Saturday, January 17, 2009

Student Situations

It has been a very long time since I wrote – partly because I have no idea where the Christmas break went. Gregg and I cancelled our trip to the Southern Political Science Association Conference because even the thought of packing and flying to New Orleans was so tiring. I slept a lot, worked on my syllabi for the spring and did (very little) work on my dissertation. I also tried to clean the house (though that was a wasted endeavor, since it looks as chaotic now as it did before I cleaned it).

But one of the things I had to deal with this semester were some crazy requests from students for grade changes. Here are two cases:

Two students turned in papers which were almost exactly the same – word for word. Though there were some attempts to change the language, these were few. I emailed both students and one of them took complete responsibility saying he had requested his friend’s completed paper and then mistakenly turned it in with his name on it. So, I emailed him back and commented on the differences between the two papers saying that the story did not hold up because some changes were certainly made. He emailed me back with a long explanation but here is the crucial part: according to him, he worked on the draft of his friend’s paper, changing things here and there, then started writing another version of the paper but mistakenly printed out the one his friend had written. He realized this but just as he was handing it in, so he kept quiet about it and “hoped for the best”.

What would you do in this situation? I told him that since he had knowingly turned in someone else’s paper, he would fail it – and the class.

The second case is more unclear. This student was on academic probation and was dropped from my class early in the semester for having too many credit hours. He continued attending and turning in work all semester while fighting to have the class added. They literally added him to my class roster on the last day of the semester. However, he got a D+ in the class. Since political science is his major, he needed a C- or better to get credit. On top of that, he was on academic probation for the third time and without a C- or better, he would have to quit school for at least a year. After the semester was over, he started lobbying hard for extra credit assignments to raise his grade. However, I felt that it would be unfair to other students in the class (there were a couple that had failed) to give him chances to raise his grade. So, in spite of his entreaties and after speaking to his advisor, I decided against giving him extra credit assignments. Thankfully, there is still a chance that he will be here this semester – he is trying to work it out.

Do you think this was a harsh decision? Should I have given him those assignments? These are the times when I find this a difficult profession. I do not want to be the reason for someone not finishing school but at the same time, I have to be fair to all and I think it is not wrong to hold students to high standards. What would you have done?