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Student Given Lower Grade For Giving Online Presentation While Holding Sleeping Baby Cousin

Young man giving presentation with baby
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

Whether it’s for work or education, we all have had to make adjustments in how we make ends meet since the pandemic.

Sometimes we have to get creative when giving a presentation or participating in a Zoom call, and others have had to learn to be accepting of that, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

But Redditor babyaitathrow27’s Philosophy professor did not get the memo, as they were not understanding about a family emergency, even though their student still completed their presentation.

When their professor went so far as to give them a lower grade because of the emergency distraction, the Original Poster (OP) was not sure what to do next.

He asked the sub:

“AITA for bringing a baby to class?”

The OP was recently asked to help out during an emergency.

“For context, my university is completely online, and I’m male and 20 years old.”

“Last week, a family emergency happened, and it required my aunt and uncle to leave their house late at night.”

“I live close to them, and they have a baby that’s less than a year old.”

“So, they called my parents to tell them about the emergency, and then called me. They asked if I could come into their house and take care of their baby until they came back.”

“I was down with that. I’ve taken care of babies before, so, this wasn’t new to me.”

Everything was going according to plan.

“I took my stuff, drove to their house, and stayed with my cousin. Now, by the time my morning class comes about, my aunt and uncle hadn’t shown up yet, which was expected (they told me they’ll be back by one-two PM).”

“I had my baby cousin in my lap, setting up my laptop for my morning class, and my cousin fell asleep.”

“I’m like OK. I can deal with this. A sleeping baby is the best kind of baby. Do not move them.”

But then the OP needed to give a presentation during class.

“Now, here’s the problem. I had a presentation to do, and so my video was off. As I’m preparing to give it, the professor said, ‘OP, please turn on your camera.'”

“I said, Uhh. I have a sleeping baby right now, so… is that okay with you?'”

“They clarified, ‘A sleeping baby?'”

“I explained, ‘Yeah, there was a family emergency, so my cousin’s asleep on me right now, um… I don’t want to say the details in class, but I can email you after class, and supply any proof you need.'”

“My professor said, ‘It’s fine, please turn on your camera.'”

“So I did, and my cousin is asleep, and I give the entire presentation, and I’m really proud of how it went, because I think I did really well, and I answer all questions, and my cousin doesn’t wake up! This is the best-case scenario.”

The professor did not respond in the way the OP expected.

“Well, last night, I got my grade for the PowerPoint, along with an email from the professor that said she marked me down because she felt the baby was there as a pity prop.”

“She said I was attempting to gain sympathy, and if I hadn’t had the baby, I would’ve gotten higher.”

“Was I the a**hole for showing up with a baby?”

“I didn’t think about the pity aspect.”

Fellow Redditors weighed in:

  • NTA: Not the A**hole
  • YTA: You’re the A**hole
  • ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
  • NAH: No A**holes Here

Some urged the OP to reach out to Academic Affairs about the professor’s assumptions.

“This is WHOLLY inappropriate. I will never understand why professors seem to hold themselves so high and mighty and refuse to extend common decency to their students (I have a friend whose professor will assign like 10-hour assignments and give them one day to finish it).”

“I am an elementary teacher and we bend over backward for our kids. I have spent hundreds of dollars just on food for them.”

“OP, please save this email and take the documentation to Academic Affairs/the head of your professor’s department/the dean if you have to. You deserve your full score and your professor deserves to be punished.” – cuentaderana

“I am faculty and this story makes my blood boil. Take it to the Department Head, Academic Affairs, and everyone else, this needs to be shut the f**k down.”

“I can’t imagine how many other people this woman has harmed with policies like this over the years.”

“I can’t imagine punishing a student for presenting while also taking care of a baby.”

“I am a white guy with no kids who has zero reasons to relate to this besides general human empathy, and this story has thoroughly infuriated me to the core of my being, I imagine other academics feel the same.” – kinderdemon

“I’m a teacher and though grades are unfortunately subconsciously subjective, it doesn’t mean intentionally grading that way makes it okay. Reducing grades arbitrarily makes their grading not a measure of your learning, but a judgment on what he thinks you should be. And that s**t just isn’t our job.”

