A Message to an Undergrad from a Real College Professor

Dear Undergrad,

you know what the most crucial part of transforming from a child into an adult is? It’s realizing that, from now on, you and only you will be responsible for where your life goes. Gone are the times when you were surrounded by a group of adults who were cheering you on and catching you every time you fell. It’s all up to you now.

If you are fortunate enough to be a university student, you need to know that the only person deeply invested in ensuring that you get the best value for your money is you. As a university prof, I do all I can to help my students succeed. Ultimately, though, it’s their job to get as much as they can out of their studies.

The other day, I stumbled across a post that contained the following statements:

I think its hilarious when students write their papers the night before and get top marks. Only because I’ve done this. It’s the ultimate best when teachers warn you to start the project or essay months before and say that you’ll fail otherwise. Challenge accepted. Most of my teachers told our class that if we used wikipedia they would be able to tell, and it would be wrong. Welp, I used wikipedia in almost every paper, and guess what? They couldn’t tell, and I was right. Sign of brilliance.

 This blogger is very proud of having cheated her profs. In reality, however, the person she really scammed is herself. Her profs are doing great in their lives. They have well-paid cushy jobs, lots of free time, a highly respected social status. And they got all that by being serious about their studies and their work. They can offer their students suggestions on how to do well but they can’t (and don’t really want to) stuff this knowledge down anybody’s throat by force.
I’m sure that there have been students who managed to get plagiarized papers they had copied off Wikipedia by me. But who is the real loser in this situation? I went home at the end of the day to my great life, my comfortable lifestyle, my research, my travels. They are the ones who were left with less knowledge and less skills they could have possessed had they taken their studies more seriously. They were the ones who had to go out into an hospitable job market and compete for employment with graduates who had been serious about their work in college.
The cheaters, in the meanwhile, were left with memories of scamming themselves out of an education they paid for as the only mark of their brilliance.
And that’s kind of pathetic.

33 thoughts on “A Message to an Undergrad from a Real College Professor”

  1. Some arguably trivial changes may help college freshmen to realize that they have become, or are least expected to behave as, adults. In my high school, students were called upon in class by their first names. Beginning with freshman year at college, we were referred to in class by our last names, prefixed with “Mr.” (it was then an all male college). I think this small difference may have helped to stimulate a change in attitude from child to adult, but wonder whether it did.


      1. Happens in Japanese class. I’ve been (surname)-san (or surname-senpai to underclassmen) for about four years now. I appreciate that formality, and even though I appreciate the friendliness and accessibility of my professors in Victoria, I shudder when they tell me to call them their first names.


      2. It may be a matter of formality but I think it went beyond that, perhaps to extend respect to young undergrads in hopes that they might eventually grow into deserving it. There seems also to have been something egalitarian about it. Just as they referred to us as Mr., we referred to our teachers — from lowly teaching assistants to tenured and elderly “chaired” professors — as Mr., Mrs. or Miss.


  2. I actually agree with you 100%. Someone who is serious about school should not go about everything the way that I did. Seriously. That’s probably one of the reasons that I forget everything that I learned.
    School is a privilege, not a right. Sometimes I, like other students, would get caught up in the social aspects of it and put those before my education.
    Nice post!


    1. ^^What she said

      Dear Professor,
      I wish more of your number realized that there are students who try and work hard, and that one shouldn’t judge purely based on the fact that we are undergrads.
      An honest (formerly undergrad), overly enthusiastic about learning graduate student.


  3. the same message should be passed on to greedy corporates. Yes your business may expand and your coffers may fill up today by destroying the environment, but what after that? A remarkably large number of people can be short-sighted about their goals.


  4. I agree with you, Clarissa, but I fear the students who do this kind of “work” only think about getting the good grade. This might sound cynical, but I’m finally forced to acknowledge that most–not ALL–students see their college work this way.


  5. I think that the problem here is that (unless I’m mistaken) universities have never been so ideologically programmed, academics so professionalised and bureaucratized, and students so (a) over-charged and (b) under-educated – using ‘educated’ broadly, in the Socratic sense. The problem is what the late Texan philosopher Rick Roderick gestured toward when he asked, in a video interview available online, ‘Why, when people have got their degree in the humanities, do they tend to be less human than when they started?’ Given the way that universities are now constituted, and the things that students are expected to do (and not to do), I wouldn’t blame any student for seeking help for essays online – on Wikipedia, or wherever. There’s no point just damning students for using such sites; it’s necessary, instead, to think about the network of conditions that have led them to do so.

