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Ask Nutty B

By Nutty B

Features columnist

Nutty B is currently a graduate student at MIT, and this is his first attempt ever to be (or pretending to be) an advice columnist. Please e-mail him with whatever question you would like someone to hear, and give him an excuse to procrastinate at 3:00 a.m. Please send all questions to

Dear Nutty B,

I’m a second year grad student, who’s just found out she’s the only teaching assistant for a course where 80 people came to the first lecture. What should I do? Should I just face that I’m going to have to spend all my time grading homework?

--Miss Chrissy

Dear Miss Chrissy,

I am reminded of Livia Soprano’s famous line to her son, “Aww, poor you!”

Eighty people in the first lecture, you said? Don’t worry, give it another two weeks and I doubt there will be more than 20 people left. If not, perhaps you should use some tricks to scare the kids off. How about dressing like Xena, Warrior Princess, for recitation and whipping those who aren’t paying attention with your leather strap? Or perhaps you can try the Coyote Ugly approach dancing on the table when you are giving your recitation. Those ought to decrease the class population in no time.

As for grading homework, I guess you aren’t aware of the TA tricks yet. Just weigh the paper and whichever weighs the most gets an A. That was what I suspected my TAs in my undergrad years did. Now that I myself am a grad student, I think it’s actually a good tradition to carry on.

At any rate, I think you should give it a week or so and then reevaluate. If this TA job does end up being too much of a burden, perhaps you can suggest that the prof get a grader. It’s quite common in a course to have a TA (or even two) and a grader. If you can have someone to take away the pain of grading homework, surely you will be less miserable.

Dear Nutty B,

I am totally confused! There are so many assignments already waiting for me, and it’s only the second week. The problem is that there are equally many parties to go to. There’s practically one every night. I don’t know what to do. Party first, or homework first?

--Party Animal

Dear Party Animal,

Do you really have to ask me this question? You signed the letter with the name “Party Animal,” knowing very well what you want.

And by the way, where are all those parties? How come the hot Nutty B hasn’t been invited? Well, if I don’t know about them, those parties must be boring!

Anyhow, the little angel in my head asks me to tell you that you should finish your homework before anything else. However, there is also that little voice that wants me to tell you that doing homework seven days a week is nice, but some fun doesn’t hurt, either.

Therefore, after taking the average of these two and making sure the standard deviation is not too large, I have decided to tell you that a balance is the best. Why not focus on schoolwork during school days and party all you want on Friday nights? That way you will both get your work done and have your fun while not feeling guilty. How does that sound?