STORY BY ELLEN KOESTER
It has happened to the best of students. An assignment is accidently turned in late, students show up late to class or not at all… and then comes the time for excuses.
The alarm clock failed to go off, Blackboard went down, Papercut would not work or any number of explanations bubbles to the lips of students in the face of the oh-so-intimidating professor.
There are stereotypical justifications, but occasionally a student gets creative. Whether true or not, student excuses can sometimes be downright entertaining.
Political science professor Gayle Alberda has not had a problem with student excuses here at Drake University, but while working at previous institutions, she has gotten some interesting responses from students.
“(One student said) the same grandma died five times as a means to get out of testing or various assignments throughout a semester,” Alberda said. “Also, I actually had a student use ‘the dog ate my homework’ one time, and that had some legitimacy to it because when they turned it in, you could tell it had been roughed up by a dog.”
Occasionally, there will be some fabricated excuses that slip by a professor’s notice. It is more difficult to do this at a small school like Drake, however. The smaller class sizes allow for a closer relationship between professors and their students, making it more difficult for students to get away with lying. At larger state universities with much larger classes, it may be easier due to the distance between professors and students.
“I think professors in general try to give students the benefit of the doubt,” Alberda said. “That being said, professors usually can tell when a student has fabricated an excuse, although not always. The beauty of a place like Drake is that we have much smaller class sizes and professors get to know the students. I think that when you get to know the students on a more intimate level because of class size, it makes it more difficult for students to (lie).”
David Courard-Hauri, an environmental science professor here at Drake, has also come across some student excuses that warrant a chuckle.
“In one of my classes, I give a quiz every Monday,” Courard-Hauri said. “A few years back, one of my students asked me if he could take the quiz on a different day because he had a court date during class; he had been given a speeding ticket that he wanted to fight. I asked if he had been speeding and he said ‘Oh, sure. But I’m hoping the cop won’t show up and I’ll get out of it.’ After that, I gave up trying to figure out if excuses were legitimate or not, and just stopped giving make-up quizzes.”
Courard-Hauri’s students now know whom to thank for the absence of make-up quizzes. This shows that lying to professors and making up excuses can leave a legacy, either for future students or for oneself.
“I think your behavior in class follows you throughout your academic career so when it comes to things like letter of recommendation to graduate school or for a job and stuff like that, if you pulled stunts like this it makes it harder for professors to want to sign on for that or write you a good one,” Alberda said. “I think that the biggest impact is that you’re building a reputation for yourself.”