Whiteboard Confessional

these professors’ tales of students gone wrong can help you do it right in college

Tom Giffey, design by Kaitlyn Bryan

So as you can see right here, I'm not buying your crap excuses.
"So as you can see right here, I'm not buying your crap excuses."

Students aren’t the only ones on campus who sometimes feel the need to anonymously vent. Professors have complaints, too, and they often involve students who aren’t willing to put in the work necessary to succeed but who expect stellar grades anyway. The kind who don’t come to classes (or sleep through them) and are surprised when they flunk their exams. The kind who blow off writing papers (or worse, plagiarize them) and them come begging for help at the 11th hour. In short, they’re the kind of students you definitely don’t want to be. Consider these anecdotes – compiled from confidential confessions by Chippewa Valley profs – as cautionary tales for your college years. Even if you’re not particularly studious, it would be best to studiously avoid aggravating the men and women who stand between you and getting a diploma.

Rule No. 1: Don’t Cheat

Face it, winners never cheat, and cheaters never win. OK, except for Lance Armstrong. And all those baseball players. But, hey, they eventually got caught, and chances are you will, too. And when you get caught cheating in college, the consequences are much worse than a tearful interview with Oprah.

Professor F says: If you’re trying to plagiarize and/or re-use a paper, step one is to update the Web references on your work cited page so it doesn’t say things like “accessed May 20, 2006.” Come on people – seriously? Either you started writing this paper in middle school, just in case you ever needed it for an econ class, or you have a DeLorean time machine. Which, exactly, are you asking me to believe?

Professor T says: If you are copying an exam from the person sitting next to you, your professor will probably notice, particularly if the exam is submitted online and your last names are “Andersen” and “Anderson.”

Rule No. 2: Don’t Make Excuses

You’re an adult now, which means it’s time to take responsibility for your own actions – or inactions. In other words, if you didn’t do the work, be honest about it. Lame excuses are for elementary school.

Professor H says: Do not turn in a fictional story one week and then try to play it off as a real-life excuse for missing class the next.

Do not tell me you completed your final paper but “dropped” it while walking to class. That’s worse than saying your dog ate it. If a dog eats your paper, I can’t force you to walk across the quad and retrieve it. If you “drop” it, that’s exactly what I’m going to make you do. And you’re going to look weird scouring the grounds for a paper you never wrote to begin with.

Rule No. 3: Make an Effort

If you made it all the way to college, you’ve obviously got some brains. But that doesn’t mean you can coast now. Higher education requires a higher level of effort, and your professors can tell whether you’re the kind of student who’s willing to work for an A.

Professor H says: Do not confuse the word “Wikipedia” for a Works Cited page.

When it comes to page counts, we will not be fooled by large fonts and triple spacing. (I’d recommend fiddling with the margins, which we sometimes miss.)

Do not turn a paper in a week late, riddled with errors, wildly off-topic, and then complain about receiving a C. This work is not average. It is not even work. It’s just you pretending to work between text messages.

“But I actually sort of tried this time” does not ensure a passing grade.

Rule No. 4: Show Some Respect

Despite what Mom says, you are not the center of the universe. In fact, being an adult means realizing other people – i.e., your professors and fellow students – are important, too, and that their time and attention deserves respect.

Professor T says: My first semester teaching, I was taking roll and asked where John was. Someone muttered something about the day before was his 21st birthday and there was a collective “ohhhh” throughout the class. Twenty minutes later (in a 50-minute class period), John was standing in my doorway. He looked at me, blinked, and said, “I MADE it!” After class, he told me that my class was his favorite and he didn’t want to disappoint me. While I was flattered, it probably would have been better for everyone if he stayed home. Once you get to college, it’s OK to miss class if it’s warranted: illness (self-induced or not), breaking up with a significant other, etc. Be an adult and let people know you won’t make it to class. (Note: Don’t abuse this right because after one or two times, you won’t have my sympathy anymore.)

Professor H says: Do not fall asleep in class, wake to your ringing cell phone, answer your ringing cell phone, enjoy a lighthearted conversation with the person who caused your cell phone to ring, and then fall back asleep. If this occurs, at least have the courtesy to silence your cell phone prior to falling back asleep. This will ensure that you aren’t disturbed again.