University Student Etiquette Frequently Asked Questions

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This document is a set of Frequently Asked Questions that relate to etiquette and other matters involving the relationship among students, professors, and university administration. Although this area is poorly researched, some research does show that students and professors often have different expectations. This document attempts to make clear the expectations from one side of that equation.

Note the preferences expressed here are mine alone, and are not official policies of the university or the CS department.

Contents

Communication

Email

Should I email the professor?

Emailing the professor is a good idea if...

  • the professor has expressed a preference for email over other forms of communication
  • the professor has asked you to email him/her
  • you would like to speak to the professor, and you have legitimate reasons for not being able to attend class and open office hours for the past few weeks.

In all other cases, see the professor in person.

What is the professor's email address?

Check the syllabus, or ask the professor if it's not there. Don't just use the email address that Gmail recommends if the professor has indicated a preference for a different email address.

The grade I received is wrong. Should i email the professor?

See above.

I'm sending an email to 2 or 3 of the professor's different email addresses at the same time. Is this a good idea?

No. This can be interpreted by your professor as 'crazy person' behavior. If you're not sure which email address to send to, check the syllabus and just ask the professor if you don't find it there.

I sent an email to the professor, but he/she hasn't responded. Should I forward the same email to him/her again?

No. Talk to him/her in person if you suspect they have missed your email. If you do forward an old message for some reason, it's a basic courtesy to add a sentence or two at the top explaining why you have decided to do so.

How should I address the professor, tutor, or grader in an email?

When in doubt, it's always a good idea to address people you don't know well formally. Such as,

Dear Professor,
[Insert your message here]

And it is customary to add a complimentary closing to the letter. Commonly-used closings include (in order of decreasing formality), "Respectfully", "Sincerely", "Kind regards", "Best regards", "Many thanks", "Thanks". For example:

Respectfully,
[Insert your name here]

This may seem overly formal to some, and it is. But it is better to be more formal than overly casual with people you don't know. Should you become good buddies with the professor, tutors, and graders, as you are sure to do at some point in the future, you may then write in a more casual style for personal correspondence. But when in doubt, err on the side of formality.

The writing guidelines on advancedetiquette.com offer more well-written practical tips for writing well-written letters. Their focus is on business letters, but the same tips apply just as well to any respectful letter.

I'm trying to send an attachment in an email, but it isn't working. What do I do?

Upload the attachment to a public web server, such as i6, or cloud hosting service such as Box.com, Dropbox, or Google Drive, and just send us the link to it via email. Please make sure the link you are sending works before sending.

Assignments

Submitting

What's the late policy for assignments?

Check the syllabus.

How do I submit assignments?

Check the syllabus.

You claim I didn't submit my assignment, but I did. Should I send you a screenshot of my submission?

Why would you do this? Sending a screenshot is proof of nothing except, perhaps, a lack of critical thinking and lack of ability in image editing software like Photoshop.

Grading

Why haven't I received my grade for the assignment yet?

It probably hasn't been graded yet. Raise any concerns with the professor.

Only one line of code was incorrect in my assignment. Why did you take off so many points?

We do not deduct points proportionally to how many lines of code are correct. We deduct according to whether the assignment meets the stated requirements or not.

I spent a lot of time and effort on this work. Can't I get some credit for that?

No. Grades are not scaled according to how much effort or time a student spends working on them. All students are expected to achieve the same level of mastery over the material, regardless of how much effort that requires of them.

Nevertheless, as an aside, it is interesting to examine why you would think to ask for such a system. And it's also perhaps interesting to think about what education would be like were students to be graded according to how much effort or time they exert towards a course, if it were possible to measure such things. This is not how most institutions of learning, such as ours, generally work, although there are certainly those who advocate for movement towards this.

Copying

What happens if I copy someone else's work and submit it as my own?

The university has strict policies on academic integrity and plagiarism. When in doubt, follow those guidelines. Plagiarism is especially easy to catch in computer courses. Usually, you will receive a warning and a zero for any work that is copied, regardless of whether you did the copying or whether someone else copied your work. On subsequent occurrences you will fail the course and possibly have the issue marked on your permanent transcript. For extreme cases, you may be expelled from the university.

Exams

How should I study?

Everyone has their own style and way of learning. The following is a general study plan that is probably pretty good for most people but probably not perfect for everyone.

