Friday, December 18, 2009

News From University Land: "I really don't want to lose bright futures" or The Beg for Mercy Option

You may have noticed that the promised posts based on the paper detritus of my teaching career, as comemorated by a half-assed, half-hearted "portfolio," have not happened.

Oh, I love the implications of the passive voice!

I think of it as VictimSpeak, in English, at least. A former friend likes to describe her mistakes as things that "happen," that "occur," that "take place." She has issues, it seems, with agency.

Anyway, to fill the void, right on cue, my professorial brother-unit sent a few of his end-of-semester frantic emails from failing students. I am tempted to opine that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, though, I have to say that this particular Brother Unit, known affectionately as Grader Boob, probably sent me these emails in an effort to appease my wrath.

Whatever could he have done, this peace-loving, kind-hearted individual?

HE MOVED! Earlier in the day, his Christmas card and gift arrived. I happened to glance at the address label and almost fell on the floor. My most beloved brother had moved from the apartment serving as his home for nearly all of the past 30 years! And failed to tell me!

To add bloody insult to cavernous injury? He wayyyyyy overspent on the gift, forgetting that I *know* both how hard he works and how little he makes as a public university prof being strung along with piecemeal employment. Oh, and in Southern Climes, too, where erudition is seen for what it is: NotFootball.

Loving him intensely, as I do, I fired off a caring electronic letter that might have gone like this:

turn the volume UP, because i am yelling at you:
ONE: when the hell did you move?
next time you move, son, you TELL moi...
i ain't letting loose of you. not for one day, a few weeks, nuh-uh!
TWO: you overspent, grader boob, and fred and i are onto you now like white on rice. (don't you hate that expression?)
the right and gracious thing to do would be to simply thank you for the amazon gift certificate.

your angry sister

Perhaps you have noticed a tendency on my part to overreact from time to time. What can I say? My former friend might announce that she hates when that happens to her.

Anyway, now you are up-to-date, and so I present you with Grader Boob's Response:

Who knew Christmas could make people so passionate?
Let me, all while chuckling, deal with some of your points.
Physically, I've not moved. The county decided to rename the connection to my apartment, so although the main drag is still 20 yards away, they decided to confuse everything by changing my address to the apartment access road. So, HAH, I didn't move!
As for overspending, turnabout is fair play; you really overspent on my birthday--nobody sends $75 gift cards. Bdays are $5, maybe $10, max. And I thought you were college-educated!
Hope you enjoyed the card. (And if you really feel I overspent, give $50 from yours to Fred: For goodness sakes, it's his birthday!)
[Indeed, Fred was a Xmas baby!]
Much love to the angry denizens of Marlinspike Hall, deep, deep in the Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).
Grader Boob

PS. I'm enclosing a couple of student excuses.

#1: Professor I am really truly sorry these papers are so late i truly hope you can still accept them.On sunday I wen and my computer crashed according to my uncle it has a trojan
virus on Wednesday when I wanted to make it to class to explain the reason for them being so late my car broke down and is now in the shop not to mention I have come down with the H1N1 virus and have been feeling extremely ill I was able to finally come out of the the house
to get to a computer where I could send you these essays I promise this was not a purposeful chain of actions but more precisely one in which I couldnt do anything about.Im hoping you can accept these because in my best efforts I have re-written my papers and got them to you as quickly as possible.Sorry about all of this and I appreciate all you have done especially how wonderful of a professor I have learned a lot and am now enrolled in the Religious Studies department.
[you've gotta admit that this final touch of enrolling in religious studies is close to Begging Genius; on the basis of that, alone, i'd have caved.]

