident with the attempted bribery took place during the mid-1970s. The grad student was certainly more socially adept than the characters in TBBT, though I don't recall what finally happened with the undergrad. If I recall correctly, it was a final exam and the grad student found the money while he was marking it. By then, the students had cleared out, so handing it back might have been a touch difficult.

      Actually, I personally find BBT quite irritating, which is why I don't watch it. On the other hand, there's "Breaking Bad".

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    3. @NLAnA: When a discipline loses the ability to laugh at itself, it is lost. Or are you just annoyed that the engineer on the show is the only one who doesn't have a Ph.D., and that the field theorist consequently calls him "semi-skilled labor"?

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  10. DANGER! DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

    My astronomy textbook, FINALLY due for publication this fall (which is why I'm back even though it isn't 2014, Hiram) has given me quite an education with regard to publishing. I'd tell this student, "Sorry, but my publisher will only let me have 3 free copies for my own use. Your Dad's publisher sounds much nicer than mine!"

    Any student with an ego as outsized as is shown by this message will probably then ask you for one of your three copies. My reply would be that I need one, and I need to give one to my department Chair, and one to the Dean.

    If this student persists after this, point out that there are substantially more than three students enrolled in the class. If I were to give out free copies of the book to students, it wouldn't be fair unless I could give a free copy to every student, and I can't.

    Every now and then, when I'm at a point like this, I want to ask the student that I'll do what the student wants is the student can get every other student in the class to sign a petition stating that this student may have a privilege that none of the other students may have. Fortunately, I have never said this out loud, because this student sounds like one who'd take you up on it.

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    1. P.S. The way I often win arguments like this is to point out that perhaps this student would be happier in some other class. I already have over 100 students in my general-ed astronomy class for non-majors.

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    2. What the daddy probably means isn't author copies, but rather the practice of giving out free exam copies of textbooks to proffies who request them. I've reviewed several potential textbooks this way.

      The flake could up the ante one step further, though, by asking you to use your author discount to get the whole class a cheaper textbook. That one would require some smooth maneuvering.

      Anyhow, congrats on the forthcoming book, Frod! Mine came out this spring, and like hell I would pass out my author copies willy-nilly to students, even the eagerest of gradflakes. I also made our library order their own copy rather than sacrifice one of my own.

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  11. I answer email from students very sparingly; setting up an in-person interview or answering a quick question on the homework is about the extent of it. In the summer? Forget it: I don't know you yet.

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  12. Oh, my. He's going to be a fun one to have around. Assuming you don't have a vacation message on (in which case I'd just wait to ansewr until whenever the faculty handbook says you're supposed to be available again in August; in fact, you could do that anyway), I'd wait a week or so, then answer with some reference to treating all students equally, not accepting gifts, and bookstore info (with a mention, unless you're forbidden from doing so, of the fact that the book may be available elsewhere, in part thanks to professors who sell review copies -- a practice which you don't engage in yourself because it raises book prices for everyone).

    In other words -- set boundaries, now. With any luck, he'll drop when you fail to recognize his greatness immediately; if not, at least you will have set a pattern of firm limits.

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