Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Okay, so fuck Margery Kempe (no offense, girl. I love ya. I'm just not gonna read ya tonight...)

Here's what's been going on at Chez Medieval Woman and Chez Medieval Woman's Office. I have had a very problematic student to deal with - it's now happily over and he's gone. But, god - was that sucker hard to eject from my class!

He's missed 8 classes (the equivalent of 4 weeks) and I told him that I'd forgive the first absence because I thought he hadn't enrolled for the course on the first day (turns out he had, so that was a freebie). After absence 5, I informed him that he could have only one more without getting dropped from the class (his participation grade was already in the can, but there's a point at which I stop deducting from the participation grade and just drop them from the course. At this point in the semester, it would show up on his record as an F). So, on Monday (when I handed back exams) I notced he wasn't there (because he has carrot read hair, he's HUGE, and he didn't pick up his exam). Get back to the office and notice that this is his 7th absence, so sayonara little dude! Then I look at the sign up sheet for that day and I realize that someone has signed his name to it, but it's in a totally different handwriting - and I have all my past sign up sheets (for just such an occasion) to compare it to. So, I begin to cuss up a blue hellcloud and send him a tart email saying that:

1) He's out on his keister for absences
2) He (and his accomplice) are in violation of the academic integrity policy.

What followed was several days of progressively more and more frantic and desperate (even subtlely threatening depending on how you read them) emails from said schmuck. There was the usual rhetoric of:

PLEADING: "But I honestly thought that this was only my 6th absence (as if even that's okay)! I misread your email!"
Answer*: "Not my problem. It was very clear and thorough - I left no room for doubt or interpretation on your part. I have a Ph.D. in English. I'm pretty good at this. Here, let me forward to it you again..."

INCREDULITY: "I know I've missed a few classes, but 7?? Could I have missed a sign up sheet or something??"
Answer: "I really don't know if you missed one or not. And it's not my problem. It's called responsibility. Look it up."

GUILT: "I really need this class. I was picking up a check from my mom so I could pay my tuition. If I don't take this course, I won't be able to stay in school and I won't have any health insurance!"
Answer: "Still not my problem. Our discussion is over. You can contact the Dean and meet with her if you like."

THREATENING(?): "I will be talking to the Dean and I have a few things to say to her. I'm not the kind of person who will just sit by and let something like this happen to me without doing something active about it."
Answer (composed but not sent): "Bite me, Jackass."

*All answers represent a combination of what was sent and what was felt when composing. My actual responses contained slightly less snark than demonstrated here. But not much...

You'll notice that in all of this correspondence he never answered the whole question of who signed his name to the attendance sheet. He admitted being absent, but glossed over that. In one of my answers to him (I think it was to INCREDULITY) I expressed my skepticism that he didn't know this was his 7th absence because it seemed to me that he did know this was critical and asked someone to sign his name thinking I wouldn't catch it. He wrote back protesting that he had no idea who had done it, it wasn't at his request, but he did have "friends" in the class who knew how important this semester was for him. I wrote back:
"It seems to me that your friends have a better sense of your absences than you do then, because they happened to sign you up on the exact day when your absence would have meant a failing grade. Why did they not intervene on your behalf earlier?"

Anyway, and so it goes.

I call the Dean of Students, tell her the story and that I'm dropping him. I tell her I don't buy his song and dance. She agrees and then pulls up his record and tells me that he was put on academic suspension last year at another school for the same thing and that there were some "alcohol-related aggressive incidents" that caused his expulsion.

Um. Yeah.

I'm not sure that she was supposed to tell me that, but I'm glad she did. He was writing to her and complaining about me (I have it in for him; he thinks I have it in for all men because I'm teaching a feminist class, yada yada...). But then he says that he's decided that he's still going to be attending class until we get this "sorted out" because he's not going to *allow* me to fail him. The Dean, of course, tells him that he can't attend class, he's no longer enrolled. She didn't seem to think he would be a problem for me (oh, yeah. And his mom called the Dean, too).

But I was feeling kind of uneasy. Well, really uneasy. Thoughts of Virginia Tech started dancing like big, scary, sugar plums in my head. He was just so pushy and always assuming that I would back down. And he kept referring to me as "Mrs. Medieval Woman," which drives me crazy. I was worried that he'd come to class and try to engage me in something face to face (he'd been asking when I'm in my office other than office hours because he had a class at that time but he still wanted to discuss this in person).

