No effort to accommodate an individual student goes unpunished.

It’s true.

A student when informed that the midterm will be on the first day back from Spring Break says that she will not be back from Switzerland yet. When a time for a make-up exam is scheduled, her return is twice delayed by airline strikes.

A survey about the relative convenience of a final exam on a Saturday or a Monday results in a student assuming that his mother can buy an airline ticket for Saturday evening when the exam in fact is still on track for Monday. The fee for changing the ticket is $250, an amount regarded as insurmountably punitive by the family.

The cost to me of giving the student his exam early is two hours of commuting up and down Interstate-95 and an hour and a half of proctoring. At the rate of fifty cents per mile authorized by the Internal Revenue Service in 2009, that would be $35 in travel plus three and a half hours of my time at $25 an hour, the approximate rate I charge clients for my writing services plus the time I didn’t provide to a current client. In other words, I sustained a $210 impact on my life, exclusive of stress on myself and my Dear One, so that the young man’s family might be spared that $250.

Allowing two students to have extra time to complete their final essays means that I will be grading work and submitting grade changes for a class for which I am no longer being paid. As an adjunct faculty member, I serve at the pleasure of the college—or at least my chairman. I am not guaranteed employment from one semester to the next and when the last installment of my pay appears on my bank balance, that’s it until the next contract begins.

Then there are the three students who, for whatever reason, did not submit essays and didn’t request extensions. I expect to be hearing from them any moment now, as I gave them each an “F” and the grades were posted this morning. I expect they will tell me whatever is the cyber-equivalent of “the dog ate my paper;” I will agree to accept the papers, grade them, and change their grade to something better than an “F.”

Oops, there’s one now.

Finally there are the students who prove that young folk can grasp ideas of the highest intellectual order but they can’t decode elementary instructions. One class was scheduled for an exam at 9:30 on exam day, the other for 12:30.

Three students due at 9:30 arrived at 1:00; one student due at 12:30 apparently showed up at 4:00. By that time I was halfway home.

Why the confusion? Our classes met on Monday and the exam coincidentally was on Monday. As classes convened at 1:00 or at 4:00, they assumed the exams would start at 1:00 or 4:00. The date and time of the final was included on the class schedule. The date and time of the final was reviewed by the professor—me—on the first day, at regular intervals during the semester, and was reiterated in an email sent ten days before the exam. What of the constant reminders? Yes, they heard them. They just didn’t hear them.

One way or another everyone took an exam. With a little luck everyone will submit a last essay.

Will I ever be able to say to a student that a missed due date for a paper or exam time means the gate is closed and the plane has lifted into the wild blue yonder?