I am a Medical student. One would think a certain degree of maturity and consideration for other people comes with this career choice, however, this is not true in all cases.
We were asked to do a group project for our Pharmacology class and placed in groups of five by the professor, based on the alphabetical order of our last names. Out of the four people I had to work with, three were responsible, hard-working individuals who finished their part on time (we divided the work so each of us could focus on a different aspect) as did I. The other group member, whose name is “J”, was the problem. His part of the project (which he chose) was the easiest one, but he gave us his contribution incredibly late and didn’t bother writing a summary like we all had done. Not only that, but he had tons of references (we are almost certain he copied all of the from some article’s bibliography and had not actually read them), more that the rest of us combined, even if his part was less relevant.
Only one person was allowed by our professor to do the presentation of the group’s work (in short, most of the talking), and another person would do the Power Point that would be used in this presentation (a matter of copy & paste mostly, since each member also did their own slides, we just needed them put together with a consistent format). It was extra work, but we all agreed to draw lots to see who would do it. “S” wound up having to do the actual presentation while “J” was supposed to provide the Power Point for her.
The night before the presentation, at 1 a.m., the final Power Point had not been uploaded to our group cloud. At first, “J” tried dispersing blame, saying that the earlier version of the Power Point (which we had been tweaking together as a group that morning without much contribution from him when he should have had it ready by then) was not available to him. This was not true, as I had personally uploaded it just as soon as the meeting ended. Other group member confirmed this, it was indeed in our group cloud. I also informed him that if he had not been able to find it he could have said so at any point during the previous 13 hours (the time elapsed since our group meeting).
This other group member informed “J” that he was being terribly inconsiderate, especially towards “S”, who had gone to bed already without the chance to practise her speech with the actual Power Point that would be used. “J” then complained that he “had a life” and hadn’t been able to do it, but that he would before going to bed. The presentation was scheduled at 4 p.m. but we had morning classes starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m., with two spare hours in between lessons.
As soon as I woke up I checked my phone, which I had put on silent to get some sleep, and “J” had said that the final version of the Power Point had been uploaded. I rushed to check while having breakfast, and found out that the Power Point he had uploaded late at night was an even earlier version of the one we’d been working on the day before. At first, I wanted to believe my tablet was faulty and opening the wrong file. Not true. The supposedly final file was nothing but a very early version, and it was easy to tell because the order of the slides was wrong (“J” got it wrong despite us telling him clearly the right order before he put it together).
Then I thought he’d made a mistake and uploaded the wrong file, and when I saw him in class he told me he had the right one in a flash drive with him and would upload it as soon as he could. I must also say that the day’s lessons did not require attendance, I understood however that he wanted to be there and would probably upload it during our two spare hours. When that time came he said he needed to go to a committee meeting (he had not informed us of this, but it was true) and that after that he would go home and upload it from there.
“S” and I asked him if he could lend us his flash drive for a second, so “S” could copy it and have immediate access to the final file in order to practise the presentation in those two spare hours. He kept mumbling excuses and saying he had to go home to upload it. That’s when we understood that he had not done it, or else he would have let us see the file. I called him out on this, repeating the earlier comment that he was inconsiderate, and telling him that he was in a group project and he had to mind the rest of the group too. He stormed out saying that if we wanted it done we should just do it ourselves.
That’s exactly what we did, “S” and I called an emergency group meeting, and the remaining four members finished the Power Point so “S” could finally practise with it (I should say she knew what she had to say perfectly and did wonderfully that afternoon, but the lack of Power Point had stressed her out a lot).
We debated whether to leave “J”‘s name out of the project and inform our professor but we didn’t want to be snitches, or risk a bad grade because of him so we decided not to. I also didn’t want any more trouble, and I resolved to just ignore him from then on. We also found out through Facebook that he had been at a classmate’s birthday party the previous afternoon, and that was why he had done nothing. We could hardly believe it.
Our two spare hours ended and we headed to class, but he was not there. A friend of mine told me she’d just seen him at the library, studying for a different subject. Apparently it was alright for him to skip class to study for other subjects, but not to actually do the work we’d been counting on him to do.
The presentation went really well, as I have said, despite his absolute lack of effort throughout the whole project. The rest of our contributions were good and “S” explained them well. That would have been the end of it, but what really inflamed me was that when a classmate asked a question about the project “J” immediately started talking, saying things that had nothing to do with the question.
This question had been very specific and referred by name to something I had researched, so I said out loud “this is MY part” so he could hear me. He ignored me and went on talking, now saying things that, while still not related to the question and a little nonsensical, bore some resemblance to yet another thing I had personally researched. This was clearly an attempt to be noticed by the professor (who talked to every one of us about our involvement in the project so there was actually no point in doing it and he knew this, just wanted to show off in front of her and our classmates). I said, again out loud (but I don’t think the professor heard me), “this is also MY part”.
He showed no sign of stopping so I just cut in, actually addressing my classmate’s question, and earning positive feedback from my professor (she didn’t make any comment on my interrupting “J” but I believe it was obvious he was just saying the first thing that came to mind and not actually contributing anything).
I had never encountered this kind of behavior before and I am honestly appalled. Not only did “J” do next to nothing at all, he never apologised, blamed the rest of us, and even tried to take credit for something that I had researched.
I am still in doubt about whether we should have raised this with our professor (we are aware that other groups had similar problems and didn’t tell her but it wasn’t this extreme) or if it was better to avoid confrontation (it could, and would get ugly with “J” involved). What really worries me though, is that we have years ahead of us, and probably more group projects in the future, and his last name is the next one to mine alphabetically. It is highly likely that we will be in the same group again.
How do I let him know that I won’t let him piggyback his way to a good grade through my work again? I could still tell on him, but that seems like a petty course of action and likely to raise more trouble than it’s worth (after all, I’ve got a good grade, just for this once I could let it slide that he earned a good grade too, but undeserved, and just remind him that it won’t happen again).
In the meantime, I would like you all to please accompany me in condemning him to the deepest pit of eHell (or whatever Hell you see fit, since I’m not sure if this is a breach of etiquette or something else entirely). 0408-15
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