Dec

10

Dean Blank Wrote An Email

Written by

The other day, Barnard’s Dean of Studies sent out what seemed like a typical administrative email about academic procedures: finals, incompletes, grades etc. But we were kinda… put off by the last part. Emphasis and italics by us:

I wish it were different, but many of you seem to feel great pressure about grades (really? are you actually confused as to why people feel pressured to do well at an academically challenging institution?) As a consequence, some of you over the past few years (yes, we all know cheating is a new-fangled phenomenon, much like The Facebook and The Google!) have taken unacceptable short cuts, cheating yourselves and your classmates.  You probably know that misrepresentation of your situation, e.g., saying you’re seriously ill when you’re not, is also a violation of the College Honor Code. In addition to being a lie (insert gratuitous foreign character here).  At the risk of sounding preachy (if you have to put a disclaimer in front of it, i.e., “not to be offensive, but…” it probably is!), I hope that all of us can agree that honesty in academic pursuits (and in all of our pursuits for that matter) is far more important to the way we choose to live our lives than is a course grade.”
And the email opens wishing everyone a “crisis-free” finals week. What is this, Dunder Mifflin’s corporate office?
***
Clearly academic integrity is a crucial intellectual responsibility. The thing is, most people don’t cheat because they’re out to game the system, but because they’re backed into a corner and feel it’s their only option. Talking down to students won’t stop someone who is in such a bad place from cheating, but maybe offering some helpful resources would. So as much as we’re content with just pouring snark sauce all over this email, here’s what we wish it included.
  • Librarians are brilliant—we don’t mean the library staff who check out your books but the wise ones at the reference desk.
  • The Writing Center for Columbia, and Writing Fellows for Barnard.
  • Subject specific help rooms for math, stats and physics.
  • Calm yourself with tips from Well Woman.
  • Profs, they’re not just celebrities behind the lectern but people who do sometimes respond to your frantic “I don’t understand the entire last month of material” email. Extensions exist! Don’t count on them— they’re (etymologically even) for extenuating circumstances. Still, it can’t hurt to ask. Here’s how, according to Shakespeare prof/ wonderwoman Molly Murray:

1. If you definitely know that you need an extension, actually ASK FOR IT. Don’t be paralyzed by shyness or shame until the due date is minutes away or past, it’ll only make things more difficult/awkward for you and the professor. The worst that can happen is that she will say no.

2. Acknowledge that an extension is a true favor (one which actually creates work for the professor, who may have her own time constraints for grading); i.e. don’t say “Hey prof, I totally need an extension, is that cool?” You’re asking for something serious, be serious.

3. Be clear about why you need extra time. If you know that you have 8 midterms and 4 papers due that day, explain what they are – and in that case, ask for the extension as soon as you know about the conflict. If you have a last-minute emergency, it’s probably a good idea to get something official from a doctor or dean backing you up.

4. Offer a firm date for turning the paper in; the professor may make a counter-offer, but proposing a date indicates that you’re being serious and mature in your request, rather than a flake.

Sounds sensible. Also ask about your prof’s policy on late papers/ p-sets. Sometimes it’s worth a small deduction if you ultimately turn in a much better product.

And check this out: Stressbusters, those people with superhuman back rubbing abilities, created this splendid guide to campus support services

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49 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Eh, used the writing center once for UW, went to the library less than 5 times, never had a tutor or speciality subject room, never asked for an extension, never understood about 90% of what professors were talking about, never looked at comments on handed back papers, never worried about grades, and I graduated, not with honors or cumsoloud or whatever that silly gold rope means, but made it, so quit Trippin', nobody really fails out

  2. Anonymous  

    Hey y'all, if anyone wants to go see the Bloody Beetroots at Terminal 5 right now, I have one free ticket to give away. I'm stuck inside today, but you don't have to be!

  3. Anonymous

    You are being a bit harsh on Dean Blank, who is one of the world's kindest people. It's actually true that honesty in life is more important than one dumb grade in one random course! Even if that course is in your major!

    • Anonymous  

      I agree. Although I appreciate the Bwog writer's advice, the critique of the e-mail reveals a complete misunderstanding of who Dean Blank is as a person and of how she regards Barnard students.

      • Anonymous

        completely agree. if anything, dean blank might see this bwog post and add some of the additional advice to next semester's email. she truly is one of the few remaining gems of the administration on either side of the street.

  4. Anonymous  

    Bwog, I love you.

  5. Anonymous  

    The administration is apparently putting a new focus on cheating and academic integrity. Deans and administrators think (probably rightly so) that cheating has gotten out of hand.

    We're not just talking about false illnesses or copying and pasting. We're talking about paying for people to sit in on exams for you and getting professionals to write papers and programs.

    1) This is unethical
    2) Fuck you for wasting money

    • BC '12  

      I'm pretty sure this is the exact same email that she's been sending out every semester since I was a freshman, so I don't really think that it's a 'new focus'.

