Excuses for absences or late work: Students, professors share best (and worst) they’ve heard

Kiersten Resch, Herald Reporter

As a college student, one of the biggest challenges of getting passing grades is completing all of the work assigned and passing it in on time. There are, of course, always instances when students forget or just don’t feel like doing their homework — so now what?

Excuses. For some students, they’re the reason a late paper or an unexcused absence is accepted. For others, it’s simply an easy way to be lazy.

The different excuses given almost never go unnoticed by the professor. On an average day, even the best liar isn’t able to be excused by a seasoned professor who has seen it all.

Cathy Nicoli, a dance professor in the Performing Arts program recalled many excuses ranging from “I have a crack the size of the Grand Canyon on the sole of my foot,” to “I’m having a bad day.” Nicoli said she accepts the more objective of the excuses but will not allow the excuses which involve mood or energy because movement can cure many-a-mood.

Renee Soto, professor of creative writing, recalled an especially memorable story she received as an excuse from a student. Soto said the student emailed her during the week and said he must miss a Friday and the following Monday because “a neighbor who was more like an uncle/father, the person who taught the student how to ride a bike, had been doing roof work, and missed the rung on the ladder as he was climbing down. He landed hard on the ground, and was rushed to the hospital where he shortly thereafter died.” This sudden and horrific case immediately struck Soto, and she accepted the student’s absence.

Roughly two months later, “I kid you not,” recalled Soto, the student emailed her with the same extraordinary excuse for missing a Friday and the following Monday class. Soto was so “utterly stupefied” that all she could say was “So sorry. See you Wednesday.”

Later on, Professor Soto recalls that the student stated the father figure was working on a barn roof, which made the story even more harrowing at the time.

Some professors, on the other hand, do not accept any excuses from students. Margaret Case, professor of English literature, is one of these professors. “I run my classes like professional life,” Case said. “What matters is how you plan to make up the work.”

Case makes it clear at the beginning of the semester that late work is not accepted. By treating her classes like the professional world, rather than a high school setting where missed work can be skipped, she proves that it is important that the work and commitment is made up so co-workers and clients are not let down.

Twenty-two RWU students participated in a small survey, which asked students if they have given an excuse or never given an excuse regarding assignments before. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed, 90.9 percent, maintained that they have given an excuse while at school.

When asked specifically about the excuses used, most students stated they have given excuses such as “I forgot,” “I have a family issue,” or “I’m sick.” The most popular excuse was problems with Bridges.