Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Nuances of "No": from "I'm sorry, but I can't make it work" to "Go boil your head" by Uggy from Utica.

I have been saving up a list of student requests since the beginning of the semester. Some are semi-reasonable; others astonish me with their sheer chutzpah. Here is a partial list of the requests I denied, along with the increasing degree of emphasis I put on my N-O:

Q: Your office hours conflict with my class schedule. Can you add more office hours?
A: Sorry, but no. Between course prep, lectures, seminars, faculty meetings, advising, and the occasional bit of research I try to squeeze in, I can't permanently set aside another office hour each week, much less coordinate my schedule with >100 students. You can email me to set up an individual meeting outside of office hours, or better yet, go to the help center, which is open five hours per weekday.

Q: I'm in your hamster physics class. Can you help me with my gerbil studies homework?
A: Grrr. I did it once, because the two subjects are related and I was being nice, but I really don't have time to do it on a regular basis. Did I mention the help center? Even better, you could go to your gerbil studies professor's office hours, your TA's office hours, or get a gerbil studies tutor.

Q: I'm on an intramural broomball team. Can I switch my lab time next week so I can play in the Wednesday's game?
A: No. With >400 students in hamster physics labs this semester, imagine the chaos if I let people start switching labs for silly reasons. Plus, maybe academics should take priority over intramural sports? Just a thought.

Q: I couldn't attend last week's quiz due to a conflict [this is literally what the email said]. Can I have a make-up quiz?
A: No. The rules for make-ups are explicitly stated on the syllabus. Contacting me several days after your absence with no doctor's note or documented academic activity doesn't cut it.

Q: Your Friday lecture conflicts with my Hamster Care & Feeding lab. Can I keep my schedule and you can just catch me up on Friday's lecture material in office hours? [I am not making this up]
A: Are you serious? You want me to repeat half the week's material in a private lesson, just for you?? Never mind the fact that I have three office hours per week to serve >100 students? Don't let the door hit you on the way out.


  1. My own little nook of Batshit U has few snowflakes, but I occasionally have to teach some from other, grubbier corners. I had a mail from just such a student this semester requesting that the student and I meet "at least once a week, for at least an hour", because the class was challenging.

    1. That one is a refreshing change from the usual "I want to do X, which means I can't do Y, so can you do Z for me?"

  2. Contrary to what they may have been told, there ARE stupid questions, and sometimes it DOES hurt to ask.

  3. He has a lab conflicting with a class? How the Hell did that happen? That's something to see Student Affairs about tbh.

    1. Honestly, we get requests like this all the time, and, alas, the students claim they have been told to ask by their lab instructors.

    2. My first boss (an admin guy who would have been a damn good teacher) summarized thusly:
      "Students lie"

    3. Yeah I was headed in the direction of "the student is a goddamn liar".

      Because think about it. If there was a conflict, he couldn't have been the only one with it. There must have been at least hundreds if it's a medium sized university. There would be utter fucking chaos.

  4. Sometimes, I don't even get an excuse. I get "It would work perfectly with my schedule if I could take your final on a different day".

    And Conan is right. Our registration system was used by Fred Flintstone but even it knows enough to block registration if there's a conflict between the lab and another course.

  5. "My schedule's really packed so I can't do any work outside class."
    That's right. No homework, no assignments, he'll just show up. Except on game days of course.

    I gently advised him that this might not be the best semester to take the class.


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