Friday, April 23, 2010

A Warning for Next Semester's Syllabus

by J J Cohen
Years of teaching experience compel me to advise students who intend to enroll in this course that CLASSES TAUGHT BY JEFFREY J. COHEN MAY BE HARMFUL OR FATAL TO YOUR FAMILY AND/OR YOUR ELECTRONIC DEVICES.

A statistically significant number of lethal events have been observed to cluster around Professor Cohen's classes, especially as examinations and paper deadlines near. These nocuous events include but are in no way limited to the sudden demise of beloved grandparents (grandmothers are especially susceptible; multiple grannies have been known to perish as a result of taking Professor Cohen's courses) and the disappearance through theft or instantaneous combustion of computers, especially laptops. Other hazardous effects of the exams and papers in Professor Cohen's courses include sudden printer death  syndrome (SPDS); corruption of electronic files so that eloquent papers are rendered gibberish; vanishing of backup copies to alternate dimensions; relatives whose impending quietus made you flee town right before the midterm may make a sudden recovery, only to expire the night before the final; and other perverse turns of fate and reversals of fortune too numerous to list here.

Be forewarned that no responsibility for these terrible events can be taken by the course instructor. You enroll in this class at your own peril and risk.


Vellum said...

This reminds me of a course I took once where, on the first day, the instructor handed out a page entitled "Why This Course Isn't Fair". Alternatively, it could have been titled "I don't care what happens to your grandma, dog, computer or life, your work is still going to be due. If you're not comfortable with that, you may have issues in the real world, too."

Martin Foys said...

For a correlative study with specific data, please see here:

Paul Halsall said...

The guy is being an a**hole.

Students often have tough lives, and I once demanded a death certificate only to be presented with it.

I felt like s**t.

Beth said...

I told my students that they got three unexcused grandmothers per semester (blended families) and after that I needed documentation.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

I think it is OK to make light of such heavy things, as long as we don't make light in the face of real heaviness. That is to say: students often have tough lives, yes. Faculty also do (take it from a former department chair). One way of dealing with the pressures of these tough lives is through humor.

Of course, you could argue that this humor is at the expense of student suffering, or is mean-spirited. Maybe that is true? But then again my students read this blog, and comment here ... and I would never actually place that warning on a syllabus!

Vellum said...

I don't know, isn't all humour at the expense of someone's suffering? Who was is that said "If I prick my finger, that's a tragedy; if someone else falls down an open manhole cover, that's comedy." It's certainly an overstatement, and nobody (or so I hope) actually enjoys other people's losses, but I think the link between suffering and humour has a lot to do with how we cope, as a species.

Anyway the course I was talking about was photography, and the point was that if you were working for a magazine or a newspaper or whatever, and you had a deadline, it didn't matter if the Mayan gods had returned to end the world -- if the world was going to end after your deadline, you had to have those photos in. Though you'd probably get a raise if you subbed in photos of said Mayan gods.

Tom Elrod said...

Don't forget about the ink cartridge industry's pernicious habit of selling printer cartridges which only last for 15 weeks, thus rendering final papers unprintable.

Strangely, at schools on the quarter system, computer supply stores sell ink cartridges which only last for 10 weeks.

anna klosowska said...

In my experience it is the grandmother who suffers the most. However, one year I had a particularly unlucky student who killed off a few of her folks in quick succession, including her father. This coincidence seemed so tragic (especially in beginning French) that I asked for explanation, upon which she wrote that it wasn't really her father but her godfather -- but, she said, "he was like a father to me."

Karl Steel said...

Students often have tough lives, and I once demanded a death certificate only to be presented with it.
Another approach is to look up the student's family's address, if you're allowed to have access to such a thing.

Then send the family a sympathy card.

tenthmedieval said...

I had Prof. Halsall'a experience this year also, though thankfully it was the office that demanded the certificate not me. They still didn't tell me they'd had a note from the kid until after I'd queried his absence. Twice. I think he forgave me, but he'd have been within his rights not to. In the position I was, it wasn't worth the effort of not believing them; I didn't have the power to grant extensions and it wouldn't be me that told them they were off the course for not turning up.

If I were in such a position, however, Karl's approach has a definite appeal.