Lit Hum Prof Defends His Decisions

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kanye shrug
kanye shrug

What’s the problem?

Ivan Lupic, who will be receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia this semester before blasting off to be a real professor at Stanford, has largely been identified as the Lit Hum instructor who passed out the pages for the ID passages.  Yesterday, he wrote to Bwog and Spec to defend himself, essentially writing this whole thing off as a miscommunication.  You see, he didn’t give his class the exact page numbers–he gave them pages around the passages…and told the class to pay special attention to the surrounding pages while studying.  Plus one student still asked for help about ID’ing passages, so it’s not like everyone in the class got the hint!

Judge for yourself (formatting by Bwog):

I am surprised by your inquiries. As you probably know, the Lit Hum instructors received an email from Gareth Williams around 3:30 today informing them that the ID section of the exam should not be graded since information about it has been leaked. The email explained that the sheet that is apparently in circulation does not contain the passages included in the exam but passages coming from neighboring pages. Nonetheless, the Core Office decided to take immediate action.

As soon as I received this email I wrote to Gareth to let him know that in the course of my review session I used a handout which contained passages from the sections or chapters included in the exam. I emailed Gareth this handout so that he can ascertain whether this is indeed the document that is circulating among students. I haven’t received a response yet. Gareth is copied to this message, and he should be able to answer your questions.

Just to clarify things, I can repeat here what I wrote in my email to Gareth, namely that I did not disclose any part of the exam to my students. As instructed, I informed them about the structure of the exam, and handed out a sheet I prepared as a prompt for our discussion of the enormous amount of literature we have read this semester. As I said, the prompt contained a number of passages from the sections or chapters included in the exam (not, however, a single passage that was on the exam), but its purpose was to guide our discussion, not to reveal the content of the exam. As my students can testify, our discussion ranged widely and covered entire works; it was in no way conducted in a way that would provide ready-made exam answers. My review sessions are designed to help students prepare for the exam; I therefore fail to see how my being guided by the final exam constitutes a problem. It is possible that I have misunderstood the instructions we were given, in which case I apologize for my lack of intelligence; I am just a graduate student and still have a great deal to learn. I did say in class that I would re-read the chapters from which the discussion prompts had been taken to get a better sense of the context and to understand how our discussion was prompted by it, but I also explicitly advised students to select, as they prepare for the exam, passages of their own, then work from them using some of the strategies we practiced in class.The fact that a student who was in attendance came to see me several days later to share with me her worries over identifying passages very clearly shows that the review session did not reveal exam content. As this student can confirm, I suggested what I had also said in class: pay attention to style, verse form, narrative perspective, language; you cannot memorize entire books. I again recommended selecting passages on one’s own and practicing what we did in class together with one’s friends.

I can say in conclusion that, should it transpire that my handout is indeed the document that is currently in circulation, I would be very surprised–and also somewhat amused. I thought it rather mediocre as handouts go. I should perhaps reassert that I did not reveal exam questions to my students. Finally, for the sake of perspective, it should also be remembered that the final exam is graded by each instructor according to his or her own criteria and that it participates in the final grade to the extent entirely decided upon by the instructor. If I wanted my students to be at an unfair advantage, I could just give them all straight As. Why bother with misleading handouts?

I hope to have answered your inquiries to the best of my abilities. I think that all further questions should be directed to Gareth Williams and the Core Office.

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  1. Professor Gucci Mane  

    "Are you the professor who disclosed the IDs for the Lit Hum exam?"

    "Bitch, I might be."

  2. nightfan  

    "he gave them pages around the passages…and told the class to pay special attention to the surrounding pages while studying"

    Are teachers even allowed to throw out hints like this?

  3. okay

    At this point he's probably so sick of Columbia he's like "I give 0 fucks I'm going to Cali!"

  4. Anonymous  

    Ok, we forgive you

  5. love this guy  

    Not least because of his proper use of "transpire" (which means "to come to light," even though everyone uses it to mean "happen"). Keep on keeping on, Ivan.

    • Science

      Transpire - transitive verb : to pass off or give passage to (a fluid) through pores or interstices; especially : to excrete (as water) in the form of a vapor through a living membrane (as the skin)

    • OED

      Almost. OED sense 4: a. fig. ‘To escape from secrecy to notice’ (Johnson); to become known, esp. by obscure channels, or in spite of secrecy being intended; to ‘get wind’, ‘leak out’. Also impers.

    • lolno  

      Guys words never change DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND LANGUAGE? God everyone knows you can't use words differently than their original meaning.

      I mean like Heo þa fæhðe wræc
      þe þu gystranniht Grendel cwealdest
      þurh hæstne had heardum clammum,
      forþa AMIRITE

      • OP  

        Meanings can evolve for all kinds of reasons, good and bad. Hate the way "transpire's" has evolved, because it's super-artless: Word that has actually compelling definition comes to be mere pretentious synonym, à la "utilize."

        • lolno  

          Eh, language change is messy. If you're looking for art, you'll never be satisfied. What's cool to me is that we rarely use 'transpire' in the same contexts we use 'happen' (when I hear a crash in the next room, I don't exclaim, "What transpired??") precisely for the reason you pointed out--it just sounds pretentious and isn't as natural as the colloquial alternative.

          BUT that actually distinguishes register and style and is thus useful (artful?). In the above post, the usage of 'transpire' and other indirect language shows that the writer is skirting the issue and talking around the fact that they made a really stupid decision for which they claim no responsibility. If this guy were actually straightforward and honest, he might have said "I regret what happened and I promise not to do it again." But he didn't, and now we have this lil debate. Cool, right?

          tl;dr LANGUAGE IS COOL let it change y'all

      • CC 15

        props for Beowulf :D

  6. But  

    That's just not how the (standard for everyone) Lit Hum exam is supposed to work. The Passage IDs are supposed to come from, theoretically, any part of each given text such that students are encouraged to ***actually read the books***. THERE ARE NO HINTS IN LIT HUM.

