Friday, November 21, 2014

Next Semester Is Two Months Away. Why Is Troublesome Trisha Emailing Me Before I've Been Able to Get My Post Fall Semester Drink On?

Yesterday, I received an email from Troublesome Trisha, who is getting married (yay!) and will miss the first week of next semester (yay!) for her honeymoon (yay!). 

She wants to know if she can submit any work for the first week of classes the week before the semester begins. 

Yes, the title of this post is nearly as long as the post itself. 



  1. I don't know how tight enrollment is on your campus, but on mine students often have difficulty getting all the classes they need. As a result, many classes, especially the entry-level subjects, have waiting lists at the start of the semester, and the first week usually involves the painful task of telling a bunch of students that I can't fit them into my class.

    If I got an email like the one you received, my response would look something like this:

    Dear Trisha,

    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. There is no written work due in the first week of the semester, so there is nothing for you to submit.

    However, because of budget cutbacks and over-enrolled classes, many students use the first week of the semester to complete their course enrollment. In order to provide the greatest possible opportunity for all students to get the classes they need, faculty are allowed to dis-enroll any students who do attend class during the first week in order to make room for students who need to add the class.

    I follow this policy in all of my classes. This does not mean that you will definitely be dis-enrolled if you miss class. If there are no crashers [our university's colloquial term for those who attend in the first week hoping to get permission to join the class], then I will not need to remove anyone from the class. If, however, there are students who ask to be enrolled, then I will make space for them by dropping students who miss the first week of class.

    The university's academic calendar for this academic year was approved over four years ago, and has been available on the university's website since early 2011. The assumption is that students and faculty will consult this calendar when making vacation plans. I understand that your honeymoon is a very important event in your life, however it does not fall under the university's definition of an acceptable emergency requiring accommodation, so I am afraid that if you choose to miss the first week of class, you take the risk that you might be dropped from the course.

    Defunct Adjunct.

    1. "...faculty are allowed to dis-enroll any students who do attend class..."

      Doh! That should, of course, read "who do NOT attend class."

  2. DA's email handles it very nicely, I think. This is one of those especially-tricky situations to handle, because it seems on the surface (and, presumably to the student herself) as if the student is being extra-super-duper responsible by getting in touch so far in advance to ask you to rearrange your schedule to accommodate her. But the bottom line is that she's asking exactly that, because she either failed to look up or decided to ignore information that was available to her well in advance (and/or ignored the fact that real grown-ups -- those mature as well as old enough to marry -- realize that the wedding they want -- on the date they want, in the venue they want, immediately followed by a honeymoon taken during their season of choice -- may not be possible, at least not without jeopardizing other priorities, like getting their college degree). It may work out okay; if your school is anything like mine, then the first week is a balancing act between the need to lay down some foundational concepts as soon as possible and the reality that students are still adding and dropping, and your syllabi are designed to make it possible for the late adds to catch up and pass, as long as they're willing to put in a bit of extra work. But, unless your contract requires it, she can't, and shouldn't, assume that you'll be available to assign and receive work a week before classes start.

  3. When I was 19 and serving in the navy, I went to the dental clinic on base for an examination. They told me I'd have to get a cavity filled. I asked them if they were open over the weekend. They asked me if I'd been drinking.

    I hate seeing Christmas decorations in the stores before Thanksgiving, don't you?