Frequently Asked Questions

There's this clichè that there are no stupid questions...well, we both know that's not quite true. If you have a question about science concepts, or lab procedures, or the rules of trigonometry, or how to bake chocolate-cherry scones, those questions are not stupid at all. I hope that you will always ask me those questions, and I know that everyone else in the class will be secretly relieved when you do...because they want to know as well. Something unclear on the syllabus? Ask away! But if you want to ask me questions about how best to cheat on the test, or avoid doing the work, or if you can have an override into a class that has been full for two months and you just now decided that you have to have it or you can't graduate...well, we both know those are not the sort of questions that any professor likes to hear. Here are a few actual questions, asked by actual students. Most are useful, but some...probably should have known better.

Questions About Enrollment

The class I want is closed. Can I have an override?

No.

What? Why not?

Three words: Banner. Automated. Waitlist.
UCA has automated the process, and you should read about it here. When you attempt to enroll in an already-full section, you should be given an option to add your name to the waitlist.

I'm not on the waiting list, but I am a senior and I have to have this class to graduate. Can I have an override?

No. Banner. Automated. Waitlist. You have to get on the list and wait your turn like everyone else. The sooner you sign onto the list, the better your chances of getting a spot if one opens up.

But I'm a senior!!!

So is everyone else already on the waiting list. There is no way in except through the list. Accept it, add your name, and be patient.

The only open lab section conflicts with another class I am already enrolled in. Can I enroll in the open section and just come to whatever lab section fits in my schedule?

No. When the lab sections are full, the room simply won't hold extra students. We could not fit you in even if we used a shoehorn and a stick of butter. You must attend the section in which you are enrolled. What you are asking for amounts to paying for one seat and occupying two, which is an unreasonable expectation on your part. You are also showing disregard for your fellow students, who will be inconvenienced by having to crowd additional people into an already full room. If you cannot attend the section you signed up for, please withdraw from it. There is probably another senior on the waiting list who will be glad to have your seat so they can graduate.

So, I signed onto the waitlist for all of your sections, and I got a spot in the one with the 8:00AM lab. I signed up for it, but I can't come to lab at 8:00AM. Can I just come to lab at 10:50, like I originally wanted to?

No. That 10:50 (or whenever, they're all full) lab is already full. Please copy and paste the answer to the previous question here.

But I have a special circumstance, and if I could just explain it to you, I know you would let me into the section I want...

Heavy sigh.

But my advisor told me that I should call you and tell you that I really really need into this class!

Your advisor may not understand that whole shoehorn-slash-stick of butter problem we have with lab space and equipment.

Questions About Attendance

Do I really need to come to lecture?

No, of course not. Passing the class is entirely optional. Attendance is recorded as you respond to questions with your clicker. The penalty for non-attendance is pretty simple: no points. You cannot click is you aren't in class. If you have someplace else you need to be, please withdraw from the class and make some senior on the waiting list very happy.

Do I really need to come to lab?

No, of course not. Passing the class is entirely optional. The lab attendance policies are clearly explained on the course syllabus, and again on the course web. No exceptions to this policy are ever made for any reason. If you have someplace else you need to be, please withdraw from the class and make some senior on the waiting list very happy.

I know in advance that I will have to miss lab on (fill in the blank) date. What should I do?

Thank you! Thank you for letting me know far enough in advance that we can actually make a plan. You are awesome! High five!!
If it's possible, you may attend a different lab section. For example, if your team is traveling and you leave at 11:00AM, you can't make your 10:50 lab, but you could easily make it at 8:00AM. However, please note that you can't just show up whenever you like. You must make an arrangement with me ahead of time.
If you can't attend at a different time on the same day, then you should plan to attend the make up lab. Check the course calendar, it's right there at the end of the semester.

I missed the test. When can I take a make up?

That depends. If this is a phone message or an e-mail time-stamped within 24 hours of the missed exam, and you can document the reason for missing the test, then we will certainly make an arrangement. If you are walking up to me in lab the week after the test as I am handing them back, with a puzzled look on your face because you had no idea we had a test last week, then never.

Questions About the Course Web

How does the online calendar work?

The dates on the calendar are fixed, barring closure of the university. If we are scheduled to have an exam on a certain day, we will take the exam on that day, unless there is a quarter inch of snow on the ground and campus has been closed. What may change from day to day is the specific section/topic of discussion. We might get a day ahead or a day behind before I can get the calendar updated. Please be aware of this, and if you miss a lecture you should always check with me or a friend in class to see which specific topics we covered.

Why do I have to download my own handouts?

The lab handouts are your responsibility, and you can choose how you want to print them (color or black & white, double sided, whatever). I do not bring handouts or worksheets to lab. Please be prepared.

When I tried to download a sample exam, I got a "404 File Not Found" error message. Can you fix the link?

Always, always point this out to me. If there's a broken link anywhere on the course web, I need to know and I will thank you for it. In this case, though, usually the link is fine, and what you probably clicked accidentally was the link to this semester's exam solutions. These links won't be live until after you take the exam. Make sure you are clicking on the Exam Archive, not the current solution.

Questions About Course Supplies

Do I really need to buy the textbook?

No, of course not. Passing the class is entirely optional.

Can I buy a book off the web?

Sure. Carpe diem, but caveat emptor. You need to make sure that you are buying the correct book. That $20 book you found on e−Bay and thought was a total steal turned out not to be the textbook after all--it was only the workbook! Now you've spent the $20 and still have to buy the book anyway! The title, author, edition, and ISBN number are all listed on your syllabus. Make sure you are buying the right thing.

Why do I have to have a calculator?

