A professor hid $50 on campus and put the location in the syllabus. No student read it

Originally published at: A professor hid $50 on campus and put the location in the syllabus. No student read it | Boing Boing


The lesson here is “read the syllabus”.


I like this approach much more than that of one of my biochemistry professors, who gave us a pop quiz on the syllabus at the end of our first week of the semester.


No surprise.

At one point I got so fed up with people showing up for document reviews without having so much as scanned the documents that they were supposedly critiquing in depth (including quantitative analysis) beforehand that I added a paragraph at a section break near the back promising a rather pricey lunch to anyone claiming it by citing that section.

Something like ten people in the review committee, no takers.

(Sorry for lack of detail; it’s been something like ten years now.)


On the reverse of that, I know at least one student who turned in an entire document of “Chicken.” It was a short summary of methods used in solving some problem or another, but every word the the text had been replaced with chicken: “Chicken chicken chicken? Chicken, chicken chicken chicken.” He had actually done the assignment, but at this point in the semester most of us had a growing suspicion that the professor wasn’t actually reading all (if any) of the work being submitted. Needless to say, the student got a good grade that was well within the range of everyone else’s work.

Disappointingly, the professor in question was the department chair. I hope he was a better administrator than he was a teacher because he was pretty lousy in that aspect.


Long ago, I was teaching at a University, and on the midterm and final exam, I had what was supposed to be a “bonus” mark. Should have been easy - it asked a question about something that was on the front page of the test (and even said that was where to find it!) - what colour ink the test should be written in (I provided pens for those who didn’t have one, and was very loud reminding people about it and offering pens at the start of the test), your student number (assigned seating, so it was in huge letters mid-page), or the course section (which was ALWAYS 30, since it was a night course…). Should be a gimmie, right?

You would not believe how many people had the student ID number “blue”, or believed they should be writing their test in “30” ink.

Because that’s the question the person beside them had.

If they can’t even be bothered to read their own damn tests, how can we really expect the students to read something as distant and unimportant seeming as a three page course syllabubs?


Wait for the Q&A.


Alternative interpretation: professor can’t write syllabi. The only D I got in college was for an intro level algebra class taught by a burnout whose only response to questions about the assignments, tests, etc. was “read the syllabus”, even though the syllabus was not at all clear about class assignments. Retook the class in the summer with a different instructor who was a model of clarity in instruction and it was one of the easiest As that I’d ever gotten.


This would have been about six years ago. It would not surprise me in the least if the student in question had been inspired by this or a similar video. (Yeah, love the Q&A!) To be fair, the student was a bit of a jerk himself, but I had to agree that the situation was a mess.


When I was in college, we took a test in one of my big lecture classes. The next class, the professor came in with the graded tests, wrote how many A’s, B’s, C’s etc were awarded, then wrote a number, 13, on the board and circled it. He then said, “thirteen of you answered B for question 18”. The option for B for question 18 had been “I’m not really reading any of these test questions”, but it had been the correct answer to that question on the previous year’s test. He continued, "any of you who answered B, please drop this class or face consequences. " And the next class there were 13 fewer students.


Yes. We’re all exactly like that… every single one of us. It’s never the students not doing their work or not being prepared for class… /s :roll_eyes:


DARVO, in other words.


I’ve had a boss like that. Ask for clarification on something ambiguous, they would answer with a withering “I’ve already answered that question. Anyone else have any questions?” and then the people who were going to ask similar questions backed off. Needless to say, nobody on that project communicated well with anyone else, lest they be treated like a total idiot for asking honest questions.


As the saying goes, “Why not both?” (Or some mixture of the two, at least.)


Look, the vast majority of professors and instructors on the college level do their best to make expectations clear and consistent. And many people in college classes STILL don’t do the bare basic of reading the syllabus.

I regularly have people ask me questions which I a) have in the syllabus and b) regularly go over in class, and c) regularly remind them in emails and online. I am clear and consistent about my expectations and about the work they should be doing. But still, its MY fault if they don’t get it, despite doing literally everything I can do to explain it to them.

Are there shitty professors who don’t do that? of course. But the problem is not reading the syllabus to figure out what is going to happen in the class is pretty much all on the student’s side. I’m sorry if it’s not the most exciting of reading, but it’s not entertainment, it’s an education and I know I don’t have to tell you that gaining knowledge takes actual effort and hard work. I and other professors literally can’t pour the knowledge into people’s heads if they don’t want to show up and do at least the bare minimum to get by… I promise you that there are far more students who just don’t read the syllabus than there are professors who aren’t clear in their instructions. Because in my experience, it’s almost always at least half the class that does not even skim the fucking thing…

So… sorry if this comes off as snippy and it’s not really aimed at you, but… it’s a little frustrating to be told that my job and the work I put into it (which, in fact I’ve been doing today for next semester) isn’t up to snuff and it must be me, not the damn kids…


I know, right? Just because some students are awful doesnt mean some professors can’t also be awful. The blame doesn’t entirely lie on one side.

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Did they say that, or did they just say that one of these two professors (neither of whom are you) was a poor communicator?

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You sound like an above-average professor

In the way back time of college, I saw both but the profs unable to pull a useful syllabus together were by far the minority. Oddly there were a lot more law profs bad at that kind of thing than undergrad ones.

ETA: I forgot to say, well over 50% of undergrad students totally didn’t read the syllabi.


No, I get it! The bad example I had in mind was, luckily, an exception for my program, it was just unfortunately circumstance that he was also the department chair. I think one of the few real issues for me going to college as a older student was that I was painfully aware of how much class time was wasted on students who seemingly don’t want to be there. (I was a computer science major, after 20 years of working in IT. The students that drove me batty were the ones with no love for the subject, only taking the major because they’d been told there was a lot of money in it.)

There are absolutely bad professors, burned out, overworked, whatever, but I think they’re the exception, not the rule.