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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