Technically, you don't. If you can do long division in your head, I am impressed. The rest of us will be using our calculators to make sure that we can answer all of the questions on the lab quizzes and lecture exams. You will have to do some numerical analysis.

Well, then, I can just use my phone. It has a calculator!

Of course it does. It also has access to the google and the wikipedia and the wolfram alpha. If you use your phone as a calculator during lecture or lab, nothing bad happens. But you will not, under any circumstances, be permitted to use your phone or anyone else's as a calculator during quizzes or exams. No exceptions will be made to this policy. Ever. Seriously.

Questions About Course Grades

How do I find out my grade?

You will be given your point total and average after each exam. You should make sure that you are tracking your own points, so that if I make a bookkeeping error, it can be corrected. If at some random point during the semester you want to know exactly where you stand, send me an e-mail. I will reply with your current total.

Do you grade on a curve?

Nope. Just points. Typically there are enough opportunities to earn points in enough different ways that any one thing should not tank you for the semester. The grading scale depends on the particular class, but you will typically find it stretched slightly from the standard 90−80−70−60 system.

I know that classes are over, and we have taken our final exams, and grades have been reported, but I was not expecting to get a C for the semester. Can you change my grade? I really need a B.

That sound you heard? Me choking and snorting Diet Coke out of my nose as I simultaneously laugh and scream with frustration. Do you really need me to answer this?

Well, if you won't change my grade, can I have some extra credit work to bring my grade up?

Yeah, you wait right here while I go call the other 95 people from the class and ask them if they would like to do some extra credit, too. Because I can't give it to you without giving it to everybody. And I have no intention of giving anybody extra credit after we have all gone home at the end of the semester. Do you have any idea how many points you have already missed because you were not in class when we had a ton of clicker questions?

But if I don't get a B in this class I will lose my scholarship. You don't understand, I'll do anything!!!

Except attend class regularly. Except study for the exams. Except come to lab every week. Oh yeah, and I have not seen you during office hours either. And now you tell me you're prepared to go the extra mile? Pull the other one.

Questions About the Lab Policies

I am a senior, and I am going on a lot of job interviews this semester. Can I make up all the labs I miss? I think it'll only be four or five times...

No. The lab attendance policy is stated clearly on the syllabus. There is neither the time nor the space available to set up extra lab equipment for anyone to come in and do an experiment individually and at their leisure. Plan to attend the make up lab at the end of the semester. If you miss literally half of the labs, one make up lab won't redeem you, but it may be just enough to keep you from failing.

My friend took your class last semester and gave me her lab notebook to use. Do I still have to buy a new one?

You do realize that this is cheating? And you asked anyway? You must have a fresh, new notebook. If you remove all of the pages that have been written on (and destroy them, as you are honor-bound to do), then you may certainly use the remaining unmarked pages. You must participate in each week's lab, and record what you have accomplished in your own notebook.

I am a senior, and I have to have this class to graduate. But the only open lab section conflicts with another class I am already enrolled in. Can I enroll in the open section and just come to whatever lab section fits in my schedule?

No. When the lab sections are full, the room simply won't hold extra students. We could not fit you in even if we used a shoehorn and a stick of butter. You must attend the section in which you are enrolled. Asking me one last time way down the page here isn't going to change the answer.

I know lab is supposed to run until 5:20, but I have to be at work by 5:00. Will it be okay if I just leave early and get notes from my lab partners?

When you signed up for lab, you agreed to attend on a certain day, at a certain time, and for a certain duration. You should expect to be in lab for the full 75 minutes each and every week. If you simply can't, then you need to withdraw from the class and give that last senior on the waiting list a chance to enroll.

Questions About Mobile Devices

I am a senior, and I am expecting calls from potential employers about job interviews. Can I leave my phone on during class in case they need to call me?

No. Unless you are the leader of the free world and have a briefcase containing the launch codes for nuclear weapons handcuffed to your wrist, there is absolutely no reason why the phone cannot be switched off.

My mother/father/sister/brother/fiancèe/uncle/dog/next-door-neighbor/random stranger on the street is sick. Can I leave my phone on during the test?

Not under any circumstances. Off means off. If you have a compelling family situation that requires your presence, then you should telephone or e-mail me with the circumstances. If you have a legitimate family emergency, we can work out an alternate time for you to take a make up exam when you are less distracted and will not be expecting distressing news over the phone.

But I need to use my phone as a calculator!

No you don't. You are not permitted to use any mobile device as a calculator. You can thank those jokers at the University of Maryland who decided to use their cell phones to text message each other test answers.

What will happen if my phone rings during an exam?

First you will see my face get red. Then you will see the steam shoot out of my ears, accompanied by train whistle sounds. Just like in cartoons!
Then you will be required to turn in your exam and leave the room. You may or may not have completed the exam, but you are done. You will not be allowed to return to the room or proceed with the exam. No exceptions will be made to this policy for any reason.

What is your problem with phones anyway?

No problem. But it is rude and disrespectful to take calls, text, tweet, facebook, etc. during class. You already know this, and if I came to class with my phone on, and kept you waiting while I skyped with my mother or my cousin, you would be out the door and into the Dean's office yelling your head off and demanding that somebody take my phone away and beat me senseless with it.

Questions Regarding My Apparent Lack of Humor

You're not much fun, are you?

Oh, on a good day, I am more fun than a barrel of monkeys. But this is not, so to speak, my first rodeo. You might be surprised at how many years I have been doing this. I love my job, but I'm not crazy about hearing the same excuses over and over. And rest assured, no matter how original you think you are being, it's all been done before.

Just how much fun is a barrel of monkeys?

If you have to ask, I can't explain it. But this might help. (Seriously, click that. It's a newspaper article from 1969...they were hilarious back in the olden days…)


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