Archive for February 8, 2022

By Christopher Harper

Although I know that colleges have been bending over backward to kowtow to students, I didn’t realize how far until recently.

In 27 years of teaching, I’ve never had a student officially challenge a grade. Until now.

A student, who was described as a “star” of the Department of Journalism at Temple, took my course in media law. She was a dreadful pain, consistently filing late assignments or asking for extensions.

By the end of the course, others followed suit, apparently driven by the less-than-stringent rules offered during the pandemic. In fact, I allowed for up to a grade of “C-” for assignments turned in within a week of the deadline.

By the end of the semester, I’d had my fill. Two days before the final assignment was due, I announced that no late submissions would be accepted.

The “star” was the only one who sent the material in late. I gave her a zero, earning her a “C” in the class.

In an email, I explained to her, “Over the course of the semester, you have asked for exemptions, extensions, and preferred treatment. On Saturday, I informed the class that no extensions would be granted. Deadlines in journalism are critical to its endeavor. It’s a truism you should learn. I will not accept your submission because it is past the deadline. It may be the most important lesson you learn from this class.”

Instead, the student learned how to work the system. She appealed the grade because I had changed the “contract” of the syllabus by eliminating late submissions.

Even more amazing is that my department chair ruled in the student’s favor.

“[T]he last-minute deadline change, in this case, goes against what is spelled out in the syllabus, which is a contract between a professor and students,” the chair wrote.

I didn’t change the deadline. I simply refused to accept late submissions.

What’s more important here is that a syllabus has somehow become a formal contract, which is unlikely to hold up in any court. Moreover, students have become consumers and teachers are products.

College is no longer a learning experience but akin to buying a car.

Thankfully, my time as a journalism professor comes to an end in June. If colleges are aiding and abetting such students and hiring administrators as consumer advocates, journalism and other professions will get even worse. Now that’s downright scary!

Mrs. Teasdale: Your excellency I thought you left

Chicolini [disguised as Firefly]: Oh no I no leave

Mrs. Teasdale: But I saw you with my own eyes

Chicolini: Who are you going to believe me or your own eyes?

Duck Soup 1933

As I think about it while the Marx Brothers line is apt this clip from: A guide for the married man (1967) might be more proper.

We’re at a point where people are going to have to decide if they are going to buy Joey Bishop’s line or not.