College can be a crap shoot, sure, but these students took it to the next level. Here, Professors shared their most *ahem* memorable emails from a student. Enjoy!
1. I need to go play Quidditch!
A few years ago I was teaching a design studio for first-year students in our program. My boss had enacted a tough attendance policy from on-high, as many of the freshmen undergrads often tried to skip studio. Because of this, I frequently received requests to miss class for stupid things like Football games and house parties... and the requests got more and more ridiculous as the semester went on. One day I was checking my work email and noticed a request to miss class that Friday "because I am playing in the Quidditch finals this Saturday in Canada." Since it was Wednesday and our class was about to start, I decided to confront the prankster in class. I get to class and see the students crowding his desk. Well, apparently he knew I wouldn't believe him, so he brought his gear into class along with an album of photos of him playing Quidditch throughout High School. Now, I am a self-proclaimed Harry Potter fan and I felt so shamed that day I just let his absence slide. When he returned to class, he brought photos of his match and even though they lost the game, he seemed grateful that I didn't penalize him.
2. Do you even go here?
This is an email chain from a student I don't think I ever actually saw.
"Can I get an extension? "
"You haven't turned anything all year. I'm not even sure if you've been to any classes. It's December. What possible reason could I have you giving you an 'extension'? "
"I paid for the class so I deserve the credit for it."
"You paid for the chance to learn. You chose to not take that chance. I look forward to seeing you next semester. "
3. "I have no idea what happened to her"
A few years back, I was working as a lab TA and I had an older student who really seemed to resent being taught by a 20-something fellow student. In the syllabus for this lab was a rubric all the TAs had agreed on. Part of the grade was always including units on numbers and we'd take off one point per unit missing.
This student handed in a lab report with zero units anywhere so I followed the rubric and took off points. I expected her to come talk to me, since I told them every day to talk to me about any issues and I'd do my best to give back points wherever it could be justified. I try to be nice to my students because it get it - labs suck and you don't have time to do everything perfectly. I didn't hear anything from her until the next lab was due. She emailed it to me and said, "Since it's apparently okay to take off an exorbitant amount of points for something as trivial as missing units, I'm not going to use units anymore."
I have no clue what the heck compels a grown adult to act like a 5 year old. She eventually stopped attending labs and I have no idea what happened to her.
4. The worst case of helicopter parenting I've ever seen
I had a mother show up to contest her daughter's performance, after emailing me several times about it. Yep, here's the story...
I have checked with the organization on campus that is meant to help faculty mediate these kinds of issues, and according to them this is the worst case of helicopter parenting that they have ever witnessed at this University. So I got that going for me, which is nice. Another thing that I must mention is that I was a TA for the class. The actual professor was there for the meeting as well.
The daughter sets up a meeting with me after quite a bit of pestering, and I reluctantly agree. It is a Friday afternoon. I am already a little POed because I usually work from home at this time. I had prepared a speech to give to the daughter to explain to her that the way she was behaving was unacceptable for a student at the university level, especially at this University (a top school). Anyway, I hear a knock at the door, the door swings open, it isn't the student, it is her mother.
My first reaction was, "Okay, this will be unpleasant, but she, even more so than her daughter, has no power to influence this situation." She introduces herself; she's actually very pleasant. She says, "I don't want to talk about grades, just academics." "Ok," I said, not understanding the difference. The next thing she says though proves quite clearly that she is there to start some crap. She comes out and says, "You are the worst teacher to ever be at XXX University." I don't say anything; I try not to laugh, this is clearly super serious, you guys.
She then slams on the table this binder that contains every single email that I have sent to this class. She says, "Now I am a lawyer..." Now this actually make me laugh a bit, not because of the absurdity of this whole thing, but the way she said it reminded me of Tracy Morgan's impression of Star Jones, if anyone is familiar.
