Life/Style: excuse me

Even if the syllabus declares “no late assignments accepted” in bold capital letters, or a professor insists there is only one date to take the exam, students know a good excuse can be the golden ticket to an “A.”

One McCormick sophomore entered a science exam in the fall already feeling queasy. Completely blanking, she excused herself to the bathroom and made herself throw up. The vomit card got her a make-up date.

When in doubt, a gross-out detail can deter prodding. “If a professor needs proof, I say I don’t want to leave my dorm in my current condition because of stomach issues,” says one Weinberg junior. “They agree it’s a bad idea.” The student still has to make up a fall economics final, and currently has an incomplete in the class. “Excuses [often] work because you just feel like a jerk asking for proof,” says Karrie Snyder, a sociology lecturer.

Skip the elaboration; it doesn’t take much to make an excuse fly. “If professors see you’re willing to give the information, most don’t necessarily seek it. They trust you,” the junior says. Professors are often sympathetic because it’s difficult to detect flat-out lies. Psychology Prof. Wendi Gardner says she’s surely let a fib or two slide unintentionally. “I am pleased to say that NU students are good at the creative deception,” Gardner says. One time a student of hers was hit by a bus en route to an exam – nearly implausible, but completely truthful.

But professors lose patience when stories are too fantastic or in poor taste. “A colleague of mine (before I came to NU) had a student claim that his mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer, so his assignment was going to be late,” Snyder says. “This would have been fine, except he had used this excuse the year before with another (fellow professor) – whose mom actually had gone through breast cancer, which made this even more disturbing.”

Sometimes professors reward clever excuses, especially when students tailor them to course material. A Weinberg sophomore scored an extension on a philosophy assignment by arguing that due to a recent breakup, she needed extra time so the paper “would not be tainted by my own subjectivity toward the situation,” she says. The student is still somewhat surprised it worked.