Friday, July 11, 2014

Contingent Cassandra brings the smackdown

Here are some missives to current and former students:

--Leftover Larry: would you mind informing your mom that a grade of incomplete means that you didn't finish the work of the class, not that I'm still grading 2 months after the term ended?  I'm not sure where she got that impression (though I have my suspicions), but of course I can't correct it, thanks to FERPA.  You can, and I'd appreciate your doing so.  Her unhappiness with the situation as she perceives it is certainly understandable, but having to repeatedly reply "I'm sorry, but I can't communicate with parents about student grades" to her increasingly-assertive emails is getting on my nerves. She and I will probably never meet, so it shouldn't matter, but I find I don't like somebody out there thinking that I'm as incompetent and uncaring as your version of events makes me out to be.  

-Ancillary note to professors in Larry's major department: I have the feeling, from a conversation I had with Larry when we initially arranged the incomplete, that some of you are turning in whole rosters of incompletes rather than finish your grading on time. How in the world do you get away with that? I'm pretty sure the registrar would be on the phone to my chair within minutes if I tried that, and my job would (understandably) be in peril. Also, why would you want to do that?  By the end of the semester, I just want to turn in the grades and be done with it.  While I've been known to cut it pretty close to the deadline (I'm tired at the end of the semester, and everything goes v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y), it's one of those times when I appreciate a deadline.

--MIA Matt: this is either the 2nd or the 3rd name your (fairly unusual, when you take into account last as well as first) name has showed up on the roster for a section of the online class I'm teaching at the moment. But I've never heard a peep from you, even when I emailed to remind you to check in or drop.  What's going on?  Are you really, really afraid of this required course? Do you never check your email (or the LMS), but/and think the credits will magically appear on your transcript if you register?  Is this some sort of student-loan-related scheme? (If so, bad idea; it's going to take you a long time to pay back that "free money" without a degree, and student loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy.)  Something else?  A few MIA students is par for the course in an online class, but at this point I'm getting curious about you.

--Everybody else in my summer class: thanks for completing your introductions on time.  That was great.  I realize that we then had a holiday weekend, and that we're still in the preparatory stages, but. . . .you've got a lot of work due Friday, and I haven't heard a second peep from most of you -- not a question, not the next post, not anything.  Most of you do seem to be checking the LMS, but I'm still a bit worried.  I can't answer emails from *all* of you on Friday (and I'm not staying up until midnight to answer questions from those of you who think you can start work at 10:30 p.m.  You can't, and I've told you that.  So get to work.  now.) 

-- Contingent Cassandra


  1. Regarding Leftover Larry, although FERPA prohibits discussing a student's grades without a signed FERPA release form, you can still explain that whenever any student gets a grade of I, it means that student has not completed the course work, since "I" means incomplete. You need not even mention Larry.

    1. I thought of that, and if the situation hadn't had some additional ramifications (which mean that others above my pay grade are looking into it, which is fine with me), I might have tried it. The only problem is that it's not 100% clear that Larry's mom realizes that the official grade is incomplete; it's possible that he is showing her the LMS gradebook rather than the transcript on the enrollment management system, and the gradebook just has a bunch of blank lines (which mean that Larry hasn't turned in the work; there's a separate symbol for ungraded work, but I'm not sure mom knows that). So I can't take the chance of revealing Larry's official grade, even though it's IN. And even if she knows it's IN, it appears that my colleagues in other departments may have muddied the meaning of that (see point #2). I could, of course, correct that misimpression, but, given FERPA standards (and my nontenured status), it seems safest to stick with "sorry; can't communicate." I haven't heard from her in a while (I wrote this a few days ago), so maybe whoever's looking into it has either managed to communicate the situation to her or persuaded Larry to do so.

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