On Unreasonable Requests For Time Off

There is a growing number of students who seem to believe that they are special. In a sense, this is a good thing: we are all special, every one of us, and it’s good to recognize that. Yes, you, too, are unique and special…

However, as far as requesting special treatment, I can assure you that you are not that special. You are the same as everybody else, and you are expected to meet the same standards as everyone else. You must fulfill the same minimum number of course credits to graduate. You must earn grades at or above the minimum level in order to pass courses. You must fulfill all expectations just like other students in our department, and in accordance with the University’s own rules, in order to be awarded a degree at the end of your program.

Sometimes it takes a student more than four years to graduate. Sometimes students struggle to earn all the credits they need. Sometimes students take time off from school to pursue other interests — studying English (or Spanish, or French) abroad, taking on a job or internship, dealing with personal, health, or family emergencies, and so on.

There is a system in place of these kinds of absences — you can easily set up a leave of absence for a semester, or a year. If you need more information, please visit our department office (IH341) and you will be told what you need to do in order to set up an official leave of absence; during the period, you will not be enrolled in classes, but will be able to return to our university at the end of the absence period.  I assure you, our faculty is very understanding of these sorts of situations.

However, there is an increasing number of students who seem to believe that they are entitled to special treatment, in terms of being excused from class. Whether at the beginning of semester, or midway through, these students make foolish decisions such as accepting positions of employment, internships, or otherwise putting themselves in the position of having conflicting commitments. Being unable to be in two places at once, they inevitably approach professors asking to be excused from class for the semester, or for two months, while pursuing their careers, adding an internship to their resumes, and so on.

If you are considering making such a request, please stop and remind yourself of reality, by saying this following line aloud:

I do not deserve special treatment. I will not receive special treatment.

If you are still confused as to why asking for a free pass on courses you don’t plan on attending is “special treatment” or why you shouldn’t ask for it, there’s a simple fact you need to realize, and then understand, and then remember. That fact is this:

Every other student at our university has other things he or she could be doing right now, instead of studying, attending classes, and doing homework.

They could be:

  • doing an internship, to boost their resumes
  • working at a company that doesn’t care whether they have a degree or not
  • starting a family
  • pursuing a different degree in a different major at a different university
  • writing a book
  • backpacking through Europe or Southeast Asia or South America
  • hunting gazelles in Africa
  • running an internet shopping website
  • fomenting political revolution
  • reading comic books and drinking whiskey all day long
  • apprenticing with a famous artist
  • working as an actor, camera operator, or script editor in Hollywood, Bollywood, or Chungmuro

The possibilities are endless. The point is: university is a sacrifice: you give up time, energy, and you get a degree in return, assuming you can pass your classes, master some subjects and material, and attend enough classes. The idea is, yes, you might have to sacrifice something else you’d like to be doing, but everyone else is sacrificing something else he or she could be doing too.

That’s how it works. If you want to need a degree, then make the sacrifice. You enrolled at our university knowing the program was eight semesters long, knowing that we don’t have an online education system, knowing you would be expected to be resident at the university for the full eight semesters. If you want an internship, take a leave of absence. If you want a job, quit school… or finish your program first and then get a job.

We are aware of pressure from parents, relatives, peers, and even employers who think that you should be able to get a job, start an internship, or otherwise simply skip the last few months of school.

These people think they know best, but they don’t. For the purposes of this conversation, anyone who thinks you can or should skip a few months of school but get credit anyway is working against your best interests, and needs to be ignored. Trust me, it won’t be the first time your parents, relatives, peers, or other people around you will turn out to be completely wrong. Get used to it. They may love you, they may want what’s best for you: if they think skipping a few months of school and demanding a degree without fulfilling degree requirements is a good idea, they are wrong, and don’t know what they’re talking about.

(And frankly, if you do a little research about the Korean economy and the world economy, at this moment, Korea’s among the few economies doing very well. All of the hype about how hard it is to get a job is hype. Graduates from our department are getting jobs all the time, and in fact our graduates are among the most highly employed of all graduates from our university. So relax and do the work you need to do, and worry about getting a job after you graduate; otherwise, you’re doing things not just out of order, but so backwards that you’re likely to ruin both pursuits. Think of it this way: buying a wedding dress or tuxedo before you’re even dating someone makes no sense, right? That’s what it’s like when you take a job before finishing your degree.)

Being a student is your decision, and decisions involve responsibility — your responsibility.

If you’d rather work a job or do an internship, then quit school or take time off. If you want a degree, don’t take a full time job until you’ve finished. The choice is yours… and the responsibility is yours.

It’s that simple.

A few more points:

  • Yes, some professors do give students permission to skip school, as long as they promise that the student fulfills supplementary work. Those professors are breaking university rules and being unfair to all the students who are making the sacrifices necessary to fulfill graduation requirements — and they are also allowing students to sabotage their own education, which is the opposite of compassion. They’re wrong, and telling me this or that Professor said it was okay will not change my mind.
  • Certain administrative offices on our campus to have a misconception about academic rules being breakable “at the discretion of the professor.” This is a case of someone in an office not wanting to deal with a complaining student, or not having the guts to tell you the rules are rules; as standard for bureaucrats, they pass the responsibility to professors to refuse you. Just because some bureaucrat was too scared to lay down the law, doesn’t mean the rules aren’t rules. It might sound like it’s all up to the professor. This is a lie made by someone who doesn’t care either way — doesn’t care if you are educated, doesn’t care if you graduate without being qualified and give our university a bad name, doesn’t care if you end up being hurt by the decision — as long as you pay tuition.
  • If you’re reading this, chances are I sent you the link as a response to you making an unreasonable request. If you ask me again, even politely, by for example, urging me to reconsider, asking me to “give” you a passing grade, begging for a “chance” then you will be acting in a very rude manner. (Consider that when I (and other faculty in our department) were undergraduates, we would never have dreamed of making such a ridiculous request… let alone pressuring or begging a professor to change his or her mind when the request was refused.) If you do continue to beg, push, pressure me, or try to make your decision my responsibility, I will probably get rude. So don’t push me there.
  • Yes, in the past, other professors and even I have been more lenient about this point. Students insisted they would do all the work and more, would really work hard. They promised and promised just as you want to promise and promise. Not a single one of them actually followed through. They all failed to keep their promises, and failed the class, and then begged for a passing grade that they had not earned. I am no longer willing to even listen to requests to dance that dance again. So no.
  • No. No no no.

The only exceptions I can consider are medical and family. If you are a single parent or the caregiver to a child or dependent, talk to me. If you experience the onset of a serious medical condition during semester, and too late to drop out, talk to me. But I must assure all other students: I have had students whose parents died during semester, and who missed only a week of class. I have had single mothers who had perfect attendance records. I have had students suffering from serious illnesses who attended the minimum required number of classes and did almost all the homework assignments.

Those are examples of people taking responsibility for their education. As an adult, I expect no less from you.