Group Projects Are Often Torturous

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 23, 2020

This takes place during what is supposed to be my last semester of college. I’m majoring in finance, and all business majors are required to take a capstone course before graduation. In this class, we basically do nothing but group work, and we are stuck with the same group for the entire semester.

I wind up in a group that has a marketing major, an international business major, and an independent studies major; she made her own major using business classes and classes from another degree program but still had to take the capstone class. The two girls in my group are who I mostly talk about because the one guy in the group does seem to sympathize with me but never does anything about how the girls are treating me.

The first few assignments aren’t that big, and we make it through all right. Then, we get to the first big project. The assignment is to take a well-known tech company and find a way to improve it. The first step is to look at the financials for this company as well as three competitors. Since I’m the finance major, we decide that I should do the financials for the tech company while each of my teammates does the financials for one of the competitors.

To properly do the financials, you must first go the SEC website, find the 10-K doc for your company, and copy the Balance Sheet, the Income Statement, and the Cash Flows statement into an Excel doc. My accounting professors all drilled into me that part of this process includes finding all the totals on these statements ourselves and not just copy/pasting them into Excel. Once you have these statements in Excel, you must then calculate about thirty different ratios using the data you pulled from the SEC site. Most of the ratios are straight-forward, but the last two or three give me some trouble. All in all, this whole process takes me about two hours to complete.

The day this assignment is due, we meet an hour before class starts to compile everything together and so I can look over their ratios. I quickly notice something is off with all of their documents. Instead of manually calculating all the ratios, they just Googled the current ratios for their company. “It’ll be fine; just check and make sure the ratios are fine,” they tell me.

“I can’t check them; there’s no math for me to check!” I explain.

“Then do the math,” they say.

Yes, they want me to do about six hours’ worth of work in forty-five minutes. I instead compare their numbers to mine, fix anything that looks really wrong to me, and let it be. They are livid when our professor gives us back a poor grade, saying 90% of our ratios were wrong and we didn’t show the math most of the time. Turns out, all but two of my ratios were correct.

Things get worse for me a few weeks later. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have a small assignment I think is due on a Thursday but is really due on a Tuesday. I find out an hour before class that I have my dates wrong. Luckily, I have the assignment half-done, so I quickly finish it up so I have something to turn in. My teammates do not like that, and this is the point when two of them decide I am a bad group mate.

I am taking a full course load that semester, and my teammates don’t like that I insist on going to my other classes, specifically my English class. I have put off taking my last 200-level English class, and the school actually has an attendance policy for 100- and 200-level classes. I am only allowed three unexcused absences a semester, and we use a clicker system to take attendance.

“We all skip our other classes to get this done, you should, too,” they reason. They even purposefully schedule meetings with our professor during my English class so they can make a case that I am not doing anything to help with the project.

As the time for our big presentation grows closer, we spend most of our spare time in the library. This is when I learn that I am the only stress-eater in a group of stress-starvers. If I insist on taking a thirty-minute meal break, they throw a fit. If I bring snacks, they say I am too distracting. If I bring headphones so I can listen to some soft music while I work, they say I need to contribute more to the group. When I say I need to leave by eleven so I can actually get some sleep, they whine and say I need to stay and help with the work. When I say I need to study for a quiz for another class, they say this is the only class that matters. There is no pleasing these people, so I stop trying.

In our presentation, we’re supposed to use an Adobe product — not PowerPoint — for our slides. Now, one of my other classes is also doing group presentations with this same program, so I am the only one on my team who is familiar with the program. As such, I volunteer to handle the slides. My groupmates aren’t quite ready when I ask for their parts, so I change my password on the site to something generic — I’m already using my college email address — and give them the login info so they can update the presentation on their own time. The night before the presentation, I check the slides, make a few adjustments, and go to bed.

The next day, I’m pulling up the slides on my laptop and to my horror, one of the girls has gone in and totally changed everything. There isn’t time to fix it, unfortunately. No surprise, we get a bad grade on the presentation. But when they have the gall to say I was the one in charge of the slides and making sure everything looked nice, I am furious. I go to our professor after the fact and tell him I cannot work with them any longer. He won’t put me in another group, but he does say I can do the work by myself.

I ended up dropping the class. I signed up to take my capstone class online that summer and begged the school to still let me walk at graduation. They said I could. Unfortunately, my grades in my other classes suffered that semester, and I only passed two of my classes. I did walk at graduation, but I had to retake most of my classes online that fall.

After I dropped the class, I was over at a friend’s dorm. Her dorm was more like a suite with one common area and three bedrooms with two or three beds in each room. Turns out, one of my groupmates was one of my friend’s suitemates, and my friend said she was a horrible suitemate. 