  7. Anonymous

    Great response. Sounds like another Bwog/ Spec story completely taken out of context and over blown way before all facts are out.

  8. crazy  

    Yeah, this was blown out of proportion. I bet kids who had this study guide did not even get all of them right because they weren't the exact passages. So let grade the ID section and move on.

  9. Lit Hum Prof  

    "I am just a graduate student and still have a great deal to learn." This is your second Ph.D., Ivan Lupic. You are almost forty; the "naive grad student" pose is ill-fitting at this stage of the game.

  10. Anonymous  

    Does he think we're dumb? If he actually presented this like just another study guide, it would not have become nearly as popular, students would not be confident that they HAD the answers, and it would have never stood out as something to present to Gareth Williams. Make better excuses, Ivan.

  11. shut up  

    Just shut up and admit you did it! Period. And have fun in Stanford!

  12. An athlete  

    if ur gonna fire coach pete, fire this clown 2! #BANGBANG #ihatenerds


    I think it's funny how the Corey's decision to not grade the quotes has suddenly put all the whiners who studied for the ID's on the side of the prof.

    "If I wanted to help my students, I would have given them all A's"

    Ivan, don't patronize us

  14. CC'14  

    I bet Gareth tore this guy a new asshole in the classiest way possible.

  15. Pissed Lit Hum Student  

    "I apologize for my lack of intelligence"
    I don't forgive you, Ivan. >_<

  16. I'm surprised  

    that there's so much support of him on here.

    Regardless of what he thought he was doing, Lupic gave out the exact spots for every single ID. Many of them, if you read the handout, were part of the same exact conversation.

    The whole point of passage ID's is that you're supposed to be able to, as he says: "pay attention to style, verse form, narrative perspective, language."

    And again, as he says "you cannot memorize entire books." But you don't have to, if you know EXACTLY where they're coming from. And by telling students EXACTLY where they're coming from, you needn't pay attention to style, verse form, narrative perspective, or language precisely because students can remember one or two pages well enough to say "hey, I remember reading those words."

    Even if you were a lazy slacker, and didn't read the 1-2 pages around every passage he gave, simply knowing the page number offers you an incredible advantage because you know what it can't be.

    Have fun with this guy, Stanford.

  17. Can we just talk about  

    "If I wanted my students to be at an unfair advantage, I could just give them all straight As. Why bother with misleading handouts?"

    Come on now. Come. on. now.

  18. CC'13  

    Also, Ivan, even if you think your students were not given an unfair advantage, those students on other sections that received this study guide through friends did have a boost compared to their own classmates. In what world is that fair?

  19. Anonymous  

    Just to add a bit of fuel to the "Yeah, this email does not justify the leak" fire: If you look on the WikiCU page, it's clear that the information given this year about IDs was far MORE specific than the 2007 leak. Literally, this year the students had an entire exam's worth of IDs provided within a page or two, while in 2007 (when the entire exam was thrown out), they got a mix of specific and vague information.

  20. CC'14

    Going to throw in my two cents, but, maybe if we didn't have a school-wide exam in the first place, things like this wouldn't happen?

    I don't understand why everyone in Lit Hum is required to take the exact same examination, especially since discussions on texts are so variable from class to class. If professors were allowed to construct their own exams, I bet they wouldn't feel the need to create such a "study guide", everything would be based on class discussion alone. Why create this study guide unless you're unsure if your students would be able to identify the passage on the exam because they weren't covered in class? Unless the curriculum from class to class is the same (which it's not and shouldn't be), then I don't think we should force the same final on students. *shrug* maybe I'm alone in this opinion

    Also, and maybe I'll get some flak for this, but I've honestly never understood the point of passage IDs (ok, I take that back slightly, Columbia wants us to be able to identify the style and narrative of a work). All the same, I don't care how great my ability to identify the narrative style of a work is, identifying who was speaking in a single passage from Don Quixote doesn't demonstrate how much I've learned from the text

    • Heisenberg  

      100% with you on that

    • CC'14  

      I honestly think the standardized exam makes a lot of sense. It provides some structure for professors/phd candidates teaching. Also it allows for a better comparison of grades. When we're applying to grad school and competing against other Columbia students who had CC professors who graded easy v those who didn't, there'll at least be ONE thing that everyone had to complete.

      • Anonymous

        The standardized exam would make more sense if it was developed at the beginning of the year rather than decided on at the end of the year. How can it provide structure when the final exam hasn't been created until the end of the semester?

        It also doesn't allow for better comparison of grades just because it's the same exam. If a class hasn't touched on a single passage or theme expressed in the exam, the professor/phd candidate is left at a mad scramble to get their students up to speed the week before the exam, and those students will naturally be at a disadvantage compared to other students. We might as well just make all of the Art and Music Hum finals the same (a horrible idea since each professor focuses on and touches different things). An exam should reflect what you learned in class.

        Besides, lit hum midterms or papers aren't the same across the board, so the overall grade presented on a transcript won't reflect some overarching standardized grading rubric that all lit hum students were meant to follow. I doubt grad schools will be impressed that every lit hum student took the same final (or even know that), especially since the curriculum isn't the same for each class (and it shouldn't be).

        Lastly, n the end, the professors are the ones grading anyway, so even those easy graders are going to continue to be easy graders, no matter if they created the exam or didn't.

  21. Anonymous  

    This year had only the IDs though, nothing about passages or essays.

  22. SEAS Deez Nuts  

    What's Lit Hum?

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