Thursday, May 03, 2007

Lab Final & Library Fire

Today I give the final for the intro to physics lab course that I'm teaching. A few weeks ago I warned the students that the final will be on the difficult side. One student was mildly frightened. At the end of his last lab report he added this text (bolding and emphasis not added):
When making the final, please remember that this is INTRO to physics, and not for physics majors. Think about how easy intro to biology, and the other intro/NON Major classes are… and try to apply that to our class when grading and creating an exam.
I decided to ignore that. But then on Wednesday morning I got this email:
Dear Professor,
I do not know if you are aware, but there was a fire early last night in the library- significantly hindering mine, as well as many other physics lab students ability to study.... please take this into account when counting / grading the final.
Also, I do not know if you are aware, but radioactivity was not covered in lecture at all; buoyancy, sounds, and fluids were all topics from last semester.
One final thing, please please please remember that this is a 1 credit non major intro class...
Thanks a lot,
See you at the final,
[Student's Name]

A fire in the library! WHOA! That's serious business (although a lame excuse). I called the library to verify that there was, in fact, a fire. The librarian was like, "Fire? In the library?! Not that I know of." Now, that tells you something about the seriousness of the fire. But I wanted to be sure, so I called YU security. Sure enough, some modem short circuited and started smoking. The library was evacuated for a few hours.
I know, I know, this is a truly devastating thing. I'm sure it affected many students, as, after all, the library is the only place one can study! I mean, the lounges on each dorm floor, the SkyCaf, the various batei medrash - those really are not good, quiet places to sit and study. So I figured this required a response:
Dear [Student's Name],
If the few hours the library was out of service has truly affected your mental state for the upcoming exam, I feel that you might want to contact YU's counseling services: If there is an issue, I'll be more than glad to accommodate.
I am aware that radioactivity was not covered in lecture. However, as your grade on that lab (~[grade]%) was above the average grade for the rest of your labs (~[grade]%), I can only assume that you have a strong handle on the material we covered in that lab.
Regarding your last comment (which is similar to the one you appended to your last lab report), I am, in fact, aware that the course is a 1 credit course for non-physics majors.
However, the one credit hour that this will count towards your GPA is weighted the same as one credit hour for the "for majors" lab and the same as one credit hour of any of your other classes. Also, to the best of my knowledge, the credits assigned to a class do not determine the difficultly of the class or the thoroughness of an exam, but rather the length of time spent in lecture/lab.
Additionally, as the course is an intro course, and the labs were intro labs, the final is an intro final, and I believe it will yield an accurate measure of how much you've learned through the semester. However, I see no reason that an intro course final should be more or less difficult that an advanced course final - the only difference is the level of material covered.
I hope this has clarified any issues you were having regarding the final. See you tomorrow.

This should be fun.


  1. Darnit Eli, it's an intro course. You'll have to make it easy. There goes that section on Non-Abelian Gauge Theory.

    Wow the spell checker knows how to spell Abelian. I'm impressed.

    Oh and don't forget to put a sign on the door outside the testing room. "Abandon hope all ye who enter here!" That should stir things up quite nicely.

  2. eli = professor ??

    abandon hope, indeed.

  3. this story is certifiably ROFL. its funny, because its so, so, true.

  4. so what happened