      That having been said, while I always understand where she's coming from with this email, parts of it have always kind of irritated me. As much as I hate that person in class who was 'sick' for the midterm and then gets to make it up, there are legitimate reasons for having to miss your finals. I feel like parts of this email definitely imply that people who can't take their finals are probably just panicked and are making up a reason to get out of it. Speaking from experience (I've had to defer finals on two separate occasions, once for a debilitating illness and once due to a death in the family), having to take your finals at the beginning of the next semester is a terrible experience and I don't feel like many people would take that option just because they were worried they'd get a less than spectacular grade.

      Another part of this email that has always bothered me is that it never contained useful information for those who might be experiencing such a crisis, so great job bwog with the legitimately helpful tips!

  6. Anonymous  

    Why the fuck is 5 classes standard for undergraduate students. We could reduce our workload by 20% if we took a normal 4 class schedule.

    • stop complaining

      did you not realize what you were signing yourself up for in coming to this school?

      • COMPLAINING POLICE

        STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT PEOPLE COMPLAINING. DIDN'T YOU REALIZE YOU WERE GOING TO BE AROUND PEOPLE WHO COMPLAIN ABOUT THINGS SOMETIMES WHEN YOU DECIDED TO BE PART OF SOCIETY?

    • Stop whining  

      It's 6 in SEAS...

    • ...  

      the best part is, there's pretty much a torrent of psychological research that supports the idea that humans actually perform at their worst when multitasking.

      personally, my experience at columbia has been that they sacrifice depth for breadth. i also think that there's a collective delusion that this doesn't take place, but all i have to do is compare course syllabi and publicly posted exams to other, less multitasking obsessed schools to understand that this is true.

      perhaps it's great on the humanities side (successfully bullshitting regardless of whether or not you've done your homework is great preparation for law) but i think that really studying science and engineering requires sustained deep focus which is fundamentally incompatible with columbia's multitasking obsessed model.

      with respect to the issue of cheating, i think cost plays a role. it's one thing to try hard, not do well and have things take longer or be forced to repeat something, it's another entirely when thousands of dollars are at stake. while i do tend to get really pissed off when people cheat (don't you fuck with that curve), i can understand it because of the cost issue...

    • L O L  

      > Taking hard major
      > Taking six classes
      > None of them elective / 'an extra class'
      > See someone complaining about five classes
      > mfw

  7. Correction  

    The link above isn't actually to Well-Woman, it's to Furman Counseling Center, which obviously can offer a lot of help to stressed-out students. That said, Well-Woman does offer resources about reducing stress and being "well" at their website, www.barnard.edu/wellwoman (look under campaigns). They also have in their office specific handouts and brochures about how to manage things during high-stress periods.

    Well-Woman also has drop-in hours every week day 1:oo-4:00 through December 21 if anyone just needs a place to relax, let off some steam, talk to someone or just get some tea and a massage.

    Just saying. The resources are definitely there, you just gotta use 'em!

  8. Correction  

    The link above is actually not to Well-Woman but to Furman Counseling Center, which is obviously a great place to go if you need help. That said, Well-Woman does offer stress and other "well" tips at their website, www.barnard.edu/wellwoman (check under campaigns). They also have fliers and handouts in their office that give tips about how to manage things during particularly high-stress times.

    Well-Woman also has drop-in hours every weekday from 1:00-4:00 if you need a place to chill, talk to someone, get some information or just relax, have a cup of tea and use the massage chair.

    Just saying. The resources are there, you just gotta use 'em!

  9. Fuck this shiit  

    Cheat if u can get away with it. Ppl cheat in real life too!

  10. Seriously bwog?!

    All you've done is ridicule someone who is trying to help people be better. The school is full of cheaters and these aren't people who are pushed into a corner. They're people who are elitist that will do anything to get an advantage over otherwise including lying and taking prescription drugs illegaly. And this hurts the people that aren't willing to sacrifice their integrity and these cheaters are the gateway to people in the boardroom willing to screw over people on main street to make a couple of extra bucks. So frankly instead of dissing the email, your focus Bwog would be better served in trying to change the culture at Columbia.

    • cc13  

      word. not only that, but the snark wasn't even funny - it was really just mean-spirited and condescending and arrogant. and then the list of resources afterwards was almost patronizing.

    • Seriously, Seriously?!  

      Yes, you hate "cheaters". Sure, you have "integrity". But by what logic can you equate elitism with "taking prescription drugs illegally"? Get your shit straight, or no one will take you seriously. #toughlove

  11. haha...fail

    this is proof why barnard is a second rate school...

  12. BC'12  

    I agree that the snark and criticism of Dean Blank in this post was unwarranted. For one, her email isn't exactly news. As someone else mentioned she sends an email expressing the same sentiments at the end of every semester, and I think it is a message we all need to hear. I don't think her goal is to shame students, but rather to make us think about the big picture and realize that the actual attainment of knowledge and understanding, along with honesty and integrity, are more important than getting an A in a class that we won't even remember a decade from now.

