Thursday, April 26, 2012

Probably not your wisest move...

Edited version:

Hi PUIProf first name only misspelled,

Could you pretty please be easy on me in the grading of the last parts of my work. I really want to get into a selective program, and I am borderline with an overall GPA of 2.7. I really, really need a C in your class, so please consider that and grade my stuff easy. Thanks and have a great summer!

What I wanted to say:

1. I'm sure that I have made some boneheaded moves
 in my life like this, so I can understand where you are coming from.

2. I know its a small school, but not that kind of "small"

3. Do you realize that I am seriously considering forwarding this e-mail to your advisor?

4. You did not make the maximum effort. You were late, you texted, you came unprepared, you copied your labs from your friends. You disrupted my lecture by chattering in the back with your friends. The only reason you are this close is because my Work Study/ TA is a more gentle grader than I am.

5. If you do get into [selective program], there's a possibility you might take care of my kids some day, so I guard the rigor of that process.

What I did say:

So glad to hear you got a better grade (70ish) on the MC portion of the
final exam! You earned it and you should be proud of it.

As far as the outstanding grades go, the other students (that have now had
me for I and II) will probably tell you that I am VERY concerned with
fairness and equity. So I can't, in my heart of hearts, grade your work
any differently than anyone else's. Moreover, if I do grade your work
fairly, and you do well, then you would be far more proud of yourself and
gain more confidence than if I had given you a special break that no one
else had gotten.

I'm happy to hear that you availed yourself of the tutor, and were able to
rally your studying for this course. I only had the privilege of seeing
you once during my office hours, so that was a helpful resource you did not
avail yourself of. I also recall that you sat in the very back during
lectures. These mean to me that **even though you felt like  you were
putting forth the maximum effort, I believe you have even more capacity
than YOU think you do!** It's too bad that it has come down to so close at
the very last.

I can really empathize that these final grades seem to determine a lot for
you, but your overall GPA is borderline, so that means my class isn't the
only one determining your future. An analogy would be that one play by one
person never wins or loses a game. Are you asking all of your professors
for special treatment?

Stu, in my view what you are asking me to do is unethical, and I simply
can't do it. I try my best to keep your work anonymous as I grade it, so
if I am successful, then I couldn't pull it off anyway. So I will try to
grade the rest of your work the same way I do everyone else's, and let the
numbers determine your grade.

I really care that you succeed, but YOU have to do it all by yourself.
Best wishes!



  1. wow. i have gotten similar emails from students, but i can't claim to respond so kindly to them!

  2. I love the, "It wouldn't be fair to the other students" response. That's one of my favorites. It also happens to be true.

  3. WOW, that is the nicest way to explain that to the student! You were positive, you were clear, and you were firm in what you can and cannot do ethically. I've always just gone with the "As per district policy, I cannot give extra assignments to any one student."

    I wonder if you get fewer of these emails than I do? Do I send the short/to the point email because I get 5 of these emails a semester? Or do I get annoyed faster than you do?

  4. Wow, I'm impressed with your response! When I get those I typically write back very short emails saying that what they are asking is inappropriate and unethical. I usually get a profuse apology after that. Eee gads, where are they learning that this is ok???

  5. Adding to what Lisa C. said... after a truly horrible semester, I started responding to truly inappropriate emails telling them that they needed to talk to the writing tutor about how to write a formal memo (before I can address the subject matter) because the email they were writing was inappropriate and we cannot allow our graduates to have unprofessional communications. That has worked beautifully so far, and resulted in profuse apologies and better behavior. Nipping things in the bud is the way to go.