#2: Professor, This e-mail is for one purpose and one purpose only. I am going to beg you and use sound logic to convince you to take away the 3% reduction for being absent to allow me to get a C- in the class instead of a D+. I did not use my beg for mercy on any other assignments of this semester. Also, unlike the other ways in which people begged for mercy my begging doesn't require you to go back and re-grade things you have already graded. It requires much less work than that and it's not so terribly boring. Also you could consider all the time and thought I put into drafting this email as a class periods worth of work so it would be like I made it up just like your other beg for mercy cases would have been. I am metaphorically on my hands and knees here Prof. I really don't want to lose bright futures. Obviously I could have avoided being in this situation by getting my act together on the journals and oral presentation, but without doing those I still think I put in a C level for Comp 1. Please consider taking away the absence that is going to kill me. Tommy
Response from Prof to Tommy:
Hi Thomas--
After reading the first line, I stopped.
Your grade is in the numbers, all of which you earned by submitting work and by skipping
classes--even after you were told that you could not afford any more absences.
Professor Grader Boob
Tommy, who ought to stop, chooses not to:
I did not miss class from sleeping in or from being a lazy college student. I'm not
going to roll out with a whole sob story but I assure you I knew what I could afford but
I made certain choices and in the end I know I am accountable for those, but I'm still
going to try to make it to a C so that I don't get so screwed over. I made it all the
days I could, and now is my last stitch effort to encourage you to cut me a break and
accept absences as my area requiring mercy.

#3 is described as "a brief email exchange between a varsity football player
and myself":

Hey mr. I am willing to do anything to to get a c in ur class cause I will not be
ineligible and won't be able to play football and I will lose my scholarship is there any
way you can help out thank.

Hi Jamar--
Unfortunately, since you didn't turn in much work this semester, you haven't earned a
passing grade.
Your average, according to Blackboard, is an 11, so you're actually 40 points below an F.
Your grade is in the math.
Professor Grader Boob

Ok well the work I did turn into u gave me zero on it .

My dear sweet brother ends this epistolary masterpiece this way:

It just sort of makes you want to cry...or laugh.
G Boob

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Subject: Re: you're gonna get it...
Date: Sat, 19 Dec 2009 07:41:26 -0500

ummm {} why, hello!

hey, was someone raising a ruckus 'round here? silly someone.

that's totally retarded - that you should go from the perfectly respectable
"North x Avenue" to the sissified "PansyAss Drive." let's say,
for the Sake of Argument, that what you say is... true. 'splain me this:
how did you end up in apartment ONE HUNDRED AND TWO, huh? huh?
[versus his prior apartment designation of A-1, a great identifier, like the steak sauce]

it's seven a.m. here in marlinspike hall, deep, deep in the tête de hergé and so on and so forth. the cats have long been fed, dobby is requesting butt-whacking (please don't turn us in to the SPCA), and i am watching "bastard out of carolina." all the makings of a fine, fine day.

ummm. thank you very kindly much for the amazon gift certificate, unbelievably extravagant and irritating though it might be.

love the student begging! what's up with the "beg for mercy" -- tommy's
invention or some new pedagogical trickery? you can tell moi. remember, i used to bean them in the head with chalk.

smooches galore, and remember you can always swing by here for a few hours
or a month. love, the retired educator, your sis

The change in apartment # has been the oddest part of the whole deal.
They've split what used to be building A into four #s--377, 378, 379, 380--with each of these components having the same #ed apartments--101, 102, 103, 104.
It makes no sense to me, seeming to be even more confusing than the prior set up, which, of course, had Building A nowhere near Building B.
The Beg for Mercy option is on the course schedule as Beg for Mercy Day, a day on which they're supposed to come to class and present a viable argument asking me to reread revised material. I never tell them that the revision option is almost always allowed; I want them to convince me that their next effort will be worth my time.
As for your kind invite, I'm amenable to sometime during the spring break, so I'll let you know once the semester gets a-going. During holiday time, I'd just as soon spend the time catching up on lost sleep, so I'm not looking forward to any travelling.
Well, off to grade some online work.
Mucho amore to the Cat Clan.
Grader Boob

*the p0rtrait is of françois rabelais, humanist and poofy hat designee

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