Anecdotes of Eccentricities: MEDP 292, FALL

Grade Distribution, MEDP 292 – AKA Basic Reporing – Fall, 2007:
A’s (2)
A- (1)
B+ (2)
B- (3)
F (3)
IN (1)
WU (1)

This class requires out-of-class interviews for articles that must be submitted for publication in the WORD at Its publishing imperative causes course requirements and demands and expectations to be higher than the other MEDP 292 classes. Students who earned Bs in MEDP 292 have said that this class required more effort than many of their other classes, but not appreciably more, just more than students were accustomed to doing. It has, however, helped many students to earn internships and jobs at some of the best news media in the country.

I’ve taught full time at Rutgers U., News Brunswick campus, where I first began requiring students to submit articles for publication to the student daily newspaper, The Targum. I wanted to do the same when I was teaching part-time at LIU-Brooklyn but it’s student newspaper wasn’t publishing then. At Hunter, I have had more exceptional and outstanding students than at the other schools, and started the WORD because the Hunter student-run news media wasn’t up to the task when I started teaching at Hunter (though I’ve been told more than once in the last year that things had changed at the student-run news publication called The Envoy). I believed that students who were serious about journalism careers need a portfolio of published and broadcast work, but eventually, at Hunter, I learned that requiring students to produce portfolios was an excellent way to teach journalism classes.

Nevertheless, MEDP 292 has been a source of dissonance for students, the ones whom I describe as 30-40P (and colleagues who should know better). When I first started requiring students to publish articles in the WORD at its earlier site, the WORD, I quickly noticed a strong demarcation between students who earnestly attempted to do the course work and those who didn’t. It was that simple. Students who could have gotten C’s under my earlier, not-required-to-publish classes were earning F’s.

Cutting to the chase for this past semester:
Two started the semester off being seriously late or missing class and flunking assignments (by missing deadlines or turning in poor work). Prognosis for them them was that they would turn out to be 30-40P students AKA ThirtyFortyP and that they would likely drop or flunk the class. That projection was way off, obviously.

There’s not much to say other than that one could have easily earned an A but was comfortable with the B+.

I realized after the registrar received my course grades that two students could have easily received C+ or less if I had been more scrupulous of their work. Tears quelled and queued up more than once during the semester for one upset about rewriting assignments, and there was the accompanying whining aloud about trying to do the assignments (and the whiney supplicating was insincere [as it usually is]). Whiney-ness, however, has been known to unnerve an instructor’s pedagogical resolve.

Another came to my office to whine about the workload – he was the self-appointed spokesman for others upset about the workload – and about the copyediting/critiquing of his work, saying on one occasion, and this is a real good paraphrase (quotation marks for effect), “My girlfriend thinks I’m a great writer, why don’t you”? He regarded the copyediting of his work, which required serious rewriting, as personal contempt of him. “The copyediting, critiquing,” I said (quotation marks for effect), “has nothing to do with you personally, it’s about the quality of the work that you turn in.” He came to office because of an email I sent to 292 students that semester about whining in class. It was much better, I said in the email, if students talked to the professor before or after class – and that they could also schedule an appointment – if they had concerns that had nothing to do with the class assignment. He, enterprising student that he considered himself, wanted to complain about the work load. I was willing to listen but not comply with his wish for me to reduce the course load.

Later, when he stated aloud in class that students writing about me on either loved me or hated me, I suspected a game was in play. Sure enough, in a subsequent class, he made a reference to me being a jerk. I told him that his comment was insulting. “That’s because I luv’ ya’,” he replied.

My acerbic rejoinder in class, timed for the maximum effect but tempered nevertheless, caused him to wince in embarrassment. I won’t disclose it nor the nature of it here because I probably will need it later (but I didn’t show him any luv).

The remaining student getting a B-minus, who regarded himself as a “creative” writer, had an eccentric news writing style, and because he botched early assignments, I overlooked his talent. But I caught up with it later in the semester, I’m happy to say, though I wish I had been more aware much earlier in the course. However, botching assignments – missing deadlines or ignoring class guidelines – can throw off an instructor’s perception.

One absolutely refused to follow guidelines, no matter my constant reminders and pointed but soft criticisms, oral and written. He wanted a C for doing F work (and could have easily got a B). The F made him wail.

The second expected special consideration even though he wasn’t turning in assignments and was ignoring course requirements and doing really sloppy work. His job (he said he had three), his family demands, the full course load he was taking as well as his political commitments (early in the semester he said he worked for an elected official in the Bronx and then later he said he was a community leader) should have been, he wrote in a long email after I told him in him office that he couldn’t pass the class, factored into some kind of passing grade. In class he openly engaged in nefarious academic conning, that was, for example, saying aloud that he was being denied special treatment that he said other students were receiving. I ignored the deceit and told him that he could appeal his final grade if he felt he had been treated unfairly. He still had the opportunity to earn a passing grade at that particular moment in the semester but chose to continue his con.

I plan to publish his long email letter protesting his F – I want to deconstruct it because of the benefits and insights that might become available to others reading this essay – but not on this site.

The following says all there could be said about the third: She missed some classes, and I emailed her that I had left two graded and edited assignments on my office door for her. She scribbled a message on the envelope containing the assignments – “this sucks.” Her communiqué meant to me that she was withdrawing from the course. Why else scribble the message on the envelope and leave the assignments?

When she later showed up for class – sans assignments – I teased, in so many words, (quotation marks for effect): “Someone wrote a insulting remark on the envelope I left for you on my door. I know it wasn’t you [I smiled deceitfully].” Her sheepish grin was a sufficient response. She picked up the assignments on the door but eventually stopped attending class and ignored emails with suggestions for her to salvage the course.

So much for this semester.

Sometime soon, I want to publish a review of spring semester 2008:


My thematic focus will be on the student who got the A+ and the student who got the D and the student who got the F. The D and F students had the talent for A, that’s for sure, but they chose the 30-40P AKA ThirtyFortyP path.

Gregg Morris

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.