Spud had gotten his nickname from his father who was a Prince Edward Island potato farmer. His birth certificate name was Blair Angel Dalling. His parents had not thought carefully about the name they had given their son. His dad had always called him Spud. His mom called him Angel which may have been cute and endearing for an infant but was a disaster for Spud when his mom dropped him off at school and a classmate heard her call him Angel. The kids at school used a fake accent and called him “Angel Darling”. He called himself Spud. His initials didn’t help because they were BAD. Which was exactly the opposite of Spud’s honourable character. He was a hardworking straight-A student.
Relief came for Spud when the potato crop failed two years in a row, and his dad, still a young man, joined the military and Spud’s family started the first of many moves. Spud thrived in his constantly changing environment. It was all info he parked in his highly evolved memory. He had a facility with languages and when his dad was rising through the ranks and being moved through various foreign postings Spud picked up passable ability in German, Polish, and Arabic. He also had learned French as a child playing with a neighbour’s child whose family’s first language was French.
At eighteen Spud left the family home in Germany, to return to Canada where he had gained a full scholarship to Waterloo University contingent on excellent grades from year to year. His chosen field of study was psychology. He joined the wrestling team, and that was when the school discovered that academic knowledge was not the only thing that Spud had picked up in his worldwide travels.
However, for Spud, athletics was just a sideshow, a diversion from his studies, and when the coach wanted him to move on and up in competition he declined. He discovered how unfair life could be when he was rejected from the team because he wasn’t a “team player”. Spud replaced wrestling with sports he could take part in on his own, and he quickly was running solo marathons on the weekends when he took a break from studying.
The athletics coach was not the only professor who noticed Spud. His marks had garnered attention without comment in his first year but after Christmas exams, in second year, a professor called him into his office for an interview. The professor was blunt.
“How are you cheating?” Spud was shocked and baffled.
“Your marks are too good. They could only have come from cheating.” Spud was still stunned and speechless.
“I am requesting that you be turfed out of here with a note on your permanent record.” Slowly Spud recognized what was going on. His life’s experiences in meeting many people with many personalities aided him now. He was not cowed by authority figures.
“Professor, it would help if you explained exactly what the problem is and give me the opportunity for a response.”
“You know exactly what the problem is and attempting to deny it won’t carry any weight with me.”
“Sir, I ask you again to explain what the problem is.”
“This isn’t a courtroom where smart legal tricks will rule the day. Tell me how you cheated without getting caught and I will not put a note on your record, but you will still be tossed out of here with the garbage.”
“I again implore you to discuss whatever the problem is in a conversational tone rather than screeching at me at the top of your voice. If you cannot control yourself, I will leave your office and go directly to the Dean’s office to discuss your outrageous behaviour.”
Authority figures do not take well to having their authority challenged. This professor was no exception. He now descended to a totally out of control red-faced demon spouting profanity at the top of his voice. His office door suddenly opened and his secretary stood in the entrance shocked beyond words.
Spud said to the professor, “You will find me at the Dean’s office.”
As he passed the secretary he said, “You may be called upon to describe what you have just seen so please make a careful note of my behaviour and the professor’s.”
After waiting an hour Spud was able to see the Dean but was warned he only had five minutes because the Dean had another appointment. Spud got right to the point. “I have come here directly from Professor Davidson’s office. He was not informative about the reason he called me in for an interview but my interpretation of the conversation is that he believes that I have cheated on an exam, and he wants to remove me from the school with a note on my record. I did not receive an opportunity at defence because an exact description nor any description of the concern was not given. The conversation descended into extensive use of profanity by the professor which was witnessed by his secretary. I must advise you, sir, that if I am not given a controlled and reasoned discussion of his concern’s my next appointment will be with my lawyer.” Spud thought the “my lawyer” was a nice touch to show that he was not new to legal niceties, but he had zero experience. He didn’t understand that the Dean dealt with professors and students run amok daily. His next appointment was to deal with a female professor accused of sexual impropriety with a female student. That would be a new experience for him, but he thought if he stayed at this job long enough, he would see it all.
