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Are Professors Required to Grant Extensions? Dean Huang Responds

November 6, 2011

Clancy Tripp
Are Professors Required to Grant Extensions? Dean Huang Responds

So you spent Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night discussing politics with your friends, designing bro-tastic tanks, investing in the stock market, or whatever it is that CMC students do with their weekends. It’s now 4 AM on Monday and you have roughly five hours to plan, write, and edit a fifteen-page midterm.  Instead of searching the words “free essays online federalist papers” into Google, you opt to do the responsible thing and email your professor for an extension. Is your professor required to grant you an extension on your paper to prohibit you from falling prey to the siren call of plagiarism? Despite circulating rumors of a blanket extension policy in the last few weeks, the answer (drumroll please) is a resounding no.

This does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t ask for an extension.  Dean Gregory Hess, Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Academic Affairs, explains that, “The college does not have an official policy,” and it’s up to the individual professor to decide his or her expectations. Hess advocates each professor having a policy that allows for extensions with a grade penalty since “students are the best time managers [and] often times students make poor decisions on how to finish papers when they don’t have the time.” Still, CMC does not have any rules about guaranteed extensions. Dean Jefferson Huang, Vice President for Student Affairs, claims he is not aware of any circumstances in which an extension is required.  He states, “I've known students who suffered serious injuries, car accidents, or a death in the family before an assignment is due, and we ask professors to be 'reasonable' about an accommodation or extension of time when a 'reasonable' situation has come up. But in the end, it is entirely up to the professor.”

When it came to his own policy, I asked Dean Huang about the accuracy of one student’s claim that Huang stated in class that a teacher must grant an extension if a student asks for it.  When asked if he had made this statement Huang replied, “Absolutely not,” and explained his position. “What I said was, in an effort to discourage the last-minute, cut-and-paste plagiarism cases, a student should consider asking their professor for an extension of time. And professors are ASKED to consider whether this is appropriate, and what grade penalties should be attached.”  Simply stated, any request for an extension is exactly that, a request.  There is no guarantee that your procrastination will be rewarded, but Dean Huang does advocate being honest and asking for an extension to “potentially avoid the death-spiral of plagiarism.”

And now for a lesson most people don’t learn until it’s already much too late: plagiarizers are pretty darn easy to catch.  Huang points out, “There's a very, very good chance that you'll get caught. There are tell-tale signs, like vocabulary words or concepts that have not been used in class, or papers that stray into areas other than the assignment.”  He continues on to explain that many professors intentionally choose topics that are hard to plagiarize, use websites like to detect cheating, and educate students on what constitutes plagiarism.  He notes, “If the wording doesn't sound like you, it's a huge red flag” and offers a handy solution to this plagiarism problem by dryly suggesting, “you should make it sound like you by writing it yourself.”


After an interview consisting entirely of plagiarism and extension related questions, Dean Huang offered a glaringly obvious solution that students seem to keep forgetting; do your work ahead of time.  He elaborates, “A few years ago, a very wise CMC student said to me that, so long as you keep doing a fair amount of work every day, college is easy” and explains that he heartily condones this attitude.   College may not be as “easy” for you as it was for Dean Huang’s time-management master of a student, but as any Dean, J-Board member, or former plagiarizer will tell you, it’s a lot easier than telling your parents you’ve been suspended or dismissed from CMC for academic dishonesty.

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