“Once you’re out of that class, tell that w**ker to start using rubric so they stop grading on whims. Teachers shouldn’t give grades; students earn them, and how you earned that one is bulls**t.” – ThatWildMongoose

“Academic here and this is an appalling response by your professor. Work should be examined according to the marking criteria and nothing else.”

“Look up the procedures for complaining, they vary from country to country and from institution to institution, and follow them to the letter. Keep everything in writing, no verbal communications, use the university-issued email, and keep your own copy of everything.”

“There may be a student union-type organization that can also support you in making your complaint. I am shocked at this lack of professionalism.” – GlencoraPalliser

“Professor here. Your professor is out of line, and if you were my student, I’d complain on your behalf. In addition to academic affairs, I’d also complain to the Department Head and if necessary the dean.”

“Your professor has an obligation to objectively grade you based on the content of your assignment. I see so many of my colleagues who are like this and I just don’t get it.” – adzo625

Others couldn’t understand where the idea of the “pity prop” even came from.

“How egotistical to think that this baby is only there to sway your opinion?”

“Like, babies exist. They are just young humans. They live in the world and get held on laps because they’re babies, not because they’re a ploy to get better grades. Seeing a baby isn’t inherently suspicious, like, ‘What’s this baby’s angle?'” – sthetic


“Even if your professor felt that way, expressing it was extremely inappropriate, and marking you down for it was ABSURDLY so.”

“College is adult education. Kids are something adults need to deal with. We’re in the age of zoom, where kids, pets, and everything else in between WILL be making an appearance on calls. Your professor’s behavior is unacceptable.” – idiggory

“Ask the professor to supply a grading rubric that shows more specifically why the points were deducted. I highly doubt there’s a line on the rubric that includes the presence of sleeping babies.”

“NTA. You showed the level of ‘grit’ everyone talks about so much these days, and should not be penalized for it.” – amaya_mae_

“Definitely take this to someone higher up at your university. It should have been fine regardless, but especially now when the world has had to adjust to virtual meetings/ working remotely AND child care being closed, this kind of flexibility is crucial.”

“I can’t tell you how many professional meetings I did last spring where one or both of my young children were literally crawling on top of me (same with my colleagues). I just kept myself muted unless I needed to speak and continued to do my job.”

“And my bosses had no issue with it and certainly didn’t accuse me of trying to get pity or sympathy. And your professor should give you the same professional courtesy. NTA.” – MayorCleanPants

“NTA. I’ve taken my baby into a lecture/lab and I was the instructor. She was a newborn and wrapped around my chest. Once she was old enough to move around, she went to a sitter. It was the only option for the first two months because I had less than a week’s notice that I needed to teach the class. If she was fussy, then the whole class got a five-ten minute break.”

“Most of the students loved it because it humanized me. I was very young to be teaching at the college level and most of my students were older than me; moms returning to get their degrees after their kids went to school and veterans using their GI Bill were the majority of our students.”

“It wasn’t a long-term solution, but it worked for us. I had students bring older kids when the sitter couldn’t make it or the kid was interested in the topic of the day. It was a branch campus in a rural area that was highly religious. Family was important and I’m thankful the school was so accommodating to all of us.” – mamaburnedkitchen

The subReddit was absolutely infuriated on the OP’s behalf and hoped that he would reach out for support from someone higher up in the department to either see his grade adjusted or to at least see proper grading rubrics implemented going forward.

But rubric or no rubric, some could not understand the professor’s reasoning when they referred to the baby as a “pity prop,” especially since the OP was able to provide proof of the emergency. Sometimes, life happens, and sometimes, that life includes babies.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan has been a part of the George Takei family since 2019 when she wrote some of her favorite early pieces: Sesame Street introducing its first character who lived in foster care and Bruce Willis delivering a not-so-Die-Hard opening pitch at a Phillies game. She's gone on to write nearly 3,000 viral and trending stories for George Takei, Comic Sands, Percolately, and ÜberFacts. With an unstoppable love for the written word, she's also an avid reader, poet, and indie novelist.