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The Dog Ate My Homework
Excuses Students Have Given Over the Years for Not Doing the Work

The Dog Ate My Homework

Faculty have heard it all. Everything from pornography and drugs to questionable deaths in the family have been proffered as excuses for not delivering an assignment on time or attending class. We asked current and retired faculty to mine their memories for the richest excuses; here are three of our favorites.

Additionally, Dr. Joseph Palladino, Professor Emeritus in Psychology (1981- 2011) polled his USI peers in 2002 and published a piece on the subject in Eye on Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology's magazine, the most precious appear here.

"In one of my 400-level biology courses, students had to write multiple essays on various topics during the semester. Since the goal was to make an argument, and mechanical issues (bad grammar, poor punctuation, misspelled words, etc.) affect clarity, the grade was always based on the strength of the argument (evidence and logic) and then reduced for excessive mechanical issues. One frustrated student whose most recent essay score was reduced by a full letter grade due to mechanical issues told me that doing so was unfair. When I asked why, he said because I didn’t have the standing—after all, I was not an English prof."

Dr. James Bandoli, Professor Emeritus of Biology 1982-2014

"In an upper-level class, students had a large, semester-long project due as their final assessment. One student failed to turn the project in, stating all files on his computer had become corrupt after his roommate used his laptop to watch a very niche and specific type of pornography. It’s a bit too graphic to share, but did provide for an interesting excuse, real or not."

Dr. Amie McKibban, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology 2009 - Current

"I remember excuses ran in fads. One year it was grandmothers dying and funerals to go to—possibly legitimate—but one student had a lot of grandmothers who died in just one semester. Another year the fad was car accidents and broken-down cars. By the end of that semester, however, I concluded that if there had been that many accidents on the highways to USI, they would be littered with disabled vehicles and assorted car parts and tires."

Marjorie [Jones] Melvin, Instructor Emerita in Anthropology 1989-2005

Palladino's List 


1. "My stepsister's mother-in-law's cousin died in California and I had to go."  

2. 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. 


3. Two students apologized for not letting the faculty member know they would miss a class. They said they were allowed only one phone call. 

4. A student who was arrested and jailed missed class but provided a note from the bailiff. 

5. "I'm being evicted from my apartment because my cousin was found with drugs." 


6. 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 a.m. in the morning—I'd like to take a makeup." 


7. "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." 

8. "My dog had surgery last week, as you will recall, and I have to have the staples removed today." 

9. "I can't find my keys, I think my dog ate them. You know, the one who had surgery two weeks ago." 

10. 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.  


12. "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." 

13. "I missed class because I thought today was Saturday." 

14. "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."  

15. "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." 

16. "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 then the insurance would not apply if they died in transit." 

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