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Was this fair of my professor to do?

fishayyyfishayyy Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
edited November 2012 in College Life
I had a final exam yesterday. About 20 minutes in, I had to use the restroom (unfortunately, I drank 2 cups of tea later than I should have), so I asked my professor if I could go. She hesitated for a few seconds, and told me that I couldn't go unless I REAAAALLY had to, because it was an "in-class exam." Needless to say, I was a little surprised, but I sucked it up and said that I would wait, but I might have to go later (it was only 20 minutes into the exam, which ended up taking 1 and a half hours).

Probably 30-40 minutes later, I was on the verge of exploding, so I went up to her and told her that look, seriously, I am about to pee all over myself if I can't go to the restroom. She hesitated again for a few seconds, and then said fine, but hand me your test first. I say sure, and semi-run to the toilet. I do what I need to do, and come back within a couple of minutes. When I come back, my professor says, "you can't add anything to Part A" (there were 2 parts, A and B). Having only finished half of A, I was stunned, but my shell-shocked self told her, fine. I go back to my seat, think about it for a few minutes, and decide to answer the other option for Part A (I had chosen #1 for Part A, so when I got back I decided to do #2, a completely different question, instead). I do that, finish my Part B answer which I had nearly completed before leaving the room, and submit my exam. I tell her that I answered #2 of Part A instead since she had told me I couldn't add anything to an incomplete #1, and that I hoped that was OK.

She thinks about it for a second, and then tells me that no, it's not ok. At this point, I'm starting to get angry, but I contain my frustration. I tell her, look, I know you told me not to add more to Part A, but I answered a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT QUESTION instead. How is that not OK? No matter what I say, she declines to count that part instead.

Although I think not being granted the ability to use the restroom is a little strange, I can see what my professor was thinking. She thought I could have cheated while outside of the room - when I was arguing with her at the end, she literally said "I don't know what you did out there." My major problems are that a) she didn't tell us before the exam started that we wouldn't be able to use the bathroom, and b) she didn't tell me before I went to the bathroom that I would forfeit my right to completely answer a question.

And if I were to have cheated, hypothetically, wouldn't I have looked for the answer to the question I was actually answering? It doesn't make logical sense that I would have looked for the answer to the #2 instead (which, I repeat, was a totally different question).

Am I right to feel that this is unfair? It seems like she is treating this being guilty until innocent. This exam is worth 40% of my grade, so while I'm an unconfrontational person who hates arguing and grade-grubbing, I feel that I have the right to do something.
Post edited by fishayyy on

Replies to: Was this fair of my professor to do?

  • spectasticspectastic - Posts: 847 Member
    she sounds like a b*tch, but there's nothing you can do. I would be angry too
  • musicallylatinmusicallylatin Registered User Posts: 3,814 Senior Member
    I feel like the expectation of no bathroom during an exam is reasonable enough (albeit, highly annoying) but the fact she let you go and didn't warn you ahead of time that you could finish the section is what's wrong with her choice.

    That makes the entire situation a bunch of crap.
  • fishayyyfishayyy Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Yes, that's what's frustrating me the most - that she didn't let us know in advance that we wouldn't be able to go, and that when I literally couldn't take it any longer and had to go, she didn't tell me that I would be penalized by not being able to finish. I agree that it is fair enough for her to have a no-bathroom policy, but certainly not without telling us in advance.

    I can see her thought process, as well, after she saw my exam - I had finished Part B but only half of Part A, so theoretically I could have gone to the bathroom and looked up the answer to the part I didn't answer. I get that. It was a possibility to her that I could have done that, and the fact that I left only that part blank (I had written something like "____ compares this to ___ because...") before leaving the room probably made her believe that I actually intended to do this.

    I should probably mention that I did NOT do this.

    What really happened, why I didn't fully answer the question, is because I didn't have an immediate answer when I was thinking about it. For me, it was one of those questions that you know you reviewed, but you have to think about a little harder to remember what the answer is. It didn't pop into my head right away. I didn't have a thought-out answer when I was began to write, so I answered the first part of that question and left the second as I described above, intending to go back after I answered the second part. That's fairly standard test-taking strategy, right?

    If it meant I could have avoided this situation, I would have let her come into the freakin' stall with me!
  • teachandmomteachandmom Registered User Posts: 1,244 Senior Member
    Stopping someone from using the bathroom is a violation of human rights. Sure, she can't guarantee you didn't cheat, but she can't say for sure you did either. It's a risk for both of you, but she can't deny anyone the right to use the bathroom. Courts have heard these types of cases before. I teach, and using the bathroom is the one thing that I can't have denied me, in terms of "never leave your classroom unattended." If I have to go, and no other adult is available, I get to leave that classroom. No penalty. Period. She should have announced any consequences first, or collected cell phones, etc. See what your grade is. Does the college have a policy about suspected cheating? She would have to accuse you of cheating first, and then justify her grading, etc, instead of doing what she did.
  • fishayyyfishayyy Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    teachandmom: General cheating policies for my school are outlined here: USC Policies > USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

    The most relevant words are these:
    "It is the responsibility of the instructor to be alert to such possibilities [of cheating] and to create a learning environment in which such acts are openly discouraged and, if identified, appropriately punished. More likely, however, an instructor will encounter more subtle acts of academic dishonesty, many of which are conducted unwittingly by students who have yet to gain the necessary tools of effective research or proper time management."
    "It is the role of all instructors, therefore, to educate students on what constitutes cheating and plagiarism, to set a clear policy for how academic dishonesty will be handled, and to teach the value of maintaining academic integrity in one’s work."

