Around this time of year, student stress is high, as is the bar for what counts as an excuse for missing class, failing a test or other less-than-pleasant educational outcomes. Students have, for years and years, broken out the sagas of dead grandmothers and grandfathers as a way of getting out of classes and turning in homework late, even though that exact same grandparent died three times this year already.
However, faculty can attest to the fact that excuses rooted in deaths and dental emergencies rarely pass muster. To get a second look or a “I guess I could let you slide…” from a professor, it takes dedication to your story, a heavy dose of weirdness and some good old-fashioned chutzpah. Therefore, we here at the Dynamics of Media, in conjunction with the Hivemind, have decided to honor the students who put forth serious effort in their tales of woe with our “Best BS Excuses in Education” Awards, known now and forever as “The BESSYs.”
Without further ado, let’s get into it:
IN THE CATEGORY OF STRANGE-BUT-TRUE
In all fairness, I have skipped a more than a few classes and come late for a few others. The best excuse was a true one: I was worried about making it to class during a freak snow storm, so I took my motor scooter from my off-campus apartment. When some idiot in a giant Buick hit the brakes for no apparent reason, I couldn’t stop quickly enough on the slushy streets of Madison and I slid directly under the rear of his car and wedged my head between his muffler and the pavement.
Fortunately for me, I was wearing a helmet. Fortunately for him, I was too worried about being late to call the cops, so I just yanked my scooter out of there and drove around him.
I will never forget the look on my TA’s face when he saw me, coated in slush, with a giant rip through my coat and a huge burn mark on of my helmet. As I yanked off the helmet to assess the damage, he just looked at me and said, “I don’t even want to know.”
As much as we’d like to blame all of weird excuses on today’s Millennials and their damned hippity-hoppity music, folks from previous generations weighed in with their best strange-but-true moments:
Well, I was a half-hour late to the final of (NAME’S) Law of Mass Communications because a pack of wild dogs wouldn’t let me out of my house at (ADDRESS), in 1972. I asked her years later and she remembered it, and remembered having to explain it to her as I walked in way late.
Occasionally, the truth bomb includes collateral damage that leads to throwing a family member under the bus:
A variation on the dog ate my homework: my grandmother has dementia and she threw my laptop into a trash compactor and destroyed all my work.
That said, the winner of the “I Don’t Even Want to Know” BESSY Award goes to this story:
My best one was real: New Jersey student couldn’t come to class for a week due to a court order that she not leave the state for a week (and she forwarded it).
IN THE CATEGORY OF “YEP, YOU GOT ME!”
Sometimes, it’s not so much the fact the student skipped, it’s that they got caught in the lie. My favorite story remains listed among the Five Conversations Journalism Professors have in Hell:
Perhaps my favorite one was years ago when I had a student tell me she spent six hours in the ER with a kidney infection and that she was way too sick to attend my 3 p.m. class. I explained I understood and that these kinds of things happen.
Later that night, my wife and I were at the local journalism bar and guess who walked in? Yep. The student.
She saw me, got a freaked-out look on her face and practically dove into the party room next to the entrance.
The conversation that followed the next class period was epic:
Her: Hi, I was wondering if I missed anything in class…
Me: Well, it’s been said that the appearance of impropriety is worse than impropriety itself, which is what I thought about when I saw you walk into the Heidelberg the other night, four hours after skipping my class.
Her: Oh! I can explain that!
Me: I’d love to hear it.
Her: Well, it was my friend’s birthday and I was feeling much better at that point so I just stopped by for a drink.
Me: With a kidney infection?
Her: Oh, yeah! I have my doctor’s note for you. Let me get that!
Me: (feeling aneurysm building in my brain, fueled by her complete lack of self-awareness) Um… That’s OK… Let’s just start class.
The desire to dodge and not get caught isn’t unique to this student. One former student fessed up to this moment:
When I worked in sports at (college-based media outlet), my dad qualified for an amateur golf tournament in Orlando and my family wanted us all to go, but it was last minute. I told the editor my grandma had died even though she hadn’t. The tournament was to be broadcast on ESPN, so I spent all week dodging cameras (I worked in sports, remember). Not an original story, but I thought it had a nice twist with the cameras.
