Frequently Asked Questions

(Posed to Professor Raywat Deonandan)

This is an ever evolving document in which I attempt to answer the frequent questions I have received from students over the years.
Last updated: Sep 9, 2010

I don't like the mark I got on an assignment/exam.
I'm not happy with my mark I got in your class.
Even after the re-mark, I still think my essay is better than you say it is!
Why can't I see examples of essays/assignments from previous years?
I've been accused of plagiarism (academic fraud). Can't I just accept a reduced mark and be done with it?
I won't be around on exam day. Can I write it on another day?
I need a letter of recommendation.
Why can't you post the lecture slides earlier?
Your classes are boring.
You should be more professional.
I'm struggling in class and don't know what to do!
I want your life!
I sent you an email and you haven't responded yet!

"I don't like the mark I got on an assignment/exam."

Step 1: Tell the T.A. If the T.A. can't help you, move on to step 2.

Step 2: Think long and hard about this before you contact the Professor. If your exam/assignment was short answer, a problem set or multiple choice, then the I (the Professor) will be happy to re-mark the entire thing. I will not just look at the part that you have a problem with. The reason for this is that, if you were denied a mark by error, then there's an equal probability that you were given an extra mark by error, as well. So, after an official re-mark, your final mark might go down. The Professor's mark supercedes the T.A.'s mark, and it is final.

If, on the other hand, your assignment/exam was an essay, and you still wish to appeal to the Professor for a mark change, then you are requested to submit in writing a one-page document explaining why you think your work deserves a greater mark. The Professor (i.e., I) will then consider whether or not to re-mark your work. As above, you run the risk of receiving an even lower mark, so do not appeal marks frivolously.

Step 3: If you have not received satisfaction from the above two Steps, then you are free to take your case to the School Director.

"I'm not happy with the mark I got in your class."

See above, with regard to individual assignments and exams. If your final mark is still not acceptable to you, you can always re-take the class in a subsequent semester. I cannot and will not arbitrarily upgrade your mark just because you asked. And I cannot give you a special assignment for upgrading your mark, because that would be unfair to the rest of the class who were not given the same opportunity.

As an undergrad, I got a D and a C one year and lost my scholarship. It was traumatic. Yeah, getting a bad mark sucks, but it's not the end of the world. I turned out okay... minus the facial tic and the horrendous body odour.

"Even after the re-mark, I still think my essay is better than you say it is!"

Look, I'm not an expert at everything. But I'm pretty good at the things I teach. Maybe I have cognitive dissonance when it comes to your particular essay. Or maybe I'm having a series of micro-strokes that are affecting my judgement. But do, for a second, consider the arrogance of an undergraduate student assuming superior judgement in a subject area that he or she has just been introduced to.

"Why can't I see examples of essays/assignments from previous years?"

Because there will be a great temptation to just emulate everything about them. What we want to see is creativity and originality, not cookie-cutter submissions.

"I've been accused of plagiarism (academic fraud). Can't I just accept a reduced mark and be done with it?"

No. The Professor is required to report all suspected cases of academic fraud to a committee that is organized at the Faculty level. This committee will investigate the occurrence and decide whether fraud did in fact take place, and, if indeed it did, what punishment is appropriate. No Professor is permitted to deal with a case of academic fraud on his own.

To see the University's official policies on academic fraud, visit the Academic Integrity website.

"I won't be around on exam day. Can I write it on another day?"

If we're talking about a regular in-class exam, why can't you be there? The only acceptable excuse is a provable personal or medical crisis requiring documentation.

If, on the other hand, we're talking about a mid-term or final exam, to be written during the special exam period, then the same policy applies: the only excuse for not being present is a medical or personal tragedy.

Many students make the mistake of booking their vacation plans before seeing the exam schedule. Or of signing up for a volunteering opportunity. Or they have conflicts with sporting events or some other extracurricular activity. While we are sympathetic to your dilemma, do consider that to be fair, a separate exam must be created for those who do not write with the bulk of their classmates. This means that requesting special accommodation in this manner essentially doubles a Professor's workload. You must decide how important your education is to you, and make the appropriate decision. Do not expect the Professor to underwrite your lifestyle with extra work.

In other words, vacations, schedules, extracurricular activities, travel plans, etc, are not acceptable reasons for requesting a separate exam experience.

"I need a letter of recommendation."

Good for you. I need a new car. How can we help each other?

Many Professors write well over a hundred letters of recommendation each season. We accept this as part of our function, and are pleased to assist students in reaching their career goals. Please note, however, that we don't get credit for doing this. This means that these letters represent scores of unpaid work hours. So do not request them frivolously. Here are my rules and reminders:

  1. Except for students I've personally supervised, I will not write more than three (3) letters for any one student in any one year
  2. I will not accept requests for a letter for which the deadline is less than two (2) weeks away
  3. Ask first. Do not simply assume that I will write you a letter and send me a bunch of forms.
  4. I might say no. It's not a personal thing, so don't be offended. There are lots of reasons. I might be overtaxed or temporarily blind or something.
  5. After I agree to write a letter, send ALL the forms and materials I will need, preferably by email. This means: your C.V., a statement about yourself, your grades, the forms I need to fill out, and instructions on where and when to send them.
  6. Be abso-damned-lutely sure that the forms have all of your personal information already filled in. If I have to look up your postal code, for example, you won't like what I write about you.
  7. Just because I agree to write you a letter, it doesn't mean that I've agreed to write a favourable letter

"Why can't you post the lecture slides earlier?"

Why can't you learn to take notes?

My slides are given to you as a courtesy, not a requirement. Sometimes I post them early, sometimes late. Sometimes I don't post them at all. And sometimes what I post is not the entirety of what I lectured about. What's the lesson here? Take your own copious notes.

"Your classes are boring."

You're ugly.

"You should be more professional."

I'm not sure what this means. I think it's a reference to my penchant for telling dirty jokes. Whatever. Some people like it; some people don't. I'll add you to the "don't" list.

"I'm struggling in class and don't know what to do!"

For any concerns about your trajectory in the class or your career, please feel free to come talk to me in person.

"I want your life!"

Then you, too, will have to wrestle the demon Shuzoobu atop the snowcaps of Mount Pericles.

"I sent you an email and you haven't responded yet!"

Look, I barely respond when my own mother phones me! I'm a busy guy. All Professors are insanely busy. If your inquiry is regarding the class, then send it through the Blackboard Vista interface. I check it every day and will reply toute-de-suite. My regular email inbox is several hundred deep, and I fear my spelunking gear might give out before I get deep enough to reach your message.