Thursday, July 22, 2010

This week in the Ivory Basement

An old-fashioned smack-down for the week that was.

Dear afternoon class: Given the “Key Terms” list at the end of every chapter and the glossary at the end of the book, please explain to me how it is that over half the class failed the vocabulary quiz this week? Do any of you even open that book?

Dear Talkative Timmy: You’ve annoyed me all summer with your non-stop chatter about who-knows-what while I’m trying to lecture. But still, how is it possible that last week you gave us a relatively well-prepared oral presentation over Islam, then proceeded to fail miserably the vocabulary quiz over Islam? You included mosques in your presentation, but could not remember what a minaret is? WTF?

Dear Bedridden Beatrice: Yes, I know you really were sick. I don’t need to read your medical records.

The “No makeup quizzes” statement on the syllabus could not be more prominent. So I’m certain your daddy was shocked when the dean did not share his outrage at my denying you a makeup quiz for the day you missed. It’s a good thing you found a way to let him know before class was even over.

Hey, does he know that you rarely stay for the whole class, and routinely slip out at the break? Good thing I take roll twice every day. Perhaps you can have him call the dean to complain about that. -- Oh, and you have an A so far, even with the zero. So please just STFU.

Dear Lazy Lucy, and Laura, and Larry, and Luther, etc.: Copying entries from Wikipedia and does not count as writing a critical response paper.

Nor does copying paragraphs from your textbook count as answering critical reading questions. If I wanted to know what the author thinks, I would ask her to write it down for me. Oh wait. She already did.

And finally,

Dear Plagiarizing Paul: Yes. You failed my class last fall. Why, you ask? You plagiarized (75% on your research paper. And you didn’t turn in any of your response essays.

Yes, you did well on the midterm, final, and quizzes. But you should make a habit of noting how much things are worth. When you get zeroes on 45% of the coursework, it is very difficult to earn a passing grade in the course.

You’ll take it again in the fall? Good. But is it really necessary to take it with me again? Really? Oh I cannot wait.


  1. No make-up quizzes for ill students, that's pretty hardcore. At my university, no matter how undeserving the ill student may be, if they have bona fide medical documentation, they are allowed to make up the quizzes and exams. It didn't use to be that way. As an undergrad I had my A average knocked down to a C because I missed the final due to an incessant 103 F fever and constant vomiting. I was actually delirious and despite medical documentation and eventually making up the final once I stopped hallucinating and hurling long enough to sit in a classroom, the professor's policy was that anyone who missed the final couldn't get any higher than a C for the course. I guess that's what you profs would call old-school policy. They are no longer allowed to lower grades because of legitimate illness, and I think it's for the best. Occassionally students do get sick and have to miss class, and it's not fair to lower their grades as punishment for something that they can't control, although for every legitimately ill student, there's a dozen more who are lying and trying to scam the system.

  2. "...for every legitimately ill student, there's a dozen more who are lying and trying to scam the system."

    Enough said.

  3. Last time I checked, a quiz was worth a lot less than an exam.

    Heck, I used to give more than 10 quizzes a term so I could use just the top 10 for an overall quiz grade. Every term, I'd have a bunch of whiners bellyaching about their grades because they earned a zero on 2-5 quizzes because of lateness (thus missing the quiz), absence, and just general failure.

    I've had my share of "key terms in the glossary" fails! Apparently it's always the proffie's fault when they miss class and don't read the book. Even when the book has the terms in bold-face or italics with an on-page definition.

  4. Yep, I just let them drop the lowest quiz grade, no questions asked, no makeups. It takes care of the genuinely sick ones, and the class-cutters still get their zeros. Plus I don't have to deal with documentation, etc.

  5. Plus, Rachel, why do you feel the need to chastise every poster?

  6. I don't know what you're talking about, Marcia. I have posted maybe a half-dozen comments but there are over 100 posts on this site, so if I was chastising *every* poster, I would have posted something closer to 100 comments. Clearly you do not teach math, based on your assessment.

