It’s Been One of Those Semesters

What’s left to say? The consequences of using a cell phone in my classes were clearly stated this semester. Students were advised. Enlightened. Warned. Caveats to the left, caveats to the right, caveats right down the center of the class in Room 504 Hunter North, where Journalism Ethics and News Responsibility was taught. Started with about 35 students, eventually whittled to 24.

All advisements and enlightenments and warnings and caveats delivered with deliberation: F for the class after an initial warning. Yet, when it came time for the big F, I chickened out and, instead, took off one grade of the final grade. Two students this semester.

Both, of course, provided cheesy excuses, like the one below: 6:48-6:50? Not my recollection. More like smirking and gee whiz and all shucks. A mid 20s student.

Date: Fri Dec 31 13:31:38 EST 2010
From: [Student Name, email blocked out]

Dear Professor,
I find this to be completely disheartening. I worked hard in your class, I did what you asked for. I was on my cellphone once, at 6:48 when the class ended at 6:50, forwarding out a work email. I take late classes because I have a job, that has deadlines. I have a family also, with external factors that are private and that you as a person should understand. I am not here to give you some sob story, I took the fact that you called me out in front of a dozen students with integrity. I didn’t make up some illegitimate excuse as to why I had it out, I apologized. I didn’t dare to take out my cellphone in your classroom again, I was cautious about that. I studied hard for several days for your final, trying to turn around my other grades (one of which was an assignment that I did poorly on that you called the first draft, which made me assume that in the case that I didn’t quite understand your assignment I would have the chance to redo it). And an entire grade was taken off for a cellphone incident, for which I apologized for and made sure never happened again? I have been a student for 18+ years, I have yet to ever have a problem with a professor. I can’t believe that I got so severally penalized for such an incident, especially when you saw how hard I worked in your class after that. I am not asking for your sympathy just your understanding. I really wish that you could reconsider your decision.

So: She obviously imagined at the time of the incident that I wasn’t going through what had been announced about her in front of the class. She was dishonest in her plea (above). Left out that she had been warned before. That she had borne witnesses to others being warned. Nevertheless, she didn’t cry. Didn’t shout epithets. Didn’t curse.


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