She produces an email. "On such and such date, you used the verb 'suck' in an email." This is true, actually. Part of the class was to have students practice evaluating scientific articles, so some of the literature I sent out were meant to be examples of troublesome experiments. Anyways, I was relieved to hear her use that as her opening gambit because it means she really didn't have any reason to complain. The professor tells her that her daughter is an adult and that there is no need to protect her from bad language, and besides, the wording I used was pretty mild to say the least.
Realizing that her ace in the hole went nowhere, she turns up the fury quite a bit. The remaining meeting consisted of about a half hour of just ranting and raving. The next thing she says is that – and this is also true (I feel like I need to keep saying this because no one will believe me) – it is "irresponsible" for the University to have a class that was as small as this one. It had about 12 students. She cites some non existent, I'm sure, study, that says that small class sizes are actually detrimental to learning. A mound of evidence and the talking points of every college brochure ever produced say otherwise. She sees that this tactic also goes nowhere.
This is another one of my favorite moments...
She goes on to talk about extra credit, and asks why I didn't give her daughter full credit on the assignment. The Professor and I explain to her that extra credit is just that – extra – and it is to our (and really the professor's) discretion to give it. It can also be taken away. This is another mind blowing point in the story. It echoes something the daughter had sent to me earlier in an email. The daughter tells me that she wrote an extra "essay." I had never assigned it, and I have never even seen it. The mom asks me why I have not rewarded her daughter for this essay. You heard this right. Both mom and daughter have asked me to give credit for a paper that I'm quite certain doesn't even exist. I am stunned at this point at how calm the Professor was during all of this.
She now just grasps at straws. She mentions that she is an anonymous donor to the university and that if this is not "resolved" she is going to withdraw future donation. The professor says, "Well if your donations are anonymous, then how can the University miss them?" Rage intensifies. She does the whole "I pay your salaries" shebang. Professor replies flatly, "no you don't." She is furious now.
She says that the Professor and I are purposely trying to intimidate her and that she is there to have a reasoned conversation (remember that her first words were, "I am the worst teacher ever"). She stands up, says, "Eff you" directly to me, "Eff you" directly to the professor, and claims she is going to go talk to the dean about the situation. I love this moment actually. Prior to the whole thing, I sent an email to the organization on campus that helps teachers with these issues and explained the situation (that the daughter was being insistent on meeting when she had no recourse). I approached the situation very gingerly, because I believe strongly that every student has the right to seek redress if they feel they have been graded unfairly. Anyways I got a forwarded email from them that was basically a single sentence from the dean herself that said the daughter was being a brat, and I should tell her so. If only she showed up, I would have.
The mom walks out the door, never to be heard from again. If anyone is wondering, the student's grade was NOT changed. However, I continue to have nightmares about this incident.
5. "The implication was pretty clear"
I had a student who was pretty behind in the class. I wasn’t faculty at the time but a student-teacher lecturer. Anyway, in the last week before finals she asked me about extra credit. At that point it was already too late. So she emailed me saying that she would do "anything" for a few extra credit points. The implication was pretty clear. I wrote her back and nicely repeated that she was too late and just needed to focus on the final. That was the end of it, but I was glad when the semester was over. In case anyone is wondering, yes she was very attractive, but I was in a committed relationship and would also never do anything that unethical.
6. Serial menstruator's at it again!
I was a T.A. for one semester in college. If anything, it taught me that I never wanted to be a teacher. When your “students” are the same age as you, they expect you will quickly cave in, and their excuses sound like they are citing references.
That semester I had to fail one girl because she never showed up to the laboratory sessions, which was mandatory. Her excuses started pouring in about three weeks before the class ended. Here is her best line (keep in mind, these are primarily students in the Pre-Med/Pre-Dental Programs).
“I have my period every week at the time that lab is scheduled so it’s been difficult for me to make it because of heavy menstruation. I know that this may not make you happy, but if you don’t pass me I’m going to have to take this to the head of the department and possibly to a lawyer because you are discriminating against women.”
So, I forwarded the E-mail to the Professor teaching the course, he E-mailed it to his boss, it made the rounds, gathered a few chuckles and that was that. I ended up failing the serial menstruater, and told myself I’d never teach again.