  7. I gotta call it:


  8. I used to refuse quiz/exam makeups for ANY reason, but I always let them take them early with no questions asked. Now I let them take them late with a doctor's note, a police note, or a note from a towtruck company or insurance company. Why? Because my department is soft, that's why. And yes, for every legit illness, there are scores of steaming piles of horse shit. Still, those who deserve to fail, usually do, even if they get away with their lies.

  9. Omigod (head in hands) the literalism, Rachel, the freakin' literalism. It's gonna kill me.

    Hyperbole: a figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect.

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  11. Rachel, I drop at least one quiz, and sometimes as many as three, at the end for just this very reason. I know I'm a hardass, but I'm not completely heartless.

    This summer there have been just under 30 grades that fall under the category of "Quizzes and Homework." The vocab quizzes are just one piece of this.

    If I didn't quiz them, these students would not read. Hell, even when I do quiz them, they don't read.

  12. Marcia, just write what you mean, is that so freakin' hard? Obviously you meant "why do you feel the need to chastise THIS poster?" By "every" you really meant "one" rather than "100+" That's a stretch, even for exaggeration. Or just put it plainly and write that you hate me, that's what everyone else does. No need to backpedal that 100+ is merely an exaggeration of one, that simply doesn't make sense.

    Ivory, you sound perfectly fair and your sick student ditches class all the time anyway, so I wasn't suggesting that you cut her any slack, just that it's forbidden to not let ill students make up work at the university at which I am employed and enrolled.

    That said, I wish I had a proffie that let me drop my lowest grade, that sounds great. I am amazed that classes described here seem so much easier at schools other mine, even though my school is pretty second-rate and I doubt most of you have even heard of it.

  13. I've seen the "drop the lowest" used widely by way of not having to give makeup quizes at the Public Ivy I went to as an undergrad and know of similiar tactics at the R1 where I am in grad school. I always thought it was a rather elegent way to handle it. You as the professor don't need to deal with giving makeups for even legitimate excuses or argue with the flakes about the bullshit ones. For the students who are trying and go to class all the time but may not have the easiest grasp on the material right away it can be a forgiveness.

  14. Ohhhhhh....Rachel, you're a student? That explains a LOT. And no, I did not mean ONE poster. I said that after you got all up in someone else's grill about using a folksy expression, thereby earning yourself an entire smackdown post about which you whined. Even if you have half a dozen comments up (and I am not counting the ones you use to defend yourself), that's 1/3 of your comments prissily admonishing other posters. It's annoying. I can't say I hate you, but I can say I wish you'd put a sock in it, especially if you are not faculty or staff.

    As my mother used to say in a saccharine voice, "Every Day is Children's Day!"

    And I was thrilled when our electronic gradebook finally automated the "drop your lowest grade" function.

  15. My university policy states that forcing students to reveal health records is a violation of their privacy. And honestly, I'm glad that's their policy. I don't want to see the details of some gross sickness. If someone is really ill, they prove it in their genuine desire to catch up. If someone is milking the system, they miss so many classes it stops being effective.

    btw, I love the "ivory basement" concept. Such a great play on the media portrayal of our lives.

  16. My university's health system issues generic doctors' notes, i.e., "So and so was in my office on X date" or "I have advised bed rest for so and so for X period of time." So does our counseling service. In fact, even my non-university health care facility issues excuses for missed time at work that way. So that's not really an issue. If students have a doctor's note, great, they are excused from a paper due date, exam, whatever, and I'll issue an extension or do a make-up exam. If not, no dice. Either way, quizzes cannot be made up and I drop the lowest. And without a valid excuse, my papers go down a full grade for every day they are late.

    Why so meanie? Because for each class I have 100 students and 2 TAs to coordinate with, and the time we set aside to norm and grade is the time we set aside, period. There isn't any more of it. I must say that these policies have reduced late work by about 90%. Quite a few students have failed my classes based on unexcused late work, and that's OK with me. When they hold down a job (if they ever get one), late work may result in being fired or demoted. A piddly grade down hardly compares.


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