Monthly Archives: December 2010

3rd Annual Advice for Exam-goers

This is totally a tradition now, since I have done it twice before.

So, here goes.

  1. Be willing to accept that “this course has a take-home final” is an actual true thing. I am not saying you have to take the instructor’s word for it the first time you read it on the syllabus, but be willing to draw a line. Give yourself a guideline, like “the tenth time I hear this, I will be willing to believe it,” or “I will only email the instructor to ask this 3 times, if I get the same answer each time”.
  2. Accept that the take-home final will not get an official time and room allocation on the exam schedule. Sure, we could put “Your Bedroom, 2am on the morning the final is due at 9am,” but that would only work for 85% of students. The keeners would go mental asking if they PLEASE couldn’t do it earlier.
  3. This might seem like an undue technological burden, but if your take-home final has to be submitted electronically, you need to learn the submission process. This may take more than 60 seconds, especially, and this is critical, if those 60 seconds are the 60 seconds before the absolute and final deadline.
  4. Recognize that turning up to class on the last day, when you haven’t been to class in a month, is not a subtle and cunning plan. Your Prof, while she may not know whether you are Kaytlin, Caitlyn, Kate-Lynne or Qua’tlyn, does have rudimentary arithmetical skills, and being more wily than you, gave the vital exam hints in the third last class. PWNT.
  5. If you are going to cheat by using the high tech method of texting a photo of the exam question you can’t do to an accomplice, you should work out the details in advance, so that you don’t end up leaving clues like “look this up in the book and then text me the answear” on your exam paper for your prof to find.
  6. If you fail to adequately pre-arrange your cheating via text, then write your instructions in PENCIL, so you can erase them, thus avoiding leaving the vital clue on your exam paper.
  7. Make sure your accomplice is not a moron who, after all your preparation, sends you the wrong “answear” anyway.
  8. I have given this one before, but it bears repeating. “Answer 6 questions” means answer SIX questions. Not five, or WTF, seven.
  9. Take a stab at the essay question. It’s an English essay, for fuck’s sake. You can probably bullshit your way to a D+. Writing “I have no idea” just makes your Prof depressed.
  10. If your Prof rushes out the door of the exam after calling “time” at the end, in order to vomit into a handy garbage can, wait patiently for her to return. Running after her waving your exam book just risks getting your answers sprayed with puke.


Hack or Plagiarist?

So, some genius over at The Chronicle is trying his heavy hand at humour, and has come up with the fabulously original idea of rating his students. No, really. Fabulously original, if you are an ignoramus, and never, like GOOGLED, “Rate your Students”.

His post seems oddly familiar, too.

I know it’s probably my massive ego talking, but mine was funnier.

Update: I have submitted a comment on the story, but strangely enough, it has been held up by moderation. Apparently, hacks are also chickenshits who can’t take criticism.

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a fresh-faced, enthusiastic professor who spent a lot of time and effort developing a new course. This course was designed to teach her students about one of her passions – the internets – and how to read and write effectively in this exciting new medium. The professor was excited to teach the new course, and looked forward to sharing her knowledge with her students.

Because she was keen, and fresh-faced, the professor thought in great detail about her assignments, and, thinking about what she would most like to explore, if she were a student in her own class (oh brave new world, that has such self-reflexive ideas in it!), she designed a term project. For this project, students would participate in an online community of their choosing. They could pick a new community to join, or write about a community in which they had existing membership. The professor thought about the handful of online communities of which she was a member and how fascinating it might be to consider them, meta-style, with a particular focus on analyzing how people communicated in these online enclaves. She hoped her students would enjoy this, too.

Well, the semester started and a lot of them whined about “not being able to find a community”. On the internet? Were they joking? The professor employed her google-fu to help those poor lost babes, and after a couple of weeks, she stopped hearing complaints, and so she naively assumed, in her fresh-faced way, that things were going well.

Months passed, and as the end of semester neared, the professor began to look forward to her students’ reports of their adventures in cyberspace. Many of the reports were a little dull, which disappointment the professor bore with a brave smile on her fresh face, and she was rewarded by a small but significant number of gems in the pile of dross. There was the thrilling tale of the girl who had dared the wrath of the terrifying moderators of Neopets, the chilling tale of the young man who had banded together with a group of right-wingers to support a particular conservative pundit, and the hilarious story of the guy who had faced the wrath of an army of Starcraft players when he challenged their assumptions about strategy.

All-in-all, the professor was happy with her experiment in assignment-setting, although she had copious notes about how to improve the instructions for the assignments in the following semester.

However, there was one student who caused the professor a great deal of consternation.

When she had first imagined her assignment, the professor had shared the idea of it with some of her online friends. One of them, a wise old man with a long beard, had asked “what happens if one of your students wants to join THIS community and report on it?” The professor had professed that she thought the odds on such a thing were long, and that she would cross that bridge when she came to it. “It’s a big internet.”

None of the students who had told the professor about their adventures on the internet had mentioned any of the communities of which she was a member, so it came as rather a surprise at the end of the semester when a report from a student came in, and lo, it was on this very same community of which she was a member; the community run by the wise old man with the long beard. “How odd that the student did not mention it. Or me,” she thought to herself. For, in a not immodest way, the professor was a prominent member of that community.

As she read the student’s report, the professor found herself more and more confused. The report spoke of the community having rules the professor was not aware of, and conversely made no mention of major discussion areas and topics familiar to all members. The professor could not fathom what was going on. Was the student very unobservant and a poor reader? Had he really overlooked the areas of the community with the most conversation and activity?

She took her question to the wise old man with the long beard, and some of the other community members, including a curious weasel. They pondered for a few moments, and then the weasel piped up “You cannot see the busiest discussion areas if you are not a member of the community.” Could this be? Could the student really have PRETENDED to join and participate in a community? Was his report a fake?