So, today I got one of my colleagues to walk me to class. She was my "muscle" and was there in case he was sitting in the classroom, I could tell him to leave and then call security if he acted badly.

But he wasn't and I haven't heard from him since! So, it's all resolved and I feel much better. I told my class that signing someone else's name to the sheet was a crime punishable by death and they were duly chastened. Eyes big as saucers. It was beautiful.

Sorry that was SUCH a long narrative! It's really been on my mind the past few days and I'm so glad it's all over.


Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Feh -- don't lose any sleep over this. If every student I had who acted like this went V-Tech, I'd be sitting in the midst of a smoldering ruin.

Not only isn't this student special -- he's so cliche that he's basically an archetype! Just ignore him and enjoy Margery Kempe (if that's possible).

Hilaire said...

I'm sorry that was so stressful - ridiculous behaviour!

On the point of complaining about you because you teach a feminist class: It is really rich the way men decide that those of us who teach feminist classes have it in for them. I've had several men tell me over the last couple of years, when they learn I teach feminist stuff, about the time they took a Women's Studies class at x, y, or z institution...amazingly enough the story is always the same: the instructor apparently explictly says "I hate men...if you stay in this class, you will be punished." Please. As if anyone would ever say that and still have a job. Or even bloody think it. I can't get over the level of paranoid delusion that gets cooked up around this. And, I have to admit that I and everyone I know who teaches in this area feels the opposite: *thrilled* when men take the courses.

squadratomagico said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
squadratomagico said...

You can drop kids from your classes? God, If only! Cherish this power!

What Now? said...

What a stressful situation; I'm glad that it's been resolved now. Good to have the dean on your side! My former school was so anxious for tuition dollars that having someone's mom or dad call the dean usually took care of the problem for the student -- anything to keep those tuition dollars coming in.

Fifi Bluestocking said...

I sympathize with you on this, MW, as I too have been dealing with a problem student this week. I was told I couldn't kick her out and although I tried hard to get her to consider dropping the course, she hasn't. Her behavior wasn't as bad as your dude's, though, and she has sworn to turn over a new leaf. Things seem to be going better so far so we shall see...

Profane said...

Obnoxious student. . .in my experience, however, an F at the end of the semester is far easier than the process of kicking the student out of the class.

I will be teaching my first course next semester which is cross listed with the Women's Studies minor. It will be interesting to see how my students react considering that I am occasionally sighted at a local bar eating chicken wings, drinking pints, and watching ESPN!


New Kid on the Hallway said...

Oh, ugh, how frustrating! I hate to sling around "entitled," but I love the entitlement of the student decided he's not going to "allow" you to fail him. And I do worry about someone going Va Tech on me, too - I know it's not likely, but I do think it's still worth keeping one eye open in situations like that.

But anyway, good riddance!!

Belle said...

So now you get a weekend free of harassment! Good for you. I have a sweet student who constantly arrives late if at all. He thinks that because I like him personally that he's not going to fail. Even though I've made it clear - in writing - that it's going to be curtains for his grade. As you said: not my problem.

So good for you. Now relax and enjoy it.

heu mihi said...

Ugh! Sounds like you handled this exactly right, though. Glad it worked out.

History Geek said...

I'm so sorry you had to deal with that! I'm glad he's out of your hair.

Margery Kempe is a very very special pony and I often wonder that if she lived today if she'd be writing self-insert fanfiction.

I am terrible fond of her though, which probably explains why I keep writing papers on her.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Oh, how awful! I had a student like this last year -- and he's back in my class this year. He's been much better, and has actually decided that he's going to be supportive of me -- he seems to have noticed I give crap grades to a lot of students, and wasn't singling him out. OTOH, he's the only student in campus memory to have started a huge fight (broken tables and dishes) -- just a week ago. It can be very frightening.

We don't have the option of dropping students, and I have several who have not been seen since week two. Lots of them are athletes who are trying to keep playing, and they can't if they aren't enrolled. They'll lose their eligibility next semester, but for the time being, they are still allowed to play.

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