However the winner for the “How Did You Know?…Oh…” BESSY Award goes to the cliche double whammy listed here:
A student needed to miss a week before Spring Break because her grandmother died. She forgot we were friends on Facebook and started posting photos of herself on the beach.
IN THE CATEGORY OF OVERSHARING EXCUSES:
Oversharing has been one of those things students tended to do for reasons past my understanding. Professors have shared more than a few stories of students who discussed the nuanced details of their vomiting, disclosed extremely personal medical problems or generally told us stuff we just DID NOT want to hear.
Case in point: A student in our newsroom once told a TA that nobody should steal her chair because her “genital warts are really flaring up.” The same student once noted that she had just broken up with her boyfriend, and despite his attempts at an amicable parting, she “wasn’t going to keep (expletive) him as a friend.”
I still feel the need to wash my ears out with bleach after hearing that…
A colleague at an Iowa institution shared a similar “bleachable” moment that turned out to be not as bad as it initially sounded:
Once got an email from a student informing me he wouldn’t be in class that morning because he “shit the bed.” At first I was like 😳 trying to get that image out of my head. Then I decided to google it and it turns out it’s slang for “really messed up.”
However, the Oversharing BESSY Award, sponsored by the TMI Corp,, goes to the student in this story:
My Japanese colleague once completely freaked when a student told him she couldn’t come to class because of “anal bleeding.”
Also in this “Oh, dear Lord, that’s so gross…” division, we have a second category.
The “I Believe You Because I’m Too Disgusted To Check Up On You” BESSY winner is a tie between these two students:
I had one who said he got sprayed by a skunk!
“I got my hair caught in a low-hanging fly trap.”
IN THE CATEGORY OF “HONESTY IS (USUALLY) THE BEST POLICY:”
It’s the simplest answers that merit the most respect from this professor:
Art students usually just tell the truth….”I overslept”.
That said, the winner for Best Blinding and Burning Flash of the Obvious goes to the student who once noted:
Seeing my family is more important than a 2:30 p.m. bio class the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Sorry.
OK. Ouch. At least is wasn’t in the kid’s major…
IN THE CATEGORY OF SINGULARLY LAME ACHIEVEMENT:
The “I’m Not As Cool As You Think” BESSY goes to a broadcast graduate with disdain for the weather:
I interned for the radio play-by-play guys for the Badgers my senior year. I was supposed to go to Mardi Gras with some friends so they knew I was going to miss a game or two, but I decided at the last minute not to go, but didn’t tell the radio guys. There was a basketball game the day after I was supposed to get back, but it was freezing so I didn’t want to walk all the way to the field house, so I told them I was too partied out from Mardi Gras and had to skip that game.
The “But I Was Just Thinking of Your Feelings, Professor” Award goes to two of my former students who told me this:
I always assumed that you would have rather (Yahoo 1), (Yahoo 2) and myself come up with a bullshit excuse to miss class rather than show up in the state we would show up in on Thursday mornings.
Yahoo 1 then chimed in to support this statement:
Fair point! We typically had double the beers in our system than we did hours of sleep by the time 8 a.m. rolled around
(It should be pointed out that Yahoo 1 is about to become a father for the first time. I weep for the future of humanity.)
IN THE CATEGORY OF “I’M KIND OF A BIG DEAL“
Occasionally, name dropping or explaining you were doing something much cooler works out for you, as it did for this current professor who once showed up late for one of his courses:
I was very late to class once and the art prof looked pretty disturbed. I told her I had a good excuse–I was photographing the governor. She believed me but acted as if that was not a good excuse for an art class.
However, the Best Humblebrag Award goes to this student from a wealthy private school:
A student told her professor that she “could not come to class because she was hosting a private trunk show for Isaac Mizrahi.“
And finally, the Best Excuse Ever Award goes to the student who inspired the professor to note “I shit you not” after sharing this excuse with us:
“Pimp C died so I will be missing class all week.”
Thanks to all the nominees and the audience. Hope to see you next year.