    I also want to lodge a query with: ‘Her profs are doing great in their lives.’ That may be true for you, but I know a lot of professors, few of whom I feel are doing ‘great’ in *their* lives. In fact, I know very well that a lot of them are deeply discontented with the modern university, and are looking for ways to fight against it. The fights, alas, have to remain underground as yet – such is the nature of neoliberalism.


    1. I really do not believe in the “my life is hard and I was driven to cheat by the nasty workings of fate” philosophy. As an educator, I respect my students enough to treat them like valid human beings capable of making choices and bearing responsibility for those choices. Nothing is more alien to my teaching philosophy than the contemptuous paternalistic attitude of “poor little kiddies, circumstances drove them to this.”

      As for being “discontented with the modern university”, I have to wonder, what type of university offered better conditions to scholar? The medieval university? Academia is not perfect. There are many things we need to work to change. However, I believe that being a college professor is the most amazing job ever, and people who don’t love this work should look for a different career. Or they could go whine on College Misery about the circumstances beyond their control that make them hate their lives.


      1. Thanks for the reply. I also don’t believe in blaming ‘fate’ for one’s life-path, as the Duke of Gloucester does in “King Lear” – part of the point of that being, of course, that, while he looks to the cosmos, his son is able to contrive his downfall behind his back. My point was not about fate; it was about the constitution of the modern university. I also think that one can both treat students ‘like valid human beings’ (as opposed to what?) and understand that they are the products of various circumstances outside their control – in fact, the two things perhaps cannot be separated. As Marx said, the recognition of necessity is the beginning of freedom.

        With regard to your second point, probably no historical university ‘offered better conditions to [the] scholar.’ But that’s not an argument *for* modern universities. And I’m not talking about scholars; I’m talking about intellectuals in the broader sense (i.e. great teachers). Scholars flourish in the modern academy; great teachers tend not to – that was the point that I was making.


        1. “As Marx said, the recognition of necessity is the beginning of freedom.”

          – I haven’t heard this since back in the Soviet Union. 🙂 Oh, I’m getting all nostalgic now. 🙂

          “Scholars flourish in the modern academy; great teachers tend not to – that was the point that I was making.”

          – I kind of think I’m a phenomenal teacher. 🙂 But I do see myself as a research scholar above all.

          The main problems of North American academia, in my view, are the push to transform universities into business-like profit-driven institutions, which I find disgusting, and the growing bureaucratization. When just 2 years ago my students evaluated my teaching through answering questions in their own words, now they have to circle numbers on a Scantron sheet. This change was forced upon us by brainless bureaucrats and was not welcomed by either the students or the faculty members. We, the academics, are handing over the power in the university to bureaucrats. And that’s a tragic mistake.


  6. I agree with you, but part of me constantly fears that, in reality, it’s the cheaters who get rewarded.

    But maybe that’s only true in corporate culture, which isn’t what I’m aiming for, anyway.


  7. You’re retarded. The best way to get through university is by lying and sending e-mails pretending to be sick. Nobody actually cares about learning from their teachers. byeeeeeee


  8. I’ve learned a few things in my years here on this planet–one of the biggest things I learned was, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”–especially if you are a University ‘prof’. Silly me! I thought the word was Professor, but, hey, I could be wrong.

    If you’d taken the time to read any of the other posts on the blog in question, you’d see the writer is a very bright woman who has a dry sense of humor and is very open in saying she pokes fun at life. I sincerely doubt she actually went through one of England’s best universities and ‘scammed’ her ‘profs’, do you? Logic alone would say something along those lines wouldn’t happen. If you think they did, then, you are proclaiming the well educated ‘profs’ at Canterbury University were idiots. I wonder how they’d take that kind of a comment about their educations, their intelligence and their ability to teach.

    SO–before you judge, have a few more facts going. Maybe Google or WIkipedia Canterbury for their educational requirements and the type of students/future contributors to the world they turn out. In other words, unless jumping to conclusions is your favorite exercise, I’d suggest you hold back, look things over and then make a comment. Otherwise, I’ll have to judge you, and presume your conclusions are rock hard from all that jumping.