In Spud’s case he knew from experience that the self-righteous defence, as exhibited by Spud, was characteristic of two types of people; the arrogantly guilty and the innocent. He had never met Spud but his comment about the secretary viewing an out-of-control professor concerned him, and he thought Spud might prove to be that rare innocent victim of circumstance. He assured Spud he would receive a fair hearing, and he should see his secretary to set up an appointment for the next day.
After Spud left, the Dean asked his secretary if she could clear two afternoon appointments so he could see Professor Davidson’s secretary first and then Professor Davidson. She told him the best she could do was for him to see the secretary during his own lunch and the professor after his last appointment for the day. A witness was a concern, and so he agreed to the less than ideal schedule and told her to tell Professor Davidson’s secretary to rearrange her lunch at her discretion based on his authority.
Spud showed up at the Dean’s office the following morning after receiving a note, hand delivered to his dorm by the Dean’s secretary, Julie. Spud, unlike his classmates, didn’t have a cell phone. His full scholarship didn’t include any spending money, and he was sufficiently independent that he wouldn’t ask his parents for financial help. He had a job tutoring first year students who were having academic issues. He never thought of himself as a teacher, but he was better at it than he realized and there was a lineup for his tutoring skills, but he only could afford a limited amount of time from his studies.
When he entered the Dean’s office the Dean rose and shook his hand and thanked him for coming. He also apologized for the rushed appointment from the previous day. The Dean asked Spud if he knew how he had done on his exams. Spud was not prone to bragging or false modesty and stated that he would have done well but since the results had not been posted he didn’t know the exact marks.
“The exact marks are the problem that is bothering Professor Davidson. I will give you one opportunity now and only this one opportunity which will not be available two minutes from now. If you cheated on your exams and you tell me how I will reduce your marks to a pass and allow you to stay at the university. If you do not take advantage of this offer, then I will follow through with Professor Davidson’s plan to turf you out of the school with a note on your record. Did you cheat?”
“No sir, I did not cheat.”
I spoke with Professor Davidson’s secretary, and she reluctantly confirmed your assertion that the Professor behaved in an unprofessional manner. Professor Davidson will arrive momentarily and he will apologize for his behaviour. There was an immediate tap on the office door and the Dean walked over and admitted Professor Davidson.
“The Dean has convinced me that my behaviour in talking with you was inappropriate and for that, I apologize. However, my behaviour does not remove the fact that you cheated on your exams.” That final comment got a stern glare from the Dean directed at the professor.
The Dean said, “The problem Spud was that you obtained marks that have never been equalled in the history of Waterloo. You scored perfect on every exam you wrote. While that would be a laudable achievement it opens the door to skepticism. I would like nothing more than for it to be true.”
Spud commented, “It would be easy to prove that I had cheated if I had been caught and my method exposed, but how does an innocent person prove that they didn’t do something.”
“That is exactly the dilemma Spud. How do we remove this shadow of a doubt? Do you have any suggestions?”
“If I could write the exams again and do well would that not prove my capability.”
“It would remove doubt, but you couldn’t write the same exams.”
“I understand that, sir.”
“How would you feel about writing just one exam?”
“I would agree to that.”
“Would you be prepared to write it right now?”
“Spud, you understand studies have shown technical information is forgotten by about 50% two weeks after exams and it has been a week since you wrote your last exam.”
“I am studying psychology sir, and I know those numbers. They are the average for many students. I am not average.”
“I am glad you agreed to this plan and came up with it on your own because that is exactly what I was planning on demanding. I would like you to sit down here in my office and write an exam now. I will be out to a ceremony for the afternoon and my secretary will act as a proctor with the office door open. Is that agreeable to you?”
“Yes sir, but I am concerned about the origin of this exam. If Professor Davidson created it I fear it might not be at the same level as the standard exam.”
