Thursday, February 17, 2011

If I fail YOU will pay!

Today I had a student actually email me to tell me that it was my course set up that was to blame for them, to date, earning a failing grade for my course. The student has missed numerous assignments. Never mind that the due date for each seperate assignment is listed in the handy dandy syllabus. They even were brazen enough to tell me that if they fail it will reflect in my teacher evaluation as well as them marching down to the Dean to complain.

How would you respond to this?


  1. Step 1: CC the email to your chair, the dean, and the university president.
    Step 2: Sit back and relax.

  2. I've had this happen in the past, and what seemed to work for me was to forward that email to the Dean/Chair/whoever and just "hello, sorry to bug you, you've got this character coming your way. Unfortunately, they didn't hand in their work, and it sounds like they want to vent about their F"

    You look all reasonable, the student looks like the dipshit they're trying so hard to look like.

  3. Second/third the forward the email (and/or cc the reply) to the chair/dean with something along the lines of Dr. Cranky's response, tailored to fit whether the Dean/Chair is more faculty- or "customer-service"-oriented (if the latter, I'd detail what you've already done, and the good performance of the rest of the class, and ask for advice -- in other words, kick the ball into the Chair/Dean's court).

    In replying to the student, I'd keep it short and clear, something along the lines of "I've reviewed my grade book, and the main contributor to your current grade is the fact that you've missed a number of the assignments listed on the syllabus. Since I haven't seen your responses to those assignments, I'm not sure what particular difficulty you encountered in completing them. As stated on the syllabus [if it is], late assignments cannot be made up, but I would be happy to discuss the requirements for any of the upcoming assignments with you during office hours, or by appointment at another mutually convenient time." After that, I'd try to keep the exchange off email as much as possible, but, if and when you have to answer, keep ignoring any criticisms of the course itself, and keep offering help with specific assignments.

  4. Copy your Chair, Dean, VP of Student Affairs and even the President/Chancellor:
    "By the content of your email, it would appear that you are attempting to blackmail me. As such, I am in the process of determining the appropriate course of action according to the Student Conduct Policy. If this wasn't the intent of your email, I suggest that we make an appointment with my department Chair to clear things up."
    At that point, sit back and watch him run away.

  5. I'm with Pat from Peoria. I have done something similar in the past (actually, a few times). All but 1 went quietly away. The one that didn't met with the Department Chair and me, and, to quote my chair (speaking to the student): "You have an attitude problem. Get out of my office now."

    It's good to have a supportive Chair in these matters.

  6. I'm with Mrs. C. But also with those who say 'forward the email'.

  7. Copy Cassandra's text, slap it in a reply email, cc your chair, and hit "send." You're done.

  8. Attach a copy of the syllabus. List the assignments missing. Tell them the due dates are on the syllabus. Remind them that the syllabus is the contract for the class and was handed out in class. BLIND CC the shit out of it -- then sit back and watch.

    You've just done all you need to do.

  9. What, no snarkiness for misspelling "separate?" Slackers! (I am totally yanking your collective chain. It's nice to see an earnest question getting helpful responses without any nitpickiness.)

  10. I've had students like this. This is a defensive move. The student feels like she has no power. Intimidation is the only thing she has left in her bag of tricks. If you ignore the email (i.e. don't respond to her), she will likely self-destruct which can be amusing to watch. But penalty can be higher for you later on (read: lots of extra work documenting the crazy when she and her parents call every office on campus lying to everyone with ears).

    I'd forward the email to the people up the chain from you. It's rather a shame that the person detailed the action as slamming you on evals and seeing the dean. If it had just been "you'll pay" or something non-specific. I'd have forwarded the email to the higher ups and the campus police with a little note saying, "This student seems unsettled. I'm afraid to go home at night since s/he might follow me home and kill me."

    I think you should compose a firm but non-aggressive response and run it by a few people (perhaps the chair). I'd send it to the student and CC (not BCC, s/he need to see they saw her threat) the higher ups. Then I'd follow that email with one to the higher ups explaining the situation.

    I might write the following to the student:

    Dear Sunshine and Daisies,

    I've not received assignments X, Y, ..., and Z from you. The due dates of each assignment are listed on the syllabus which was passed out on the first day and is posted on Blackboard. There are still several assignments left. As you can see on the syllabus these assignments account for N% of the course grade.

    If you are having difficulty understanding the material I'd be more than happy to meet with you in office hours which are ______. If you have a class at those times, then we can set up an appointment just email me what days and times you are free and I'll find a time we can meet. I am willing to extra time with any student who wishes to better understand the material so that the assignments are easier for to complete.

    Unfortunately, I cannot report a grade other than the grade a student earns. I do hope that you will not make good on your threat since your time and energies can still be used to complete further assignments.



  11. Again, I like the idea of having the student disappear the same day you pour the concrete for your new back patio.

  12. take them by the hand and walk with them to the dean's office, while holding a copy of his threatening email in the other hand.

  13. Is it actually blackmail to threaten to complain to the dean and give a negative teacher evaluation?

    I would never do that, but I'm just curious.

  14. I like Cassandra's and CMP's responses. In addition, I'd make sure to tell this little shit that his education is very much his responsibility.

  15. P.S. to Bubba: That'll cause a subsidence, and make the patio all lumpy. Don't you have any dogs on your property? They can take care of this sort of thing much more neatly.

  16. @Schmitty: it might be extortion instead. I'm not sure, since I'm not a lawyer. But it's definitely inappropriate behavior, for all that it's common in "customer service" situations in the US. And it's a major problem with anonymous evaluations. I'm perfectly open to any formal system of complaint, where the prof being complained about is notified promptly and has a chance to respond while he/she can still remember the student and situation, but anonymous evaluations invite just this sort of threat. If I received something a message along these lines, I would consult with the person running our university honor system to see if it were prosecutable; if it's not, it should be.

    @Froderick: I believe pigs, particularly in herds, are also quite efficient at this task. I have no direct personal experience, but have heard from several different sources that, if you're a pig farmer, it's a really bad idea to have a heart attack or stroke while in your barn, at least unless you were looking to save your loved ones the cost of burial.


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