Excuses, Excuses: “I missed the exam because….”

We’ve all heard them: “My grandma died”, “I was vomiting all last night”, “My third cousin had a wedding”, “I had pink eye”, ….   If I was a grandparent of a college/university student, I would be afraid for my life around exam times. Then again, the grandparents of some students seem to have the miraculous ability to reincarnate and die many times over.

Whenever a student provides an excuse for missing an exam or missing a deadline for an assignment, as a professor, I am put in a difficult situation.  If a student’s excuse happens to be valid and honest, I do not want to be insensitive to the student’s challenges.  I am aware of the reality that many students must cope with many stresses in their school, personal and work lives. On other hand, I do not need a sixth sense to realize that too many students fabricate excuses as a part of their MO for success in school. For those students, I want to ensure that they do not get an unfair advantage relative to the other students in the class.  However, I also do not want to take on the role of Professor PI to check the veracity of students’ excuses.

It is a constant challenge to not become so jaded that I doubt the integrity of every student that has an excuse for missing an exam or assignment. Count me now as being a little more jaded. I heard an interview of Jane Collins, a nurse at the student health centre at Saint Mary’s University. After 19 years of writing sick notes for students, she recently said she had had enough. She said,

“It just seemed like there were the same students coming in all the time. Usually it’s, ‘I’ve been throwing up all night’ and they looked so well. I’m like ‘What, you’re throwing up all night? You look awesome.’ Or students say, ‘I have a really bad cold, I couldn’t possibly write my exam today and I have two tomorrow.'”

She also said she was spending at least an hour every day dealing with students requesting sick notes.




About Wayland Chau

Post-secondary educator involved in teaching and course design for face-to-face and online learning.
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