In my Ancient Hamster Masterpieces online class, I have a student we will call No-Neck Norbert. He actually has even less of a neck than the gentleman pictured on the right. I find this fascinating for some reason. Norbert strolled into my office three hours past my stated time for students. I was on the phone assisting a colleague at the time. Since I was unsure whether Norbert was there to see me or my office mate (having never seen Norbert in person), I asked quickly which professor he needed. He pointed to my name on the door rather than saying it. I got off the phone, invited him in, and asked how I could help him. The conversation went something like this:
NNN: You gave us a reading that's not in our books.
EnglishDoc: Which class are you in?
NNN: That hamster lit class.
EnglishDoc: I'm EnglishDoc. And you are...?
NNN: Norbert. [Thankfully I don't have more than one.]
EnglishDoc [holding out hand]: Nice to meet you, Norbert.
[Norbert looks at my hand as if he's never seen one before. I retract it after about 10 awkward seconds.]
EnglishDoc: OK, Norbert, let's take a look. What is missing?
Norbert: It says to read Book VI of The Great Hamster Journey. That's not in my book.
[I grab my desk copy, turn to the table of contents, and, lo and behold, Book VI of said epic is listed.]
EnglishDoc: Yes, it is. The table of contents says it's on page 56.
[I turn to page 56. It's there. I show Norbert both pages.]
Norbert: That's not the same as my book! [Norbert has his book in his hand.]
EnglishDoc: Let's look at your book.
[I flip the cover of my book to show him it's the same book. I then turn the pages to show him they are identical to my book.]
Norbert: Oh, I didn't see that. Book VI is too short. That's why I couldn't find it.
I asked Norbert if I could help him with anything else. I reminded him of when campus and online office hours are and encouraged him to take advantage of them. Then I sent him on his way, saying, "Good to have met you!" with a grunt in reply.
He never did write anything about The Great Hamster Journey. In fact he has done next to no work. His average is 9%, not an easy feat in an accelerated class that has already had a dozen low-stakes assignments. He has contacted me several times, mostly to complain he doesn't know how to do X when the directions to X are right in front of him. I told him each time where to find the directions. I asked him to look at his classmates' work that I commented on favorably on the discussion boards. Norbert has also emailed me to ask for page numbers when the assignment sheet said, "Read all of the Ancient Tibetan Hamsters chapter." I pointed out to him he should use the table of contents, find the chapter, and read it all. None of it mattered. Norbert was hopelessly confused.
I might be slightly more tolerant of this snowflakery if it weren't for the fact this is a class that requires having made a C or better in both halves of College Writing for Students of Rodentia. Norbert is not a first-semester snowflake; in fact, he's only about a dozen years younger than I am and has been putzing along at Large Urban Community College for five years now after having flunked out of Local State U.
The drop date is approaching. I sent Norbert a note telling him I advised he drop. I explained he had missed too much work and was too far behind on the research project. He has also exceeded my college's absence policy.. He can see what his average is in our LMS. Mathematically, he could earn a D if he did everything nearly perfectly. Given his track record, that's about as likely to happen as his neck is to appear suddenly.
After I explained all this to him, I got a note today saying, "So even if I do every assignment, I still can't pass the class?"
I did something I rarely do: I exercised the one small bit of power community college professors still have at Large Urban Community College and dropped him myself for lack of progress. This will hurt my retention rate at term's end, but not having to deal with him for the next several weeks is worth taking the hit.