By far, this was the worst group project I ever had.

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Mmm… Tasty, Tasty Pillows

, , , , , , | Friendly | July 22, 2020

I really enjoy cooking, and living in a city with such a large population of immigrants and student visas allows me the opportunity to introduce foreigners to American and western foods they haven’t tried yet.

I’ve made friends with a young Chinese woman who is going to be coming to my house to have dinner with some of my friends. I’m still planning out the menu so I am showing her some pictures of foods I’ve cooked in the past to see if she has any preferences for what she’d like to try.

I bring up a picture of ravioli in marinara sauce. My friend gets a look of recognition on her face but seems to be struggling to find the right words.

Friend: “Oh, oh! You made the… um… it is spaghetti but it is pillows.”

Me: *Chuckling* “Yes, but we sometimes call them ravioli.”

Friend: *Smiling* “Oh! Ravioli… I want that.”

The three-cheese ravioli were a hit that weekend.

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The Rumor Mill Isn’t Broken Down!

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 22, 2020

Years ago, a student locked himself in a windowless supply room accidentally by panicking after the light blew out and hitting the push-lock while trying to open the door. A physics professor saved the day by kicking in the door.

That year…

Sophomore #1: “Did you hear about [Physics Professor]? He kicked a door off its hinges to save a student!”

Other Professor: “It wasn’t that impressive. It was a cheap door.”

One year after…

Sophomore #2: *To a new freshman* “Last year, [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student trapped in a locked room. He knocked the door over with a single kick.”

Two years after…

Freshman: “I heard a story about [Physics Professor]. There was this student stuck in a room, and no one could get the door open, but he looked at the door and worked out where it was weak because of physics and was able to break it down!”

Four years after…

Sophomore #3: “Hey, [My Name]. Were you teaching here when [Physics Professor] had to rescue a student locked in a room? I heard he analyzed door in his head and knocked it off its hinges with a single blow.”

Me: “No, it was a cheap interior door. He just kicked it and it broke.”

Five years after…

Student:so, the story is that [Physics Professor] is looking at this door, and he realizes that because of its shape there’s a single flaw, right, so he smashes it at the perfect spot and it just shatters. [Other Professor in my department] confirmed the story!”

Six years after, the topic of fire doors comes up in a safety lecture, and one professor jokes that we need to leave them open “because we can’t all smash our way through doors” like the physics professor.

Then, the year after that…

Sophomore #4:so, the student’s stuck in a room, the building is on fire, and [Physics Professor] saves the day by analyzing the door…”

Finally, eight years after it happened, the physics professor and I are talking.

Physics Professor: “By the way… one of my new students asked me if it’s true that I used math to break a door and save a room full of students trapped in a burning building. Any idea why?”

Me: “Do you remember [Student] from eight years ago? The story seems to have mutated a bit.”

Physics Professor: “OH. Huh. Well, I told them it was all true.”


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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Finals, AKA The Professor Olympics

, , , , , | Learning | July 21, 2020

The university I used to work for actually printed the diplomas for graduation as opposed to mailing the diploma to the student later. That meant that all seniors had to have their finals in by Tuesday of finals week, and it was a thing. This important deadline was drilled into the faculty’s heads, and everyone knew they had to grade their seniors first.

And every year, our college staff would take bets on which professor would be the last to get their grades in. This betting pool was a decades-long tradition. As far as my coworkers knew — one of whom had been with the university for over thirty-five years — it had been going on for at least fifty years and probably longer. As the newbie, I thought this was ridiculous, but it was also entertaining after a long, crazy semester.

During finals, we always scheduled a full complement of student workers ready as runners to find the outlier professors. Yes, we would literally send students chasing after professors on campus! My colleagues told me in the 1970s a student worker had to go sneak onto a golf course to find a professor who hadn’t turned in his grades and drive him back to campus to turn them in.

Then, one spring, we had an outlier who was a graduate student. That was a big problem because he didn’t have an office or an office phone, and his student email was full. We called up his department for his info. Nothing. We got his cell phone from his student file. Nothing.

Then, one of our student workers found him on Facebook and messaged him. He had the grades posted within twenty minutes and apologized profusely. Apparently, he fell asleep after his own finals. Ha!

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The Mother Of All Internet Issues

, , , , , | Right | July 20, 2020

Working in IT, you naturally get quite a few odd and noteworthy calls. Working at an ISP’s IT help center for a few years, I’ve gathered a few.

It’s near the end of the month and bills are due; if you’re late on payment three months out, we disconnect after sending a notice in the mail explaining the situation. This college student calls in about their Internet.

Me: “This is [ISP’s helpline]; how can I help you?”

Customer: “Yeah, my Internet is out. It’s always going out; I need it for my school work!”

