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I want to watch little Johnny's face fall when I tell him that missing class for the past four weeks in order to play Madden NFL 09 with his roommates doesn't count as an "excused absence," and that he's definitely getting an incomplete, and too bad if it costs him his scholarship.

Alas, email has robbed me of these kinds of invigorating moments - moments in which I might feast upon my students' misery like a lumberjack feasts upon pancakes. But every now and then, email provides a consolation prize of sorts.

Take this message I received from one of my students at the tail end of last quarter, in which he makes a request on behalf of himself and a couple of his friends:

"Dan - I don't really know how to say this, but X, Y, and I were wondering, now that we've almost finished our final papers, will we lose participation points if we don't come to class for the rest of the quarter? We're just wondering. It's not that we don't like you or anything."

Apparently, these three scholars had grown so accustomed to communicating with me via email that they'd lost all inhibitions. Because of the space that email creates between student and teacher, they felt comfortable making whatever outrageous requests popped into their heads, as long at they did so with mock hesitance ("I don't really know how to say this, but...") and included an insincere disclaimer ("It's not that we don't like you or anything").

My first plan was to simply ignore the message - to act like it didn't exist - but my second plan (which quickly overrode the first) was to unleash my pent-up feelings of rage on these students. I would send them the most harshly worded reply they'd ever received.

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