Accidents will happen

December 14, 2007

Who has not been on the brink of staining students' work with cups of coffee ("Coffee rings are not best marks", December 7)? It is surprising it doesn't happen more often, given the need to stay awake when marking some coursework. But it was far more hazardous in the past, when essays were handwritten in ink and a careless swipe by the cat could topple one's glass and wash out swaths of words. Paw prints across the page are completely indelible; melted chocolate crumbs can be hard to remove, too.

There are many telltale signs to be found between the pages of the written word. Harold Rose, one-time professor at the London Business School, once lent me The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde . There were squashed mosquitoes between every page and the inscription on the flyleaf read "Durban 1948". In what circumstances had he read that book, I wondered?

I don't blame the coffee-ring student for being offended; we owe it to students to treat their creations with care. But it must be a case of quid pro quo. If only students would refrain from filling scripts with tobacco smoke that bellows out at us as we turn the pages, we might be less offended by their work, and less in need of refreshment.

Karen Powell-Williams
Business School Westminster University

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