I'm currently facing a peculiar situation. I have an open book Algorithms exam tomorrow and on the professors website for the course he specifically says: "Open book (only original hardcopy of the textbook, no notes)". Now the problem is that I have small sticky tabs in the book that mark important pages. In my personal opinion these are not "notes" nor do they make the copy of the text anything but original. Therefore I must be allowed the text book with the stick tabs correct? Now here's where it gets a bit tricky, a friend of mine emailed the professor before our midterm examination (a couple of months ago) asking if we were allowed "stick tabs" to mark pages. The professor told him no, but failed to make the clarification public to the whole class and he still has yet to do so. Therefore I plan on taking my text book (with sticky tabs) into the exam. Now here's my real question:

If he confronts me about them is it wise to inform him that he never specifically stated that we are not allowed them?


Take them out, wasting my exam time, and folding all pages to mark them anyways?

P.S. He's a very stubborn professor, meaning he'll probably not be very happy to the idea of me telling him my sticky tabs are in fact not notes.

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    Is it possible to borrow a copy of the textbook from your school library to avoid the confrontation? You know your chance to win this type of arguement is small, given that "He's a very stubborn professor". – scaaahu Apr 14 '15 at 4:13
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    What are you goint to do if he says it on the exam paper? Are you going to remove those sticky tabs (this could make you textbook look very weird)? Are you going to withdraw the exam, wasting this semester? Your call. – scaaahu Apr 14 '15 at 4:26
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    as long as he doesn't say it on the exam paper then he can't enforce it -- I don't believe this statement. Each exam is supposed to list EVERY possible thing a student isn't allowed to do? That is crazy. It will take a student years to read it before he/she can even begin the exam! – Austin Henley Apr 14 '15 at 4:46
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    @AustinHenley To be fair to the OP, I think I would fail to meet that professor's requirement ("Open book (only original hardcopy of the textbook, no notes)" if I were to take that exam. Every textbook of mine is full of notes (I was a math major, I wrote a lot of notes in my textbooks to supplement the proofs in the books). Anyway, I think you had given the OP the right advice. – scaaahu Apr 14 '15 at 4:56
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    If he said "only original hardcopy of the textbook" then I think your sticky notes are prohibited. They are not part of the textbook. – Andreas Blass Apr 14 '15 at 15:10

This really is up to your professor.

Go into class and ask him before the test if what you have is acceptable or not. If not (which is completely fair) then take the sticky notes out before he passes out the exam.

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  • Okay, the only problem here is that I'm almost sure that if the examination paper doesn't state specifically that we're not allowed them then he can't tell us to take them off. BUT I'm also almost sure that if I go up to him and ask he'll tell me to take them off (This is a very likely situation). What would I do them? Should I fight rhe p – Paul Warnick Apr 14 '15 at 4:34
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    His class, his rules. He doesn't have to specifically list every thing you aren't allowed to do on paper. So yes, he can tell you to take them off or you aren't sitting for the exam. Always be honest and open, so asking is the best option and following his rules is of course the best thing to do. – Austin Henley Apr 14 '15 at 4:36
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    I don't see how university policies apply. He can set the rules for his exam (at least in the US). – Austin Henley Apr 14 '15 at 4:37
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    @PaulWarnick On a side note, I don't understand why they are so important to you. Assuming they aren't labeled or color coded (else they could be considered notes), then if you only have a few of them the page numbers could be easily memorized or dog eared and if you have a lot of them then they aren't useful either since the ToC or index could be just as fast. – Austin Henley Apr 14 '15 at 4:44
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    I'm almost sure that if the examination paper doesn't state specifically that we're not allowed them then he can't tell us to take them off — Stop lawyering. You clearly understand what the prof's intentions are; follow them. – JeffE Apr 14 '15 at 8:32

Your entire line of argumentation is based on the notion that "sticky notes are not really notes". Maybe this is a reasonable line, but one can definitely disagree. There is no objectively correct definition of "note" in this context. You have already asked your professor, and he said that, no, sticky notes still count as notes.

As such, the entire "should have specifically told you" line will not hold, as he has specifically told you ("no notes"). You cannot reasonably expect him to enumerate everything he considers notes ("That includes sticky notes and simple sheets of papers. Blue and red notes are also notes. Handwritten notes are also notes. Notes directly written in the book are also notes (...)"). You have asked him to clarify, and he did. I can't see any way how pretending like you didn't know, and discussing this again directly before an exam can possibly end well for you. Keep in mind that an oral exam always has a substantial subjective factor in it, and trying to play the prof. on a technicality right before an oral exam seems like an unwise move.

(I also find it quite hilarious that you label the professor as "stubborn", yet you are the one going to lengths trying to wiggle around a relatively minor item in the exam regulations)

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    This is actually really funny when you look at it. I didn't realized I'm the one being stubborn. XD – Paul Warnick Apr 14 '15 at 5:40

Your already seem to expect that, if you were to ask your professor, he would disallow the sticky notes. You just prefer not to ask him (and thereby to clarify the rules), because you want to keep the notes.

Even if your point that sticky notes are not really notes was plausible (which I doubt), it is still your professor who makes the rules. Your position might be justified, but how is this going to help you when you won't win your case?

My advice: Take out the sticky notes.

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Since he has said "no notes" and he is "stubborn" as you put it, your chances of winning this debate is minimum.

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