The professor gave the student the benefit of the doubt, and emailed him, suggesting that he needed to add some more detail to his report; there was still time, as he had submitted before the deadline. The student responded that he didn’t understand this advice, and declined to act on it.

The professor then marked the report, commenting with a heavy heart, that since the student had manifestly not completed the quest to participate in an online community, she could not in good faith give him a passing grade.

The student responded rapidly to the professor. Not to prove her wrong, but to explain that he had been FORCED to cheat on the assignment by the community’s unreasonably high membership requirements. You see, in his wisdom, the wise old man with the beard required adventurers who wished to join his community to answer a number of questions, varying in wording, but all essentially asking the question, “Are you a moron?”

The student had proved himself unable to answer the question in the negative; first by failing the test, second by not choosing an alternative community on the internet with lower membership standards so that he could have completed the assignment honestly, and thirdly by attempting to deceive his professor with a manifestly falsified report.

Was he unlucky to happen on one of the handful of communities on the internet of which she was a member? Possibly, but his own stupidity was his ultimate undoing.

Jerks, a treatise in 2 parts.

As a feminist, I am constantly aware that the epithet “man-hater” is out there, ready to be flung, and for the most part, I agree that trashing men, guys or boys is not a productive act.


There are times when men act like sexist assholes, and then, you know, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, or your head asplode. I therefore regale you with the following two tales.

1.  16th Century Anti-Feminism had a Point.

This one might need some context for you non-literary scholars, so bear with me. In the 16th Century, there was a lot of anxiety about the position of women in society, which often expressed itself in men ranting about women, as in the case of the always-charming John Knox and his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Also, and likewise, various other chaps took it upon themselves to write treatises to women about their various faults. John Donne, for instance, was particularly niggled about the inconstancy of women, which he apparently knew a lot about because he was sleeping with so many of them, according to his poetry.

So. In my literature survey class (which is pretty much a Dead White Guy class, by its very nature), we read a bunch of this stuff, and then, in an attempt to have a bit of balance because it does get a bit tiresome for we womenfolk to inhabit this historical pre-feminist space, we read Aemilia Lanyer’s poem, which has the inflamatory title “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women”.

Well. Apparently, according to one male student, this poem should not have been written. Lanyer should shut the hell up, because HOW DARE SHE criticize men. Men who have done nothing to warrant such criticism, especially not make sure women have no right to vote or own property, and who have only written HUNDREDS of anti-feminist works criticizing women both individually and as an entire sex.

Now, lest you think that this student was just some kind of sexist jerk, let me assure you that he appended to his excoriation of Lanyer the comment: “N.B. Because of political concerns, let me assure you that I am not sexist”. What a relief. See, the problem with Lanyer was the finger-pointing. Criticizing men is not the way to achieve equality, ladies.

I responded to the student saying that while I appreciated his concern not to appear sexist, that if I judged him on his written opinion, rather than his assurances, that there really was no other conclusion I could come to. (In other words, “yeah, you are”.) Well, he conceded, the problem was, reading Lanyer in the context of the 20th century, in which (and this will be news to you, I am sure) there is no gender inequality, her criticisms of men have no value. Lanyer, he said, offended him, “because of all the reverse sexisms men have to endure these days”.

So that’s me told. Including female authors in proportions of roughly 1:4 in a survey course is a “reverse sexism”.

2. Disrespect as a way of controlling uppity females.

So, in my online course, there’s this student who is kind of a jerk. Unlike 90% of the students, he posts responses on the discussion forums that are shallow and thoughtless, and generally written in a kind of malformed text speak. He generally gets no marks for these, although I am not sure he is aware of that.

When he submits electronic assignments, he uses the “Comment” field on the submissions form to write such erudite comments as “asffrgarewyqss” and “this is stupid” and “ha ha the prof in this course is so lame”. After the second one, I wrote back “I CAN SEE THIS”, but apparently he never looks at his returned work.

I am not sure he has ever been to the in class portion of the class. Maybe once? Anyway, he turned up last class with a friend who I didn’t recognize either, and proceeded to talk through the start of the first student’s presentation. Now, talking over presentations is something I have no tolerance for, because I know those poor dumbasses are shaking with nerves as it is, and while I am inured to rudeness, it can make some presenters really fall apart.

So I got up (they were at the back of the room and I still heard them, which gives you an idea of the volume of the talking), and went and told them to get the fuck out.

They did not leave until I had asked 3 more times, stopping the presenter while they left the room. After they were out the door, another student asked “Are they even in this class?” so I think general opinion was on the side of the booting.

So it turns out that the kind of rude guy was one of these two students (which one, I have no idea, and the other one is silent, so maybe he ISN’T even in my class) emailed me to complain about how my kicking him out made him “loose” participation marks, “even tho I did’nt do anything wrong”. Note the lack of apology.

I replied pointing out what I thought he had done wrong, and also pointing out that he had the opportunity to participate in the online portion of the activity.

His response was a lengthy explanation that included the points, “that chick hadn’t even started her presentation and she was talking about Harry Potter, which is stupid,” the inappropriate comment was meant for jokes, because he was not aware I could see them, and he was planning to drop the class, and that I have an grudge against him now.

It was a virtuoso piece of rudeness, containing as it did, disrespect for me, the class, my lack of humour, my perceived pettiness, and the stupidity of all my endeavours. Of course the thing that stung the most was that he was PLANNING to drop the class, but DIDN’T.

Now, if you are a chap reading this, you may say, well, okay, granted this student is disrespectful, but his disrespect isn’t obviously about gender. While this may be true, on the surface, it is also the case that this is a male student making his contempt amply clear, and that female profs, if you ask them, experience this kind of contempt with a lot more frequency than male profs.