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Student Challenges Professor to Duel Over Exam Grade


Photos from Wellcome Collection / CC BY 4.0, Creative Commons / CC0

Students last week were shocked to witness two men in the Perelman Quadrangle engaging in a traditional duel, complete with old-fashioned pistols. Even more surprisingly, one of the combatants was a student, and the other a professor. We caught up with the challenger, Alex Burr (C ‘24) after the duel to get the full story. 

Alex tells us that after receiving a C- on his last Econ midterm, a grade he “totally didn’t deserve,” he was browsing through the stacks of Van Pelt Library when he happened to stumble upon something unexpected. “There was some weird looking old scroll shoved behind some of the old books, and at the top it said ‘University Policies.’ I realized that these were the original rules of the school, and technically, none of them have ever been abolished. I was reading one rule about how the men of fraternities are exempt from all disciplinary action, and then I saw the thing about the duel.”

According to the document, any student has the option to challenge their professor to a duel to dispute an exam grade. Amazingly, students are even able to rent out pistols for the duel from Van Pelt. 

Alex researched proper duel etiquette in advance of the challenge: “Apparently, the traditional way to declare duels is by slapping the other guy with a glove, but I don’t have any winter clothes with me so I had to use a latex one from a lab. I don’t think he appreciated that during his office hours.” 

When asked if a potentially deadly duel was a reasonable reaction to a low exam grade, Alex assured us he had thought it through. “I don’t think it’s an overreaction at all. With this grade now I can’t get an A in the class, and if I don’t make the Dean’s List my parents will be so pissed. And don’t even get me started on the effects this could have on my internship prospects. Trust me, it’s worth it.” 

The actual duel did not last long. With MERT on standby, the two combatants stood back to back before taking ten slow paces away from each other. Once the count of ten was reached, Alex didn’t even have time to raise his pistol before his professor shot him directly in the shoulder. Unbeknownst to Alex, this particular professor is reportedly an experienced marksman. His injuries are non-life threatening and he is expected to make a full recovery, although he did miss the drop deadline for the course so might have bigger problems.

The professor immediately left the scene and so could not be reached for official comment, but was heard yelling: “Just email the fucking TA next time and leave me alone.”