FwRIteDAY: “Correlate”

Erin was late by the time she got to her office. Not like it mattered. Nobody ever came to her office when she wished they would. It was always at the very end of her office hours that a swath of students came flooding in asking what they could do to boost their grade.

She just wished she could address them all at once or just keep screaming “NO!” over and over until they got the message, but the faculty frowns on that kind of teacher/student interaction. So she always made a point to relish the quiet time she had during her office hours.

Next to her desk was an ever-growing stack of rejected journal articles. Seeing them gave Erin a headache, so she decided to hide them away in a filing cabinet. While stuffing fold after folder into her filing cabinet, Erin came across one she was particularly fond of.

“An empirical study in the correlation of higher life expectancy and lima beans” she said out loud and sighed before stuffing it in the drawer.

“Oh sorry Professor Tomlin, are you busy?”

She looked up, it was Jeremy, one of the students in her bio-science class. He was here early. “Oh not at all Jeremy, I’m just doing some housekeeping. What can I help you with?”

Jeremy came in and sat down. “It’s about the paper I just handed in.” He was actually a student in the business school taking her class as an elective. Despite not knowing much about the subject, his dedication and attitude made up for it. Erin admired Jeremy’s work ethic, even if that meant he would frequently see her on office hours.

“Ah yes well I haven’t even started grading those yet so I don’t actually see how I can help you ther-”

“I know, I was actually just wondering if I could turn in a different paper instead?” Jeremy interrupted. Erin was a taken aback.

“You wrote a different paper?” she asked. Jeremy nodded. “Well I suppose I could take that paper instead, but it technically wouldn’t be fair to give you full credit. It’s been 3 days since the due date so the highest possible grade you could get would be a 70.”

“Yes. I understand that miss.”

“Are you sure you do Jeremy? You know how tough of a grader I can be. And if I find even one thing wrong with this paper, just one minor grammatical error, and you’ll get a failing grade. You’re already treading on thin ice here Jeremy, I don’t know if it’s the best choice to-”

“This paper is better than the original one I submitted.” Jeremy interrupted again. “Even with the lateness penalty, this one will get a better grade.”

Erin was confused. “Alright Jeremy, you’ve peaked my curiosity. What makes you think this new paper is so much better than the original?”

“Oh, I just used more ‘T’ words.”

“…’T’ words?”

“Yeah I just used a used a thesaurus and swapped out as many words as I could with words the have a ‘T’ in them.”

Erin was completely taken aback by this. What kind of stunt was Jeremy trying to pull?

“Just what makes you think I’ll give you a better grade for simply using more ‘T’ words in your paper Jeremy?”

“I don’t really know the psychology of it exactly, all I know is that i just got a project back in a class I was failing and found out I got an A! I scoured though it to find anything I did to make it stand out. The only difference I could find was that I used more T’s than usual. So I figure there’s something about the letter ‘T’ that people find attractive.”

“…Jeremy you don’t know if that’s the reason you’ve been getting better grade. It could just be that you put in more effort on that project and got rewarded for it. Professor’s on effort, not looks.”

“I don’t know Professor Tomlin, maybe that’s your intention, but a lot of my professors say that if it’s not sexy, it doesn’t sell.”

“That’s just business tactics Jeremy, You couldn’t possibly think I could be swayed to give you better grade on your paper just because it’s ‘sexier’ could you?”

Jeremy chose his words carefully. “… maybe subconsciously, you could…”

Erin’s rebuttal disappeared in her throat just as she was about to say it. Jeremy reached in to his bag and pulled out the paper.

“Well, here you go Professor Tomlin, I have to run to class but I’ll see you on Thursday. Thanks!” Jeremy closed the door behind him.

Erin looked down at the paper in front of her.

“The Taxing Toll on Topsoil from Thorn Trees.”

Erin sat in the quiet of her office, enjoying the quiet time she had before the flood of students came in wonder what they could do to improve their grade. After a moment, she went back into her filing cabinet, pulled out her favorite case study, crossed out the title and wrote above:

“Lima Beans Shown to Cause Extended Life Expectancy.”

She thought one ‘T’ word was plenty.




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