Sunday, March 25, 2007

That Student Who Wanted Me to Bend the Rules

I was pleased to see that the comments supported my gut instinct with the student who wanted to drop my class after the deadline. When I enforce the rules, I sometimes feel like I'm being an unreasonable heartless bitch. I sometimes doubt myself and wonder if I should ignore the rules in order to be nice. So I wrote back to my student and told him that what he asked for was impossible and that I was going to follow the standard procedure; I also told him that he could seek a retroactive withdrawal from the Office of Academic Appeals if that was what he wanted to do. (We have a very elaborate appeals structure for everything from grades to scholarship eligibility; one grumpy professor can not ruin your life for no good reason.)

He wrote back, angry. He admits that he had no shot of passing the course, which is why he wants to drop it now, in the ninth week of the semester. (Our rules clearly state that only passing students may withdraw after the 6th week; failing students must withdraw by week six. These deadlines are stated on both my syllabus and the course calendar.) He doesn't see why I can't bend the rules for him. He asked for more information about the retroactive withdrawal. He also mentioned that this was his second time taking this course and that he has attempted math the past four semesters and has not succeeded yet.

I wrote back, explaining that the Office of Academic Appeals will allow students to drop after the deadline if the student has a good reason; I gave him the contact information for their office. I didn't address the issue of why I was following the rules. No matter what I said was probably going to make him angry. I also suggested that he should ask his advisor if he can transfer in a math course from the community college. If he fails a course at community college, the F won't count against his GPA here. Additionally, I have a sneaky reason: the community college is allowed to enforce placement test results and to mandate that underprepared students enroll in remedial courses before attempting college-level math. If he's really that unsuccessful at math, he probably needs some remedial coursework.