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 "I just wanted to tell you that I will be turning in my term paper next Tuesday because there is no way I can turn it in today. You have until the end of next week to turn in our grades, so this should give you enough time to grade it without delaying my graduation."

A classic from the
Chronicle of Higher Education Forum

Do I have to know this? You do not have to learn anything you do not want to learn.

Do I have to attend labs/class? Again, you do not have do anything you do not want to do.

Do I have to buy the book(s)? One more time, you do not have to do anything you do not want to do. Really, the moment you pay your tuition your obligations end, and ours begin, or rather, continue. Yes, "ours", not "my" responsibility.  The waiter might be the one you see, but really the quality of your dining experience depends on the chef and the management a lot more than on the quality of your waiter. Just like when eating, if you want to get anything for the money you spend, you actually have to do a little work, you have to digest it, but you do not HAVE to do anything if you do not want to.

Will be this on the exam? Maybe; I have not written it yet.

I missed class, did you say anything important? Probably. If I did not, you should go to the registrar and demand your tuition money back (This is the kind of question I had come to expect from first year undergrads, but recently I go it form a Ph.D. student in a graduate course!).

Could you tell me what I missed? Having individual instruction upon request would drive your tuition and your instructor's salary to unprecedented levels. That would be great... for me!

What is your policy on cheating?   I used to have a policy of "zero tolerance", but I learned that administrators are more pragmatic. A department chair once excused students by saying they only cheat as a last resort, only when they are really worried about failing. Indeed, a strong character is only evident if it remains true even in the face of challenges (the story of Job), but a weak character can surface among the most privileged (the story of Bernie Madoff). On another occasion, despite clear evidence and an open admission by the student, I was told that it was up to me to prevent further cheating, and they were not willing to do anything about the incident. Unfortunately, taking a hard stance on cheating just does not benefit the instructor, or the university. Why are you asking, anyway?!!

I took this course before; I am just taking it again to increase my GPA.- There is your first mistake! The only reason you should take ANY course is to learn about the subject.

I have other things to do; it is not as if I am getting paid for this.- Well, you are paying for it, and if you want to get your money’s worth you have to put in the required work. This holds whether "your money's worth" to you is actually learning or simply getting a good grade! In any case, if you do not put in the required work you might as well be burning your money. So, in essence it is as if you ARE getting paid. This IS your job. Do it to the best of your abilities!

I did not take the pre-requisite(s)/am not a science student.- Unfortunately, you are competing with people who did and are.

What will be the exam's format? Likely written. This is all I know until the eve of the exam.

Other professors do things differently.- That is exactly why you have different professors: to expose you to different ways of thinking and viewing the world. That is the beauty of diversity!

I paid a lot of tuition!  Yes, education is too expensive; you should become politically active and try to do something about it. When I was a student I was actively involved in lobbying the government to decrease tuition , or make it completely free. . I still think it is an important issue, but unfortunately, I am not as politically active. However, let me know what I can do to help your cause; I would be happy to help in any way I can. I actually think that a post-secondary education should be completely free, but far more selective. However, you have to remember that then you would have to place limits on how many people could get a post-secondary education, or otherwise, EVERYONE would get the same degree you have and your degree would become worthless. Even if tuition were to drop to more reasonable levels, you must still understand that you are not buying a degree. This attitude of entitlement is extremely offensive to anyone who earned his/her degrees the old-fashioned way: by working for them. You are just buying the opportunity learn something hopefully interesting and potentially useful. If you do, you will probably get that degree. There are lots of online and private "universities" that will essentially sell you a degree, if that is what you really want. They are usually a lot more expensive!

Every time I take a science course my core beliefs are challenged!.- That is EXACTLY what you pay for! The day you sit in class and are not exposed to anything new, it is time to get your tuition money back.

I do well in every other course! Foolish me, wasting time and energy constructing, conducting and grading exams. Maybe all I should do is ask you for your transcript and assign you in this course your cumulative average so far! What to do in the first year? Use you high school average! what to do for your high school grades? use junior school! and so on all the way back to kindergarten. Imagine the pressure on that first test you take when you are 5 years old!!!  Every course is different. You would not want to fail a course just because you failed other courses, would you? It works both ways.

I did well in the previous exam but you failed me on this one! Make a choice and stick to it. Unless you adhere to hypocrisy as a life philosophy, you cannot claim credit for your success by assign blame for your failures.

You failed me because you do not like me! In many cases, particularly with large classes, your professor does not even know you, much less have any feelings towards you, just like your bus driver on your way home. After a while he/she might recognize you, but still have no feelings towards you, good or bad. After a while, you might have done something to be noticed and liked (e.g., politely saying hello while running into each other in the hallway), disliked (e.g., being rude and disrespectful), or appreciated (e.g. asked questions and participated in class), but the PROFESSor is... well, a PROFESSional, and is getting paid to dismiss those feelings when assessing your performance, just like any other PROFESSional dealing with you.

I do not really care about the subject; I just want a good grade.- That is the equivalent of your professor saying that he/she is doing this only for the money and does not really care whether you learn anything. Even if that is true, why would you actually choose to say it out loud?

I am just here because my Ph.D. supervisor told me to take the course.-  At some point in your life you must learn to say no to your superiors. It is YOUR Ph.D., and you should take responsibility for it.

I will not be there for the final exam because I will be out of the country; I already bought plane tickets that I cannot change. Can I take the exam on another day?.-  Would it not be a wonderful world if "buying plane tickets" were a legitimate excuse to get out of our obligations and responsibilities! The airline industry would flourish! If you have a legitimate excuse (and there are few legitimate excuses to miss a final exam), then provide it, with documentation. Otherwise, no, plane tickets or not.

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