Worst homework excuses: Faculty share ways that students have avoided assignments

Illustration by Sarah Bradbury

By Julia Warling

There are a number of reasons why a student decides not to finish their assignment on time. Maybe they’re tired, maybe they’re hungry or maybe they just can’t focus.

But some students come up with elaborate excuses to avoid telling their professors the truth.

“I did have a time when a student was supposed to take an exam in one of my upper division Biology courses and he didn’t show up,” Ken Clifton, Professor of Biology and Department Chair said. “When I checked with him afterwards, he told me that he had come down with food poisoning from eating something bad the night before.”

“At some point after that, I was standing in line somewhere with a couple of other members of the faculty and … we were talking about foods and I said, ‘I had a student who came down with food poisoning right before an exam and couldn’t take it,’” Clifton said. “The professor that I was talking with said, ‘I had the same thing happen last semester with a student,’ and then the guy in front of me said ‘I had a student come down with food poisoning just a couple weeks ago.’”

In that moment, Clifton realized that this student had been using the same excuse every time he didn’t want to take a test.

“So I told him … that he had another exam coming up and that he needed to be very careful about the food choices that he made before the exam so he was sure not to come down with food poisoning again,” Clifton said.

Adjunct Faculty member Read McFaddin also had a funny story to tell about a death in a student’s family.

“I had a friend who, as a Teaching Fellow (TF), had a student who said that their grandmother had died,” McFaddin said.

The TF felt sorry for the student’s family, so to be kind, he sent the family flowers and a card. However, it was never revealed whether or not the grandmother actually died.

“If the grandmother was not dead, the family’s going to be very confused,” McFaddin said. “If the grandma did in fact die, this guy comes off smelling like roses, no pun intended. But the idea was that here’s this nice TF, thinking about this family in this time of crisis.”

One of French Instructor Natalie Stamper’s students failed to turn in their assignment on time. However, Stamper said that the student had a legitimate excuse.

“I had a student whose mother went into labor the night before the homework was due,” Stamper said.

There are days where it seems impossible to get any work done, and as the sun rises on the due date or the day of the big test, some students turn to the last and final option — the lie.

Once a decision has been made not to tell the truth, creativity for excuses knows no bounds; that’s why the “dog ate my homework” excuse has become so trivial.

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