    Adair Cofey

    PS Professors are, like most educators, underpaid. I’m not sure they have “….well paid, cushy jobs”. All of the instructors I know at the University level–hell, at every level–are underpaid and tend to stay in their profession because of their love of teaching. Bit like nurses–overworked, underpaid, and the person you’d go to with your questions.


    1. I engage with the text that appeared in my blogroll. If you expect me to research the life story of every blogger I comment on, disinter their CVs, Google every term that appeared on those CVs, etc., then you should keep expecting because I have no interest in doing that. Have I misquoted the text I responded to in any way?

      As for whether students at “best universities” cheat, scam and plagiarized. Yes, they do. Just as much as students at less famous schools. To deduce some sort of a criticism of the faculty members at Canterbury from my post, you need to have a really warped logic.

      And professors are not underpaid. We are just whiny.

      P.S. I always find it very funny when people start to defend unknown, unpopular little bloggers from being linked to by popular blogs with a significant following. Yes, they are so being victimized by being sent hits their way.


    2. People cheat. They do it all the time. I caught a group of cheating students last semester, and others have done it before. And guess what? A lot of them end up getting better grades than I do, because they cheat! That’s what I call a scam.

      Before anything more is said, I’m a university student attending a very self-selective school. So before you say anything about the standards of admission of any school at the university level, you forget one thing: just because someone meets or exceeds both the standards of admission and graduation does not mean they don’t cheat. There is absolutely no correlation between academic standards and moral standards. Your words make the honest ones cringe, saying that it’s unlikely that students at Canterbury could cheat because the professors would have caught them. Because guess what? We’re the ones who see it happen. And many times the cheaters aren’t caught and still get their good grades.


      1. “Your words make the honest ones cringe, saying that it’s unlikely that students at Canterbury could cheat because the professors would have caught them.”

        – It isn’t like profs at Canterbury get their PhDs in weeding out cheaters, or anything. When I taught at Yale, I was in no way better at catching cheater than I am at my current public school. It is just a very very strange argument that profs at famous schools are better at cheat-spotting than anybody else.


  9. I’m fairly sure you could deduce LiC’s way of blogging by reading, oh, two or three of her posts? And, no, you didn’t misquote. You only partially quoted. It happens when people want to make a point–that whole clip out what you want/need to create your side of a non-existent issue. I’m still a bit puzzled that you took my remark about Wikipedia and Google as serious, but, I guess it proves my conclusion that the only funny you find funny is the funny you make. It’s okay, though. We understand. 🙂 << see? The emoticon shows my compassion.

    I have warped logic? Silly Prof!! No worries, that was easily brushed aside. I've had worse said to me by better–much, much better.

    As for the rest of your comment(s)–if you are not underpaid, well done!! You are, as far as I know, the exception, not the rule. So, well done, indeed!! As a whole, your response to me falls into the category of 'The lady doth protest too much, methinks', if I'm truthful, and, truthful is always far better than honest.

    PS I always find it funny when Bloggers with an exaggerated sense of self put themselves forth as popular. What is popular? The Kardashians are popular, too, aren't they? I think one or two of them have a 'popular' blog with lots of followers and comments and such. I'd ask you to fill me in on how you are better–but, I'm afraid you'd answer, and I'd have to go to the white noise zone. I'm good with hanging with the 'unpopular' group–they are far, far more amusing and interesting than what is provided here (and, yes, I read more than one post! I like to do my research) Thank you for showing me how not to Blog. I appreciate the instruction. I've almost enjoyed our tête-à-tête. Almost.

    Have a nice day!



    1. Hey Addie. I just read that blog post, and I have to ask: what’s up with the Kardashians? Are they like people that have a bunch of babies or are they all polyamorous or married or siblings or something? I feel like I heard somewhere there was something to do with a sex tape. Now I see in the supermarket checkout line one of them is not actually one of them or something?


  10. bloggerclarissa :
    – It isn’t like profs at Canterbury get their PhDs in weeding out cheaters, or anything. When I taught at Yale, I was in no way better at catching cheater than I am at my current public school. It is just a very very strange argument that profs at famous schools are better at cheat-spotting than anybody else.

    I agree completely. I don’t know how anyone could think otherwise.


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