Menstruater isn’t a word? Really? Yes it is.
7. It's too late, kid.
Freshman composition class: I had a student stop showing up after the first couple weeks of class but she didn't drop the class. About a week before the last possible drop date (towards the middle of the semester) I emailed her telling her that because of how much class and work she had missed there was now no chance of her being able to pass the class and she needed to drop while she still could. She responded with a long plea to please give her a second chance and swearing she could make up the work (by this point she had missed half the work in the class). I reminded her of the attendance policy that did not allow you to miss more than three classes without penalty to your grade and pointed out that she had missed fifteen classes, which was a guaranteed F even if she did all the work but she continued to plead with me well past the last drop date.
I would receive an email every two or three days from her begging for a second chance, telling me that if she failed the class she would be forced to drop out, providing every excuse about how busy she was with work and family and continuing to insist that she was fully capable of making up the work. This went on for six weeks. I finally got so fed up with it that my last message to her told her that if she had put as much work into the class as she had to begging for a second chance she never would have been in this position in the first place, that I was not going to respond to any more messages from her and that she could take it up with the director of composition if she didn't like it (who I had already discussed the issue with and he had my back).
She was still on campus next semester, though I knew from the beginning that she was lying about being forced to drop out if she failed my class.
The moral of the story: if you start to fall behind in a class go to the professor straight away. Most professors are willing to work with you if you're up front about what's going on. Vanishing and then coming back begging for a second chance is not going to put you on any professor's good side.
8. When you send your Professor nudes... oops!
Student here. We had to post on a website documents of our writings for critiques. I accidentally clicked nude pictures and submitted. For a document it would prompt a cancel screen since it takes a few seconds to upload but due to good internet connection and small file size of the image it was instantaneous. Also the sidebar has a preview of all files uploaded so by scrolling over it you see a nude picture of a woman. Yeah, not great. Also, the professor can only delete image files apparently. I uploaded twenty files just to put the image down at the bottom of the file queue. Then I had to send the awkward email to my Professor. She responded saying it was a mistake no problem and applauded my efforts to minimize the situation and have the courage to explain the situation in a formal manner.
9. "I'm not your mom."
My most outrageous email was from a graduate student who got a zero on a quiz. The quiz was online and available to the students for a full week. The student simply didn't do it by the deadline. She emailed me saying it wasn't fair that she got a zero because she forgot to take the quiz.
I replied that all her fellow students had managed to remember to do it AND I had reminded them in class to do the quiz. Her reply: "You should have sent an email reminder to us."
Although I didn't respond to her, my internal response was, "I'm not your mom. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions."
10. Putting learning into practice?
I'm a student, but I was emailed by another student and it was pretty interesting. In our Information Security class we had just finished the chapter about trojans, malware, and the likes. One of the things that is quite particular to this story is that we had just finished learning about phishing. Now, for those who do not know, phishing is sending bad links in an attempt to get a naive user to the point where they are willing give up their username and password.
Well, two days after our test on these bad files, a phishing attempt started going around the University. It was sent by a supposed student, trying to get people to attach their University accounts to a study site. After you signed up they would email everyone else in your classes about the supposed study session. Well, one of the kids in our Information Security class fell for it and gave them his username and password. One of the people emailed was the teacher. The teacher called him out during the next class for being naive. Pretty sure he failed the test too.
11. My vagina is on fire!
Not a professor but my professor did show us an email that was sent to him by a student about 10 years back and he kept her anonymous. The content of the email was basically she had to skip class and didn't know how to phrase it so she said "sorry I couldn't come to class my vagina is on fire." End of email. This was a Tuesday/Thursday class. She sent the email on Thursday and she sent another email Monday saying "I will be attending class this coming Tuesday, I'm sorry about missing class. But the fire is out."
She was strange.