    The rest of it just defines "cheating" and offers reasons why students resort to cheating, etc.

    To me, the above passages indicate that my professor COULD have had a right to limit using the restroom during an exam, but NOT without specifying it beforehand. The point that seems to be in my favor, though, is "...IF identified, appropriately punished." This implies that she would have had to have proof before applying any type of punishment. In my case, she had reasonable suspicion, but far from definitive proof.

    It's highly unlikely that I will pursue any sort of action; I created this thread mostly just to validate my concerns about what my professor did - it's been on my mind since it happened (Thursday) - but if it significantly affects my grade, I might consider it. It's been a frustrating couple of days.
  • wwlinkwwlink Registered User Posts: 995 Member
    Good grief, it's college, not elementary school. I think your professor was being a control freak, and deserves to be called out for it.
  • steellord321steellord321 Registered User Posts: 349 Member
    Appeal the grade at the dean's or whatever and rate her down on myprofessors. The only problem with your logic is "She didn't tell us we couldn't use the bathroom." This is something every professor assumes to be the case as it's common sense you take care of that before the test. Still, if you didn't cheat you had every right to finish. It's their burden to prove that you cheated, not assume it. That's the issue, not her failure to spell everything out for you.
  • sumzupsumzup Registered User Posts: 799 Member
    Yes, you should absolutely raise hell over this. If she had an objection at the time you asked her (during the test), she should have voiced it. Retroactively enacting this policy to punish you is dumb.
  • bl4ke360bl4ke360 Registered User Posts: 712 Member
    You deserve it if you haven't yet learned to go to the bathroom before you take a test.
  • radioactivemintradioactivemint Registered User Posts: 42 Junior Member
    bl4ke360, have you never had one-too-many cups of coffee or tea? I'd be in there every ten minutes -- these things happen, though I'm sure the op now knows to limit consumption of these drinks before a test in the future.

    That being said, I find your instructor to be very unreasonable in the course of action she took.
  • b@r!umb@r!um Registered User Posts: 10,201 Senior Member
    I would probably bring this incident to the attention of a Dean, if only to prevent future incidents for other students. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do to salvage your grade at this point. Best care scenario you'd be offered a retake of a "similar" exam but I'd be afraid that the new exam would be significantly harder so that the instructor could prove her point...

    To avoid that scenario, my university has a policy to always let students finish an exam even when there are irregularities. If a student is found guilty of cheating, it's easy enough not to grade the exam afterwards. However, if the student is found innocent, we do have the full exam on hand and can grade it like all the other exams. There's no fair way to assign a grade later if the student was not allowed to finish their exam...
    The only problem with your logic is "She didn't tell us we couldn't use the bathroom." This is something every professor assumes to be the case as it's common sense you take care of that before the test.
    Really? I have never in my 4 years of college and 2 years of grad school encountered a professor who did not let us use the restroom during an exam. Where do you go to school?
  • fishayyyfishayyy Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    Thank you for all of your responses - they gave me the courage to finally email her. I just sent her my very long and thought-out perspective on what happened. I'll update this when she responds.
  • fishayyyfishayyy Registered User Posts: 11 New Member
    And I think I will bring it up to the dean if she continues to shoot me down. I'm not doing this to help my grade, it's just a matter of righting what I feel was wrong.
  • rebeccarrebeccar Registered User Posts: 2,073 Senior Member
    Personally I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that you not use the bathroom during a test. I don't mean this to be patronizing, but are you a freshman? There are a lot of professors who will refuse to let you use the bathroom because you're old enough to a) know that you should go beforehand, and b) be able to hold it for the duration of a test.

    HOWEVER. It IS unreasonable to not tell you that you wouldn't be able to finish the section. It sounds like she thought about it while you were in the bathroom and made up that rule while you were out, which is totally unfair to you because it is arbitrary and there's no way you would have known that. So THAT is the angle I would fight-- not about the whole going to the bathroom in the first place thing.

    Good luck.
  • VladenschlutteVladenschlutte Registered User Posts: 4,329 Senior Member
    I don't think I've ever had an issue about not being able to use the restroom during an exam. I've done so plenty of times and never had an issue. I mean, if the professor thinks you're gonna cheat (presumably that was their concern) when you go to the restroom, they should expect plenty of other things. Do they make everyone take off their shoes and forbid drinks during the exam?

    Unfair, yeah. I doubt anything will happen about it though. You just gotta suck it up and deal with it.
This discussion has been closed.