Me: “All right, let me get some information on your account, and let’s see what’s going on.”

She begrudgingly gives me her account details, including her street address, which is an apartment less than a block from her University. While I look over her account I mute my mic, but I can still hear her. The customer has her phone in speaker mode.

The customer is loudly whispering to her roommate.

Customer: “God, this happens every time we try to watch Netflix. Why are we still getting service with these a**holes?”

Their account has a notice of non-pay disconnect, meaning they haven’t paid for quite some time. I un-mute my mic.

Me: “All right, your account is showing that it has been disconnected due to non-paid bills. I can’t turn you on without a reconnect order from our Customer Service department. But I can transfer you over so you can work out payment, and I can then turn you on then.”

Customer: “What?! I’ve always paid my bills on time and have been a loyal customer for years!”

Their account is less than a year old and this is the third time they’ve not paid and have gotten disconnected.

Me: “I apologize, ma’am, but that’s the only option I have to help you right now.”

Customer: *Huffs* “Fine, transfer me over.”

I actively transfer the customer over to our customer service department to make a payment and warn them about the customer. Afterward, I don’t think about the customer. A few hours later, they call back.

Me: “This is [ISP’s helpline]; how can I help you?”

Customer: *Bear shouting* “I paid your stinking bill and I still don’t have Internet service!”

Me: “All right, let me gather your information and take a look at your Internet connection.”

I gather her information once more. While I’m inspecting her Internet, the customer continuously swears up and down about the service and issues she’s been experiencing with her roommate. I eventually find the issue; the signal to her apartment is horrible and has been before she called in the first time.

Me: “Okay, I think I see the problem, ma’am. There appears to be a line issue that is causing your Internet signal to not come through. We can try a few things, but the best bet would be to schedule a time for a service tech to come on by and get you back up and running. The next time we have opening for a tech in your area would be tomorrow morning.”

Customer:What?! I’ve been having this issue for weeks now! I’m a paying customer and I need it for school work!”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but with the way that the [University Neighborhood] is set up, we can’t tell if there are any line or signal issues going on. It’s always a good idea to call us when you experience repeated service issues.”

Customer:No! I want a tech out now so I can get my school work done! It’s due today and I can’t complete it without the Internet! I’ll fail my class because of you!”

Me: “I’m sorry, ma’am, but that’s the best I can do for a guaranteed time for a service call. I can try to move things around, and if a nearby tech finishes early I can send them on your way, but I can’t guarantee a service that way. I know that the [University Library] is open right now and you can complete your work there.”

Customer:No! That’s too far for me to travel! I’m paying for this service and I expect service!”

Me: “I apologize again, ma’am, but that’s best I can do. I have you set for tomorrow as that’s the soonest I can do. If I can get a tech earlier, I’ll—”

Customer: “F*** you!” *Click*

I sigh and shrug it off, noting everything about the call in the greatest of detail in case she calls back in and gets any of my coworkers. I take a five-minute break and get back to work. Another hour passes before I get an out-of-state call. It isn’t uncommon as people mistakenly call us for Internet support.

Me: “This is [ISP’s helpline]; how can I help you?”

Caller: “WHY AREN’T YOU FIXING MY DAUGHTER’S INTERNET?!”

Me: “I’m… sorry, ma’am? What’s the issue?”

Customer’s Mother: “My daughter is going to [University] and she called me to tell me about her Internet issues and how you aren’t helping her!”

Me: *Making the connection* “Oh, [Customer] at [Address]?”

Customer’s Mother: “YES!”

Me: “I apologize, ma’am, but I have a set time for a tech to fix her Internet issues for tomorrow as I can’t pull any of my techs from their current jobs.”

Customer’s Mother: “THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH! THEY NEED THEIR INTERNET FOR THEIR SCHOOL. THESE ARE YOUNG MINDS THAT ARE LEARNING GREAT THINGS. THEY ARE GOING TO CHANGE THE WORLD! WHY ARE YOU DEPRIVING THEM A TOOL THAT THEY NEED TO DO SO…” *Continues to rant*

She continues to get louder and louder to the point where the phone is breaking up due to her volume. After a few minutes of the mother ranting, I have a moment to speak.

Me: “Ma’am, I apologize again. But I have a concrete time for a tech to repair her service. As I told your daughter, ma’am, I’ve been monitoring our techs’ current jobs to see if one finished early for us to fix the issue today. But none have done so.”

Customer’s Mother: “THIS WON’T STAND!” *Click*

I’ve had it with both the customer and her mother. I burst out laughing, turning a few of my colleagues’ heads around. I’ve been sworn at and cursed at. But I’ve never had a customer so angry that they had called their mother on me.

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