Arun is Bringing You...Your Daily Remedy

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kicked Out of College?

Believe it or not, there was a week in my life where I was sure my career at Cal Poly was over.

I was a freshman at Cal Poly and, being fresh from high school, was used to excelling at academics. Whatever happened to those days? I was enrolled in Computer Science 102 which turned out to be one of hardest classes I ever had at Cal Poly, and also one of the most educational. It also happened to take about ten years off the end of my life.

The class workload basically consisted of writing a lot of computer programs with a partner. When we picked partners at the beginning of the quarter, it was basically a crap shoot since no one knew anybody yet. And when I say "crap shoot" I'm serious.

I ended up with crap.

My lab partner was a smart guy, but he was also impractical, ADD, and a bit of a LOT of a nut. He would go crazy writing a bunch of code, then he would change his mind and change huge sections while I meanwhile was planning a clean, practical way of finishing this damn thing in a semi-insane amount of time. Suffice to say, this didn't really mesh with me especially considering I wasn't exactly proficient with computers yet either.

About half way through the quarter, the class was assigned a MOTHER of a program. I'm not talking about a normal mother either. I'm talking 300 lbs, 50 inch waist with cankles and curlers.

Not pretty.

So as we get started I get frustrated with my partner and decide to try and tackle this program on my own. Meanwhile, it turns out another guy in the class, Josh, lives a few doors down from me in my dorm and by this point we had become good friends.

Now Josh had an interesting problem with his lab partner. He was much smarter than me in his lab partner selection. I was young and naive and went with someone I hoped would be smart AND be a good partner. We know now this didn't pan out. Josh instead chose the HOT blond in the class. I don't think I need to tell you the odds of 1) Even having a hot blond in a computer science class and 2) That blond having any idea of what the hell is going on beyond the "pretty curves of the Arial font."

He knew what he was getting into, and now he was paying the price. Curiously, they had been getting stellar grades on their program assignments which totally perplexed me. How the hell is this possible?!! I knew Josh was smart, but I couldn't understand how the hell he was getting perfect grades all on his own!

I remember grilling him about it after which he revealed to me that he was writing all the programs himself, then she was taking them to her brother who was a software engineer for like Intel or something, and he would doctor up any mistakes so that the program was clean and efficient.

This strategy worked out for Josh for awhile until this fugly program was assigned. Josh and I discussed strategies for attacking this program for awhile, and decided to attack this program together. This seemed logical for a couple of reasons. Both Josh and I had an idea of what was going on and we were conveniently lived like 20 feet from each other so we could work whenever we wanted.

After some time, we finally finished the program, exhausted and depleted. Phone rings and its Josh's lab partner calling to see how "their" program is going.


It dawns on us that we never informed her that we were going to work together on this. Josh, out of obligation now so close to the due date can't ditch her so we instead we decide to panic. Luckily, she had her brother write about a third of the program for her, so Josh managed to weave this into what we had written and was going to submit it as theirs.

I meanwhile went in and tried to change as much as possible so that it wouldn't look like one of us simply copied from each other. On the cover sheet of the submittal there was a section where you list other people you "discussed" the program with. In order to both be honest and avoid suspicion, we listed each other on our submittal.

Fast forward a week. Its the morning of a midterm, and Josh goes to see Prof. Stearns early to get the graded program back to study before the midterm. I meanwhile am eating breakfast at some crappy campus dining facility. Josh comes in looking flustered.

Josh: "Arun, we're in trouble..."
Me: "What do you mean Josh, I think we're ready for this test!"
Josh: "I just talked to Stearns and he said don't bother coming to class because he's flunking us and reporting us to judicial affairs"
Josh: "Arun?"
Me: "I'm gonna be sick...listen don't panic. Let's show up, take the test, and we'll talk to him after."

Meanwhile, inside I'm panicking and freaking the hell out.

So after the test we go chat with the prof. It turns out that in about 800 lines of code, we had 3 consecutive lines that were identical and both exactly wrong in the same way. I was up front and told him we worked together but that there was no "copying" involved.

One of my main arguments was that if we were really cheating, why would we have been stupid enough to list each other on the cover sheet as other people we discussed the program with? (To which the answer I guess would be Yes, we were that stupid) He said he would look over the program again and determine if he felt this was cheating.

The following week was the longest week of my life. I have never been depressed, but I imagine this was the closest I've ever been to it. Josh and I were flipping out. The more I thought about it, the more I was scared that the prof would find some obscure thing to call us on. The religious guys in my dorms were all praying for us.
I seriously had no appetite (for once in my life) and was constantly worried.

Finally, a week later the prof spoke to us and was all jovial.

Stearns: "You guys did a pretty good job and I didn't find anything too incriminating! HA HA Haaaa!"
Me Thinking: ("Ha Ha Ha??? I'm freaking out all week and this is 'Ha ha ha' to you!?!")
Stearns: "I just want you two to work solo for the rest of the quarter and you'll be fine fellas!"

I wasn't sure whether to be pissed at him or exstatic. Me being me, I chose the latter.

I left the room and proceded to moonwalk up and down the hallway! "I'm BACK BABY!" After Josh came out, I continued doing the happy dance with him. (And by "with him" I mean alongside of him)

If fact, Prof Stearns actually ended up liking me and gave me a really favorable grade despite my sub par test scores in that class. Josh and Prof. Stearns eventually became good friends and I believe to this day, continue to play racquetball together. Josh now works as a successful software engineer for Amazon and well, I am continuing to live life awesomely in following "Arun's Guide to Lifetime Awesomeness."

Its one of those stories where at the time, I was an absolute mess, but looking back we can all get a good chuckle. So chuckle away while I work on recalling my next crazy story or adventure.


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