WTF Wednesday

Now that I am in charge of commencement, I am rich in complaints and problems from huffy parents and students. One of the most frequent issues this semester is with honors cords. Honors are, in my opinion that no one likes to hear, a straightforward issue. You have either achieved the required GPA or you have not. Cum Laude requires a 3.5, Magna Cum Laude is a 3.75, and Summa Cum Laude is a 3.90. That is it. The end. I cannot even tell you have many parents call asking if we can make an exception for their kid who is SO CLOSE and wants to wear honors cords at graduation.

Your kid did not earn the honors cords. I understand that 3.45 is really really really “practically there,” but it is not a 3.5. There are people who call with a 3.2 who want cords. The bottom line is a 3.5. I know it is disappointing, but your kid should have tried harder. I did not graduate with honors for my undergraduate degree, and I still feel disappointed in myself about it, but it was my own damn fault. If people with less than a 3.5 are going to be given honors cords, then there is no point in having them. It is an honor in recognition of an achievement, so if you do not achieve, then you do not get that honor.

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I know that to many people here in California I sound like a raging jerk, but I spend so much time trying to accommodate students who have missed deadlines, did not take care of their business on time, or have some special circumstance. I know that students make mistakes or need a little extra help, and I am here to work with them, but I will not budge on honors! And even if I did give a student the cords, then it still would not be listed on their transcript. They are a phony!

Over the weekend a student emailed me demanding she be given honors cords because she has “tried really hard in college.” She honest to god wrote “I demand.” Kid. No. I have no doubt that she has worked hard and overcome a lot of challenges, but she still only has a 3.25. When I responded that I would not be making an exception, she showed up in my office on Monday to proclaim that my decision was “NOT FAIR.”

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We then had a long conversation about fairness. What would be unfair is if she had a 3.5 GPA, but I refused to give her the cords that she had rightfully earned. What would be unfair would be for her to earn those cords, then have other people who had not be allowed to wear the cords. What would be unfair is if I refused her cords because I did not like her. Or would not let her go to graduation because she annoyed me. Those things are unfair. Not being given something that you have not earned is fairness.


I am exhausted by student and parent demands to the point that I am having to force myself to be polite. Every generation has their entitled members, but those folks really come out of the woodwork this time of year. A student came in to scream at me yesterday because I told her that we would not be refunding her tuition because she did not like her professor. She is finishing the class and earning credit. The teacher has not been unfair or discriminatory, and has not mistreated her. She just does not like her as a person.

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I have been accused of lacking empathy with students at times, but I gave her the real talk. Your life is going to be filled with people you do not like. You have to learn to deal with them. You will have bosses, coworkers, and family members and friends of a future partner who you might loathe with your entire being. You have to figure out how to tolerate them. Buckle up, kid, because life is full of unlikable folks.

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