Plan to spend significant time alone doing work for the course

  • Do all of the assigned reading, starting from the beginning
  • Do all of the homework exercises yourself, starting from the beginning
  • Complete 10 or more practice exercises at the end of each chapter of the textbook

Don't move ahead until you've covered your behind:

  • work progressively through the material
  • only move forward once you have mastered the previous material
  • get help from tutors or the professor with specific problems you can't solve or questions you can't answer
  • try not to go to the tutors or the professor before you have even tried to solve the problem yourself

Come to class and pay attention:

  • Print out the class notes, if available, and bring them to class
  • Write your own notes on this paper.
  • Turn off your phone in class and when studying
  • Turn off your computer in class and when studying
  • Get out of the habit of Googling everything. Try to liberate yourself. Use the knowledge you have to solve problems.


I haven't reviewed my exam yet, but I know I did badly. Can we meet?

Any discussion about your exam is premature and probably not an efficient use of time until it has been graded and you have had time to review your mistakes. Please be methodical in your approach to the course... there are few events in a course that are truly urgent.

I did badly on the exam. Is there anything I can do to fix my grade?

No. Try to do better next time.

I did badly on the exam. How can I do better next time?

Try to improve your study habits

I missed the exam, when is the make-up exam?

There is no make-up exam. You will probably not do well in the course. Talk to the professor in person.

Grading

What's the grading policy?

Check the syllabus.

What's the late assignment policy?

Check the syllabus.

I'm going to fail the course. What should I do?

Drop or otherwise withdraw from the course if you still can. Nobody wants you to fail this course.

I'm pretty sure I just failed the course. What should I do?

There's nothing we can do at this point. Usually, unless they are of the rare unsympathetic professor type or they have made a very grave mistake, your professor will have already been lenient with you to try to help you prevent this, regardless of whether they explicitly have told you so or not. Take this as a lesson, and try not to do this again with another course. Take everything in perspective - university is just one small part of your hopefully long and healthy life full of interesting experiences.

In-class etiquette

Equipment

I have poor eyesight. Should bring my corrective eyewear to class

Yes. What kind of question is this?!

Is it a good idea to use my computer in class?

Not unless you have been instructed to do so by the professor. Why would you come to class if you were planning to stare at your computer the whole time? You might as well watch a video.

Should I look at my phone during class?

A phone is a small computer. See above

Notes

Should I write notes during class?

Use your discretion. If the professor has already written the notes you are intending to write, then yours may seem redundant. But many people find writing some notes to be helpful in remembering and organizing thoughts.

Should I write notes on paper, rather than on my computer?

Yes. It is yet to be proven that computers assist learning.

Attendance

Should I come to class?

Probably. Anecdotally, it seems that students who come to class generally do better in courses. Also, university education is very expensive for most students - if you're not interested in class, perhaps consider doing something else that does interest you with that money.

I am suffering a serious medical emergency. Should I come to class?

No. Your health is not worth risking for anything. Please get medical help and contact your professor whenever you can do so comfortably. We will do our best to support you whenever you are ready to return to class.

What happens if I miss class because of a religious holiday?

We observe NYU's Calendar Policy on Religious Holidays. Speak to the professor.

Food

Should I eat food during class?

Sure, just don't do it in the classroom. Leave.

Should I chew gum during class?

No.

Should I drink a beverage during class?

Probably not. But it may be ok if you do it quietly, if you must.

Seating

I was up all last night. Should I doze off in class?

No. This has been tried before, and is generally considered poor etiquette. If you insist on staying in the classroom, move to the back.



Textbook

The textbook is expensive. Should I buy it?

Yes. University education is expensive. The total cost of all textbooks is a minuscule fraction of that overall cost.

Many professors believe that textbook pricing is a bit of a scam. But a good textbook can be invaluable.

Should I do the assigned readings?

Yes. Why do you think we assign them?

I found an older copy of the textbook for cheap. Is that ok?

Probably yes. Page numbers, chapters, and exercises may have changed slightly. So be sure you do the correct reading for your version.

I found a copy of the book for free online. Should I download it?

If it is legal, then feel free. There are many reasons not to download illegally copied works, including:

  • the author will not be paid a royalty for your copy
  • the download may have malicious programs in it
  • it's probably illegal
  • your usage of the Internet is probably being tracked by many different parties
  • reading a paper copy of a book is probably better for you

Virtue and happiness

All of the information in this course is available online. Isn't this course a waste of time?

It's true, virtually all the information you're likely to learn from elementary school thru university is readily available free online. But most professors I speak with agree that students who attend class master the material more thoroughly. Why is this? We don't know. Some hypotheses:

  • although there are many high-quality online resources, there are few consolidated resources that are as comprehensive as material covered in a good course
  • the more exposure to information, the better
  • going to class helps maintain a regular schedule of progress
  • students can ask questions during class and hear an immediate response
  • professors often try to understand what you don't understand and help you overcome obstacles
  • perhaps learning is social


References


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