12. "Your time is less valuable than mine"
I was TA for an 80 person class and would proctor exams for my professor. One student would show up 30+ minutes late for every single exam. Then, when time was up she would be the only student left taking the exam, and when I would try to collect it, I'd get "No, I get extra time because I'm a SNAP student." Essentially she had some sort of learning disability, and she was permitted to take the exam in a separate location with extra allotted time if she set it up beforehand. Every time, I would explain this to her, tell her I had places to be, and take her exam away.
Before the final, my professor told me she got an email from the girl's mother, complaining about me not giving the girl adequate time to take the exams. My professor told her that SNAP didn't apply, and if she wanted more time, she should show up to the exam on time. The mom apologized and said she'd talk to her daughter. Sure enough, on the day of the final, the girl shows up an hour late to the three hour exam, and tries that same SNAP excuse again. She failed the course with flying colors.
13. She stalked him for years
Not a prof, but was a T.A. for him and we ended up being buddies after I was no longer a student.
He had a girl that blatantly copied an essay. Like, it had that old-time typeface from papers written in 1930. He showed EVERYONE in the department; no one had to even read it to know it wasn't hers. Apparently she was also a sub-par student at best and was in her 40s getting a degree most likely for a promotion - no judgment, just saying the paper wasn't hers at all.
The prof looked and looked and couldn't find it anywhere, so he had no other recourse than to give her a C for the class because he couldn't prove plagiarism. She was livid, and kept insisting it was hers even after being confronted with the evidence... And then stalked him for YEARS. She would call his home, email him, telling him she would ruin him and blah blah blah. Even after changing emails and phone numbers.
Some people's kids, man.
14. When your email makes headlines
Earlier this semester, a girl at my university made national news when she emailed her professor asking for her absence from the next class to be excused because she was celebrating a religious holiday. The holiday? Beyonce's birthday.
Here's the transcript of the email:
Good Evening Professor, I would like to inform you that I will not be in class today due to this holiday. On September 4, 1981 The Lord blessed us all with the Goddess that is Queen Beyonce Knowels-Carter's birthday. Out of respect, I will not be attending class today, The Lords Day. For any further questions, feel free to contact me. Have a blessed day and remember, Beyonce Loves You so Bow Down.
Apparently the girl meant it as a joke and didn't actually mean to send it but clicked send by accident.
15. "What I know will change Physics forever."
I'm the assistant for a group of theoretical physics professors at a large university, so I get a lot of emails from students or prospective students looking to get in contact with a professor. This one kid emailed me, and then called me multiple times, asking if he could come in and just tell somebody about what he'd been working on. He kept saying, "Everything they know is wrong. What I know will change Physics forever," and had a general hopped-up-on-uppers tone. But, he couldn't tell me anything specific about his research, so I knew we were going nowhere.
Eventually, the way I got him to leave me alone was to say that no one will listen if you don't have a degree, and I pawned him off on admissions. It was annoying, but I also felt bad because it was obvious that he wasn't quite right mentally.
16. Are you trying to insult me or make a joke? Or... both?
I used to teach when I was doing my PhD, so technically I wasn't a prof, and I'd say this right at the outset. Also, not sure what it said about me or how the University viewed me, but they always wanted me to teach the first year "Computers for non-computer kids" class. I thought I did a decent job at it, and I didn't fool myself into thinking I was doing anything more than being a cheaper replacement over paying full-on faculty to do it.
So end of term comes, and I think this was the last time I taught so it wasn't like I was a rookie and by then I'd figured out how to do a good job, however I got an email from one of the students to the effect of:
Dear Dr (I didn't have a PhD) Billbapapa,
I really enjoyed having you as my Professor (I was not a prof).
I just wanted to tell you that you shouldn't be so nervous (I wasn't nervous) when you teach. Even though you seem young for a Professor (I was not a prof!) everyone still respected you (good I guess? didn't realize that was in question). We know you were trying hard and we're sure with time you'll become a good teacher too (what? I thought I was at least okay). I thought you were a very nice guy, and I hope you are still teaching this course again next semester incase I have to retake it (which probably explained the email).
Have a great day,
(and i'm not exaggerating the name, it really was one letter, and the email was from a random hotmail address)
So I have no idea who sent it, or if they were trying to make me feel better or worse or just trying to be funny. But either way memorable.