    Having said that, I did appreciate the second half of the email listing available resources for academic and emotional help. I wish Bwog had left this post to that, or simply suggested that Dean Blank start providing this information in her email as well, which I hope will happen next semester.

  13. Anonymous

    During the four years I was at this school I never saw such a ridiculous amount of whining and complaining. It seems like there's now at least one post a day on Bwog about how hard the coursework is. What is wrong with you young-uns? It seems like once '11 graduated this campus was completely taken over by bratty and probably underqualified students. As long as you're smart, know how to manage your time well, and know how to study efficiently, Columbia IS NOT HARD.

  14. Anonymous  

    omgomgomgomgomgomgMOLLYMURRAYomgomgomgomgomgomg

  15. bwog

    why u cryin?

    just cause a dean sent out a bitchy email? seriously? how sheltered have you been your whole life so that one snarky email causes u to bust a tit?

    get over it.

  16. Anonymous  

    Dean Blank is absolutely wonderful, a Barnard gem. This email is necessary and I greatly appreciate it. Stop complaining and find different outlets for your stress and desire to vent.

  17. Michael

    I don't want to preach and I'm not looking for sympathy. I just want to share my own experience to give a different perspective. I know that there is little chance Dean Blank will ever read this, but for any who do, perhaps my story will help to illustrate how "cheating" is not always a black and white issue.

    I come from a military family. For generations the men of my family have served Tamriel and helped protect its peoples' freedom. In fact my great great grandfather was a Blade and actually served on Uriel Septim's personal guard detail. While it was always expected of me that I would eventually serve as an imperial guard, as a young man I set out for adventure much as my father had before his own service. I hoped to gain the skills and experience that would allow me to excel when I matriculated into the palace guard, and the harden my nerve through trials in the darkest parts of Tamriel.

    One morning, while traveling through Northern Skyrim on my way to a dungeon where a powerful set of Ebony armor was rumored to lie, I encountered a group of bandits in camp. Already a level 17 Rogue with high blade proficiency and excellent fitness (from a young age I made a habit of jump-running to improve my athleticism), I quickly dispatched the outlaws, and began scavenging their camp supplies. Believing the threat to have passed, I rapidly depleted my Magicka using my healing spell. As my magicka reached zero, I was suddenly struck with a blinding shock to my lower body. My left leg felt as though it had exploded from the inside, and the campground around me receded into immense distance as I fell helpless to the ground. Moments later, the hidden archer emerged from the nearby brush and stripped me of my armor, gold, and sword. He then wrenched his arrow from my knee, and left me bleeding there to die.

    I could not move. The pain was unimaginable. All I could do was lie waiting, helpless, in the woods of northern Skyrim, waiting for impersonal death by the harsh winter's night, or else by the fang of some sorry starving wolf that might stumble across me. But instead I was found. Late in the night, as I shook with cold and hunger, A warm, soft glow broke the deep velvety black of the night and filled my heart with warmth. Surely this must be death, I thought. But it was not. It was a high elf, the first of his kind I had yet encountered. He tended my wound and cared for me, and without his compassion I would not be here today.

    I returned home to my father's house where I would recover. I planned to heal as completely as I could, and then join the next guard corps class available. As I convalesced I grew increasingly worried. While the outer scars of the arrow-wound faded, still my knee would not work as it once had. My once spritely and agile body was now stiff, unable to run as it once had. I began to grow worried that I would not meet the guards' physical fitness requirements.

    Still, I set out for Cyrodiil and the Imperial City, and joined the first class I could. On the second day we were woken early and told to don our exercise suits, so I opened my inventory and unequipped my armor. As we lined up on the lawn outside the barracks, our drill officer told us we would be running around the imperial city walls. I was nervous. I was more than nervous. I knew my knee would not hold out long enough to keep up with my fellows. As we began to run, I was quickly proven right. Halfway round the city walls, I began to fall back. As my company drew further and further ahead and the pain in my knee grew, I saw the shame in my father's eyes, I could imagine his dissapointment. It was then that I noticed the sewer grate on my left. It appeared to be slightly ajar. I had heard rumors that these sewers ran under the city. For a moment I debated, knowing the moral reprehensibility of such a literal shortcut. But once again, my father's ashamed visage shook my mind, and with that I plunged into the under city, making straight across for the Eastern side. When I arrived at the far side of the city, I waited for my company to pass, then rejoined the run just behind the last man. Yes, I finished last, but I was safely within the time constraints, and so I was accepted.

    I am not proud of this story. Not a day goes by that I don't regret having to do this. But I also don't know that it was the wrong decision. I had wanted all my life to serve Tamriel, but then I took an arrow to the knee, and everything changed. So, Dean Blank, before you judge, perhaps you should experience such pain and fear.

  18. Since when

    was Barnard an "academically challenging institution"?

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