Friday, May 09, 2014

An open letter to panicked calculus students, after their final exam.

[to put this in context, i had a more vicious version of this letter in mind .. but after some contemplation, it seemed wiser to be diplomatic.]

Dear Student,

This is to confirm receipt of your email which was sent shortly after the final exam of our course. I realise that Finals Week is a stressful time for you, as well as every other student at our University.

Being that our final exam ended very recently, the final exams for our course are not fully graded. In fact, they are not even halfway done. Fair grading, especially that which rewards students for their understanding of the concepts treated in this course, necessarily warrants care, and therefore, adequate time.

That said, barring a rather poor semester-long effort on your part (in which case your grade will be already close to failure) I have no idea yet what your final grade is. Based on the scores preceding this final exam, it looks likely that grades for this course will be put on a curve, and it will not be clear how the distribution will look until the final exams are fully graded.

That said, it is futile for you to ask about your final grade. Either be patient or stop asking because I, your instructor and grader, simply have no answer for you yet. In fact, your (and your fellow students's) sending me these sudden emails is causing a great annoyance to me; it even affects my focus on grading exams, which further delays any outcome you would like to know.

Keep in mind that if you are writing me now, then very likely other students are doing the same. All of you point to extenuating circumstances in your situation, many of which do not pertain to University guidelines for exceptions.

By the very definition, exceptions are rare. Please think twice before you consider your situation a truly rare one.

Regarding your inquiry into "extra credit" there is none available. If there were such a possibility, then it would have been properly announced on the course syllabus, as distributed on the first day of classes.

To offer you an additional opportunity now would be unfair to other students and therefore unethical of me; being that it is Finals Week and other students will likely have arranged their schedules to best prepare for their other exams or term papers, to offer everyone a chance for extra credit would be unreasonable.

In particular, I have reiterated the same consistent policy to other students in our course, earlier in the semester, and in light of this, they have chosen to withdraw from this course. So to offer you extra credit would be a disservice to those students who made the most reasonable choice with the options made available to them at the time.

You are asking something unfair and unethical. I will not grant this request.

I realise that you may be writing me not on your own rational consideration, but in the heat of panick or perhaps on the suggestion of your parents, your friends, or even your academic advisor. In that sense, it is possible that you initially did not want to send me your message in the first place.

That said, please understand my position in this scenario. The grade breakdown in the syllabus has been clear from the start. Barring exceptions given in the University guidelines, every student is graded in the same way. In particular, that means I grade every student based on his/her written work, and that alone.

So by writing this panicked email to me, you have an answer that you could have deduced on your own. Moreover, the time I spent writing this reply could have been more efficiently spent on actual grading of exams. This means that you have delayed the answer to your question; worse yet, it means that you have delayed a definitive answer to those other students who have the same question; in particular, you have just inconvenienced your fellow classmates.

There has been no benefit to you by writing to me now. This has been a waste of your time and mine.

Your instructor.

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