April 11, 2012

How about “No”? Is “no” good for you?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:23 am by profart

I had a student request that I provide access to the final exam for an online class early. No emergency. They just wanted to take it early so they won’t have to take three exams in the same week. Now, remember that students have a full week to take their final exam. In traditional classes, you might even have to take three exams on the same day. So the answer is no. Unless you have an emergency and need to make arrangements around extenuating circumstances, the syllabus clearly states when the final exam is available. It is available during exam week. That is why is it called “exam week”– because that is the week when you may take the exam

So I emailed back with my polite but firm no:

The final exam is available only during exam week. You have the whole week to complete it, so you are welcome to complete it at the beginning or end as you please, but it is only available during exam week.

This was apparently not clear enough. I received an email that demanded to know why I would not permit students to take an exam early. 

Hint to the clueless: when a professor says no, it means no, and the discussion is over. Writing back demanding explanations of a standing policy, especially one made clear in the syllabus and email, is rude and childish. No matter how you put it, you are whining like a toddler asking for mom to buy him a toy in the checkout line. In fact, Richard Scarry had a term for this kind of behavior: the Driving People Crazy Pest. “When their parents tell them they can’t do something, these pests just keep pestering and saying, ‘Why? … Why can’t I?’ over and over again.” (Richard Scarry’s Please and Thank You Book, c.1973). 

So I sent back a clear, if slightly terse, reply that the answer was no, and if he needed further discussion, he should consult academic advising. My intent was to imply that perhaps he needed to learn a little more about being a college student, and how to not be a Driving People Crazy Pest to a professor. But oh, no, this wasn’t good enough.  Back the student emails again, claiming “confusion”- should he ask permission of academic advising? 


What has happened in the world when grown people do not understand the concept that no means no, and the person saying no has no obligation to explain their stated policies?


But I already know how this will play out. I will get a nasty comment about how I am rude and nasty and not flexible with students in my student evals. I will probably get reamed out by my department chair, and maybe even the dean. As an adjunct, I risk losing my job, because this student has no concept of professionalism and propriety, and is acting like a spoiled brat, instead of learning to respect the policies they agreed to when they continued in the course, putting on their big-kid pants, and getting their act together to take their exams during the designated exam week. 


Seriously, student- you have a whole week. You are in college. Leave the whining to the preschoolers. 






  1. Terry said,

    I just found your blog tonight and had to share one of my adjunct experiences.

    I was reviewed by a full-time peer who wrote on my evaluation that some students complained that I quiz them on chapters before we go over the material in class. Yes I do.

    The prelecture quizzes are open book, online quizzes. They can take them TWICE. I require the quizzes to encourage students to read the material before we discuss it in class so I am not looking out into a sea of clueless faces (and for other reasons I will not go into now). My performance evaluation had a “Needs Improvement” mark for the way that I access students because of this complaint. I often require prelecture quizzes in my courses and have never had an issue come up before last semester. Of course some students complain. However, *some* students complain about every assignment, quiz, or exam that I require. When did we start letting the students run our course structure? And what has happened to academic freedom?

  2. Mandy said,

    Just don’t give in…seriously…people need to learn the word “no.”

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