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Eye on Psi Chi: Fall 2002
Excccuuuse Me:
A New Web-Based Tool

Joseph J. Palladino, University of Southern Indiana
Mitchell M. Handelsman, University of Colorado at Denver

The first week of the school year you dutifully attend the initial meeting of each course, if just to pick up a syllabus, and to determine which classes you will deign to attend after the first week! When you review the syllabi you notice that the second week of October is going to be really brutal: three papers are due, one in-class presentation, and four midterm exams! It is time to use ALL those time-management skills you told your employer you possessed. After all, you need as much time as possible to think of and coordinate all your excuses!

For generations students have relied on the tried-and-true stress-reduction formula of excuses. But we are in the Web era now, and strategies have changed. You no longer have to slip messages under faculty members' doors, or call instructors late at night to leave excuses for the following class day. Soon, you will be able to use our all-purpose student excuses website to leave your excuses. The website will be called the "Web-based Initiator of Multiple Plausabilities," or WIMP. The two of us have been working on this massive website for years. It is based on several very well-conceived hypotheses (we will collect the data later; our deans gave us extra courses to teach, and our hard drives crashed, and, you know, other stuff got in the way, so we didn't get the data yet):

  1. Most students use excuses for missing exams, late papers, etc.
  2. Faculty members are not adept at judging the validity of excuses.
  3. There is no relationship between the validity of an excuse and its apparent creativity/outrageousness.

That said, you must realize that some (not all) faculty members are aware of the obvious excuses, like the "death of a beloved family member." Some faculty members even keep track of your excuses, so you never want to use the same one with the same faculty member, especially in the same semester. Some professors even subscribe to the national clearinghouse for excuses, called the National Excuse Recording Database, or NERD; did you know that?

You will also need to know your faculty member's views on excuses. Some faculty will accept any excuse; others will give you the third degree. Where do you find this information? Well, right here at our website. For example, we can tell you if your teacher is a POP (push-over professor). POPs tend to be faculty members who are within five years of retirement. On the other hand, some faculty members will interrogate you and even call your home to determine if a death in the family actually occurred. These faculty members tend to be former FBI, CIA, or KGB agents, new faculty members who will not be tenured, or former administrators.

So, turn to our WIMP site where you will be able to select your course, your instructor, and your excuse (or let our site select the excuse for you). It will automatically keep track of all your excuses and send them out for you.

WIMP will present a user-friendly menu system that will sort excuses into 1,176 convenient, easy-to-find categories. Our categorization of excuses is based on years of painstakingly tracking excuses from students about why they didn't write that paper (and from faculty about why they didn't publish that article). Just double-click on the icon. Here are some of our most popular categories along with a few sample excuses that we've actually run across. Of course, you can claim them as your own in the future, with just the payment of a small royalty fee.

Death of Beloved Family Member

  • "My stepsister's mother-in-law's cousin died in California and I had to go." (This excuse should be limited to organisms with which you share at least a few genes.)
  • For big families, simple deaths may work just as well as complex ones. The best use we've seen was a student who claimed SEVEN family deaths at different times in one semester.
  • A distraught student called to say a family member had died and she would not be able to make the exam or to take any makeups during her religion-prescribed mourning period of six weeks. Later, when she arrived to take a makeup, she confessed that the family death was a cat.


  • Two students apologized for not letting the faculty member know they would miss a class. They said they were allowed only one phone call.
  • A student went to a casino boat and won $800. Being very excited about this, he broadcast his success to everyone near and far. Unfortunately, among those who heard him were some men who proceeded to mug him and steal his money. The bruises on his face suggested that this particular excuse was valid.
  • A student who was arrested and jailed missed class but provided a note from the bailiff. Note that not all bailiffs are as helpful as this one, and some bailiffs cannot write.
  • "I'm being evicted from my apartment because my cousin was found with drugs." (see also: Family Issues)

Too Much Partying

  • A student called a faculty member at home at 2 a.m. on a Monday morning. The obviously inebriated student slurred the following message: "I'm going to be too hungover to take the exam at 10 in the morningI'd like to take a makeup."

Pet Excuses
First we present a patented "three-part invention" excuse, which can be very useful, especially if you're on the semester and not the quarter system:

  1. "My dog needs surgery and I have to be there early for the workup, so I will be too tired to be in class today."
  2. "My dog had surgery last week as you will recall, and I have to have the staples removed today."
  3. "I can't find my keys, I think my dog ate them. You know, the one who had surgery two weeks ago."
  • A student came to class to give her required presentation. At break, she asked the instructor if she could leave early because her presentation was done, her dog was in labor, and she wanted to be present for the birth. (We happen to know that the faculty member, who taught OB/GYN nursing, agreed to the request.)


  • A student caller left a "from the grave"-sounding message on the faculty member's office phone declaring, "This is John Doe and it's Thursday morning around 7:15 and I'm really sick so I won't be in class last Tuesday."
  • A similar message claimed it was left Wednesday morning at 7:45. The phonemail system recorded the message as Thursday at 10:45 pm.
  • "I missed class because I thought today was Saturday."
  • "I can't come to class because I was away for Spring Break where it was warm. Now it is cold and it is too much change." (see also: Weather)
  • "When my alarm clock woke me up this morning, I was at the climax of a very vivid dream and I wanted to fall back to sleep to see how my dream ended. However, my logic proved faulty, and I lost the conclusions of my dream forever. Oh well, you win some you lose some."
  • "I missed class today because I had to pick up a package from UPS. The package contained a shipment of live red-eyed tree frogs. If I didn't pick them up by 11:00 then the insurance would not apply if they died in transit."
  • The night before papers were due a faculty member was at a sports bar, as were some of her students. They did not hand in their papers the next day and assumed they would get an extension. They said, "Well, you were there, too!" The faculty member's response, "Yes, but I didn't have a paper due today."

Transportation Related

  • "I have to drive down to Dallas to get my sister out of jail." (see also: Family Issues; Legal/Criminal)
  • "I need to replace the transmission on my car."

Natural Disaster

  • "I finished my paper days before it was due--even before the weekend--but I left my sunroof open and it rained and the paper floated away."

Mental Problems

  • "Dr. XXX, this is XXXX. I'm feeling really, really suicidal today, so I won't be in class today. See you Friday."
  • From an agoraphobic student: "Dr. XXX, my therapist says that I should go out today. I may be in class. See you."

Four-Star Award-Winning Excuses
Some excuses cross so many categories that they deserve special recognition. For example:

  • A student's parents left town for a second honeymoon, a month camping in the Pacific Northwest wilderness. The student, a senior about to graduate, was left in charge of the household and of her sister, a high school senior. The student spent most of her time at her boyfriend's apartment, especially after she discovered she was pregnant. The student's sister took advantage of the empty house and threw a terrific party for her high school pals, but the police objected and arrested the high school student. Apparently, there wasn't enough household money left to bail out the younger sister. The student said she missed the exam because she was trying to figure out a way to tell her parents that she was pregnant and her sister was still in jail--without making her dad mad.
  • A student called to say she would not be attending class later that day. She was obviously distraught and repeated several times what the faculty member heard as "Mah dogue dad." "I'm sorry" the faculty member said deliberately . . . "mah dogue dad?" The young woman replied, "Oh! Yo dogue dad too!"

We have to go now. We realize that after six or seven years some students do manage to graduate and enter the "real" world. These graduates will need our help, so we are busy working on the Job version of WIMP. So far, we have noticed that the excuses tend to be exactly the same as the ones used by students, only now they are being used by executives at Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing . . .

Humor (image)


Copyright 2002 (Volume 7, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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