The Norman Transcript

November 27, 2013

The ghost in the hallowed halls

By Shirley Ramsey
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The rumor is academic ghosts hang around making mischief for students and teachers finishing up the end of the semester. Final grading in particular seems to attract the spirits.

Teachers hear this one often from students.

“I can’t find my final paper to turn in — it was right here in my backpack. Someone or something sneaked it away. I just need a couple of days to do it over. Please?”

Or when the final exam is a bust.

“I can’t explain it. It’s like someone kept whispering the wrong answers to me. I know now they were wrong. It wasn’t my fault, really. Can I make it up some way?”

Or when all else fails, this one comes up.

“I had three finals in two days. I know you, of all teachers, will understand. How could I possibly be expected to pass them all? Can I please take our test over again?”

This ghost seems to love slipping around professors and teachers as well as students, hiding graded papers, moving things around in their desks so they can’t find them and, in general, making their lives more interesting than usual. The ghost tries in every way to keep teachers from meeting their deadline for turning in final grades.

A few teachers are likely to say to the director, “I don’t know what to say — I had all the grades ready to turn in, and now I can’t find them. It’s like they just disappeared into thin air. You don’t suppose the janitor threw them away, do you?”

This brings an eagle eye from the director, who by now is used to paranoia setting in each time final grades are due.

“Send them over to administration then later,” he tells the teacher. “But it won’t look good if your students don’t have final grades reported. You’ll be the one to have to explain that to their parents.”

“Then I’ll go look again. I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

The director fights off the ghost, as well. He must finish his semester report for his dean while listening to all those sad stories.

Why would the custodian get into the act? The teacher finally finishes grading and is rushing to input them right into those handy but sometimes irritating computer programs. The custodian empties trash nearby.

“Gosh, I wish I was emptying trash,” the teacher says. “What an easy job you have.”

The custodian only looks tired.

“By the way, do you save all that stuff until everything’s finished?” the teacher says. “I mean, just in case something gets thrown away accidentally?”

“I never thought of that. I have to clean before the school closes down.”

“Finish computer filing for me, and I’ll empty the trash.”

Maintenance folks could do the ghostly act, dusting papers into the trash, cleaning in and around the copy machine so that it breaks down at the most terrible moment, but none of those good folks are responsible. It’s just the ghost of semester’s end.

Shirley Ramsey, a retired professor of journalism, lives in Norman.

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