17. Why don't you care about me?
I had a student in an intro social science class a few years ago that wrote a semester-long string of ridiculous emails that still make me angry when I think about them. She was a freshman and apparently having trouble adjusting to life at a big university. She didn't show up to class for the first 2 or 3 weeks, so I emailed to remind her that she was already hurting her grade and needed to start attending or drop the class. The student replied with a long email explaining that she had started having panic attacks since starting college, and the anxiety, medications, and psych appointments that had resulted were keeping her from attending class. She was worried about her grade and more generally about starting college off on the wrong foot.
Well this story really hit home for me. I am usually a skeptical teacher, having encountered all kinds of bullcrap from students, but I suffered with serious anxiety the semester I started grad school after two decades of being a perfect student, so I felt enormous sympathy for this student. I replied with a long, kind email, suggesting all sorts of accommodations that would require a lot of time from me, like one-on-one meetings to help her catch up on everything she'd missed. I even alluded to having personal experience with similar issues and understanding how hard it could be.
No response from this girl for a couple of weeks. I follow up I with her a couple of times, but no response. I'm mostly concerned about her mental health and making sure she doesn't fall through the cracks or spiral further, but there's only so much I can do (and I did everything I could through the student affairs office).
Then, the first exam rolls around, and she bombs it.
She's suddenly emailing me again, grateful for my help and asking to start meeting right away. We set up a meeting. She doesn't show up and never offers an explanation for her absence. She then emails again a week later, asking for another meeting. I give her a time to meet, ask her to confirm the time, and I don't hear anything. A week later, the student finally returns my email, saying she missed the message, and the meeting, because she was at home visiting her parents for the weekend, and she didn't have email access. Except she emailed me FROM HER PHONE. Which I know because all of her messages ended with "sent from my Blackberry." And I emailed her on a Monday for a meeting that would be taking place the following week.
She didn't ask to meet again after that, and I gave up, realizing that, even if she did have a mental health issue, she was also wasting my time and clearly not very invested in the class.
I thought that would be the end of interactions with my blackberry-using student, and it was, until the day after final exam grades are posted. She sent me and the head professor an email that, in a very bewildered tone, asked why I never replied to her email at the beginning of the semester. She wanted so badly to succeed in this class, but I couldn't be bothered to help her when she was suffering. She wanted extra credit for having had to suffer through the indignity of a TA that wouldn't answer her emails and didn't care about students' welfare.
I replied by asking, as politely as possible, what the bloody heck she was talking about. I then copied and pasted our entire email conversation from the semester. The professor was mad that she had lied and left her grade as it was (D at the highest, though I can't remember for sure).
She eventually replied to my email with: "Oh, sorry. I got confused."
18. A little confused, are we?
This isn't an email, but it's the most memorable student interaction in my two semesters TA-ing for a 300-person American Literature survey class.
Because of the large class size, the professor had the students sign up for a certain week to turn in their big term paper. So I averaged grading about 30 essays a week. Each week was connected to a specific author that the student had to write about--week 1 Nathaniel Hawthorne, week 2 Walt Whitman. You get the idea.
This one student signed up for the week were they had the option to write about either Harriet Beecher Stowe or Herman Melville. It appeared on the online sign-up page as "week 6: Stowe, Melville."
The student wrote her essay about a person named "Melville Stowe" and I'm pretty sure the biographical details and literature references were a combination of Herman Melville and Walt Whitman.
19. A not-too-suggestive selfie
I used to teach landscape architecture at the American University of Beirut. As an assistant professor.
One day a student sent me her design work to review as I had proposed she could do it (she was falling behind and needed more support than the rest).
She sent it along with a selfie of her in her room in comfortable clothes. It wasn't anything sexual, but it was kind of intimate. I didn't mind it... But had a girlfriend at the time and was being a good guy.
I talked to her about it the next day and we had a laugh, but I knew there was more than just that. However, nothing happened.
Comments have been edited for clarity.