Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, it’s going in the syllabus.

The Facebook page “Shit Academics Say” recently posted the professor’s mantra “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, it’s going in the syllabus.”  I’ve been following that rule for a few years now, and so my syllabi have begun to rival Remembrance of Things Past” in scope.  I’ve begun distributing all of my auxiliary rules as an appendices to the syllabus.  Apart from my grading criteria, they contain my list of unacceptable excuses that have been culled from student grovelling over the past few years.  I tell my students that if they come up with an excuse I haven’t heard yet I will add it to my list and name it after them.  Would that be a violation of FERPA?  See, managed to make this post about ethics!  Anyway, and without further adieu, I give you:

Professor Lukens’s Compendium of Unacceptable Excuses for Late Papers


  1. “My computer crashed.” I’m sorry to hear that.  Fortunately, there are things like backup drives and thumb drives where you can save additional copies of papers so that they are not lost.  Also, there is this amazing thing called the “internet” that makes available to us things like “cloud storage” where you can put copies of your papers.  Also, when you tell your professors that you cannot turn in a paper because your computer crashed, your professor hears “the dog ate my homework.”


  1. My printer ran out of ink, paper, magical elves, etc. Plan ahead.  You know your paper is due, so make sure you have everything you need to turn it in on time.  You can always go to the printing center at Staples with your paper on a thumb drive (see above).  Also, this means having your paper stapled.  Unlike yesteryear when students had to hand forge staples from bits of wire scavenged from refuse piles, staples and staplers are remarkably ubiquitous in the modern age—please use them.


  1. “I had a test in Dr. So and So’s class and Professor What’s Her Name also has a paper due this week.” I will take this to mean that you think the work due in those instructors’ classes is more important than mine is—this cannot possibly be true.  Again, plan ahead, and perhaps even consider starting your assignments days or **gasp**even weeks before they are due!


  1. “I’m getting married,” “I’m going on my honeymoon,” “We planned a family vacation.” Sounds like fun!  You also enrolled in graduate school and signed up for this course; plan the aforementioned events for after the semester. There is a reason all my graduate school friends and I have anniversaries that coincide with Spring break and took our honeymoons during the summer.  Unless Doctor Who lands in your garden in his TARDIS and asks you to help him defeat a Dalek invasion, travel is an unacceptable excuse.  Of course, the Doctor would be able to return you back in time well before the assignment is due, so really, Dalek invasions are even a weak justification.


  1. “I’m sick,” “I have the flu,” “I have this stomach thing.” Wow, that sounds horrible.  You should go to a doctor immediately after handing in your paper to me.  Also, if I hear this excuse, I may begin to suspect that in fact you have been out late with your friends, probably hanging around The Olive Garden and Bennigans—I mean who could resist an evening of B52s, Peach Bellinis and endless breadsticks!?  You should resist.  Remember the basic formula for graduate school: Papers and studying come before Jäegerbombs.


  1. “I wasn’t here when you talked about the assignment.” The evolution of human knowledge is really an amazing story.  Did you know that the first person known to have posited a heliocentric model of the universe was  Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC? Did you also know that it was not until the 16th and 17th century that the burgeoning scientific community made the observations and calculations that established the heliocentric model as an accurate representation of the universe?  How does this apply to excuse #6 you may ask?  Well, what Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Herschel  so ably argued is that in fact it is the sun and not the Earth or even **gasp** graduate students at  the center of the universe.  It may be shocking to hear, but when you are not present in class, the loss of your gravity does not cause your classmates and professor to float off into space.  Rather, class goes on, lectures are delivered, and assignments are discussed; I recommend you catch up with one of your classmates (who are also not at the center of the universe) and find out what you missed.  We also have this thing called a “syllabus” which details the assignments and due dates.

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