As Melissa sat outside Professor Brown’s office she was indignant. She had worked so hard for four years to get out of this traditional little town and she had pulled off nearly perfect marks on all her homework and tests. She put in the hours – late nights and early mornings studying, studying, studying.. A scholarship to grad schools was her ticket out but now thanks to a car breakdown that made her late to ONE class, she had ended up with an A- in Professor Brown’s City Planning class. She knew it wasn’t a bad grade but it wasn’t the grade she deserved either. Plus, it was the only A- on her entire school transcript.
She knew if she could just talk to him, let him know what went wrong, he would figure out. Despite that though, she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous as she fiddled with the end of her skirt. She had come straight over when she saw her grade so she was still in the outfit she had been wearing to the park earlier. It was a hot spring day outside of Fort Worth and she had been spending time with a couple friends lounging in the sun in a tight white tank top and short flowing skirt. Normally she wouldn’t wear a tank top to meet with professors but she was sure it would be fine, it wasn’t like most school students really gave much wondered to how they presented themselves anyways.
After what felt like an eternity, Professor Brown opened the door and ushered her into his office. There was a surprisingly long hallway and a second set of doors to actually get into his office. Once they finally made it in, Melissa took a look around. It seemed like a pretty standard professor’s office with solid wood furniture, overflowing bookshelves and diplomas and awards hung on the wall. To her right, she noticed what looked like a fraternity paddle on the wall and rolled her eyes to herself. It was so normal of this town. Something that looked like a yard stick was hanging next to the paddle which Melissa found odd but didn’t focus too much on before settling into her seat across the desk from Professor Brown.
“So Melissa,” he said, “what can I do for you today?”
“I just wanted to talk to you about my grade sir.” She hated how forced the word sir sounded when it came out of her mouth but she was here to negotiate and she knew she had to be respectful. “As you know, I’ve scored 95% or above on every assignment and test and -“
“And as you know, the attendance policy was clearly published on the first day of class,” Professor Brown cut her off.
“Yes, I know, I was actually hoping to talk to you about exactly that. I’ve worked really hard in this class and the one day I was late was completely out of my control. My car broke down and while I was on my way in and I couldn’t make it.”
Professor Brown let her words hang in the air. Melissa was so tempted to fill the silence and keep talking, say something else to make her point, but she knew better. Over time, she had learned that the person who can handle awkward silences better tends to come out ahead. Finally, Professor Brown spoke up. “All throughout our lives, we’ll be put in situations that are outside of our control Melissa. My question for you is why you didn’t complete the make-up work that was offered in the syllabus for any violations of the attendance policy.”
Crap.. she hadn’t noticed that. She was usually so detail orientated, how had she missed it?? “Sorry.. sir. I honestly don’t remember seeing that. I think I just thought my grade was high enough that being late to class one time wouldn’t affect my grade. Can I do the make up work now?”
“Unfortunately for you Melissa, I have to submit final grades to the registrar tonight which means that your out of time. I am open to working with you on revising your grade but you’ll have to show me that you learned your lesson and that you know now that you are not above the rules, even if you are an exceptional student.”
“Yes.. yes sir. What do you have in mind?”
“What do you know about the history of the university Melissa?” Professor Brown asked. Melissa wondered for a second and rattled off some facts – the year it was founded, the initial academic focus, and similar tidbits of information. Professor Brown sat and listened and then filled in with the facts that would lead to his request. “For the first 50 years of this university, well into my time as a professor, the only form of punishment administered here was corporal punishment.”
Melissa felt the blood drain from her face as the shock of what her professor had just suggested set in. She couldn’t believe what Professor Brown was saying, what he was insinuating. This definitely didn’t seem legal.. was it legal? Looking around the office though, she realized what the paddle and the yardstick on the wall were for. A second later as the shock had subsided, she wondered to herself, screw it, maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever to just ‘rip the band aide off’ and walk out of here with the grade she wanted. “What are you suggesting sir?” she asked.
Professor Brown sat for a second, enjoying watching Melissa process her thoughts. In the momentary silence, he could see her squirm slightly. “You were 30 minutes late to class on May 3rd. 30 spankings ought to teach you that you’re not above the rules, don’t you think?”
“Yes sir” Melissa could hardly believe the words as they came out of her mouth but at the same time, she already felt a small sense of relief knowing that she just had to do this one thing and she could walk out the door with the goals she had when she came to Professor Brown’s office accomplished.