“I understand your concern. He created the exam, and I have had two other professors up late last night reviewing the exam. They are not aware of the issue here. I asked them to tell me if this exam was at the same level of difficulty as the standard exam. One said he thought it was slightly easier and one thought it was equal. Is this satisfactory for you? If not, I have already arranged for an exam from another university to be couriered here but it won’t arrive until tomorrow. I give you these two options.”
“If a professor, other than Dr. Davidson will mark it I am agreeable.”
Professor Davidson quickly said, “I object to his implication that I cannot fairly mark this exam. My integrity is not open to question.”
“I expect Spud feels the same way about his integrity,” the Dean said.
“Spud, you may sit at my desk. Julie will clean it off in a moment for you and the rest of us will leave you to your job. Good luck.” They left and Julie entered and cleaned off the desk. She smiled, laid the test paper on the desk and said, “I believe you without the test. I think you will blow them away.”
The following day Julie showed up early at the dorm to tell Spud he had a 10 AM appointment with the Dean. Spud asked if she knew the results, and she said she didn’t and wouldn’t be able to tell him even if she did. She asked how he thought he had done, and he said he was sure he had gotten all the questions right, but he had hated the long-winded essay type answers required. The regular exams were multiple choice and computer marked.
At 10 AM he arrived at the Dean’s office to be greeted with a big smile from Julie who gave him a small gold coin which she said was her lucky charm, but she wanted him to have it for today. Spud had no experience with women, having led a busy life but suddenly his thoughts were anywhere but on the guillotine he was about to be under.
Without delay, the Dean came right to the point. He had asked professor Davidson to attend, and he had a sealed envelope from professor Williams with the results. He offered Spud the opportunity again to come clean and not be turfed from the school and Spud again declined. The envelope was opened.
“Spud, you scored 97%.”
“Not perfect” shouted professor Davidson feeling his assertion of cheating was proven.
Then the Dean broke out laughing. “What you don’t know Spud is that professor Williams is an old and dear friend of mine. However, he is crotchety and old-fashioned and hates multiple choice exams, and we played to his strengths with this written exam. You lost a mark for legibility of your writing, a mark for spelling, and a mark for grammar. In my opinion, it is a perfect exam. Your perfect marks on all of your exams will stand and be posted. I am not questioning anyone’s integrity but it would be more comfortable for you and professor Davidson if you are assigned to another professor for any classes you have with Dr. Davidson. I am sorry Dr. Davidson but I fear you lost the best student you will ever have. Does anyone have questions? No! Congratulations Spud, you may leave now. Dr. Davidson I would like you to remain for a few moments.”
As Spud left the room and closed the door Julie jumped up and said by the smile on his face she knew things had gone well. And then she took his breath away by giving him a big hug. His face could not have been any redder, and he completely forgot everything that had just happened in the office.
“We could go out for pizza tonight to celebrate and you could give me back my lucky coin then, my treat.”
The best Spud could muster was an “OK.”
“I will pick you up at your dorm at 6 PM if that is OK.”
Spud was not usually at a loss for words but this was all a new and exciting experience for him.
Julie was in control of this situation and told him, “You should go to class now and wait outside your dorm at 6 for me to pick you up.”
Spud wanted to go because of his embarrassment but wanted to stay because of his excitement, but he turned and left without another word.
Julie chuckled. Her experience consisted of many dates and one long term boyfriend, caught cheating on her, and five brothers and no sisters. She was beautiful and very comfortable around men and knew the effect her appearance had on them. But she found most men tied up in their egos. Spud was different, and she was already wandering down a romantic path in her mind. She had just kick-started their relationship because she knew that if she waited for Spud to figure things out, the romance would be a long time in coming. Spud had assumed Julie was much older than he because she was working as the Dean’s secretary. What he would later find out was that she was herself a straight-A student and was taking a year off from school to work as a secretary for the Dean, her dad. She was only two years older than Spud.
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