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I'm a student at a large university, and, after a recent family emergency, received a lot of help from two faculty members in my department. My department adviser, after hearing about my family emergency, offered to contact all of my professors and request assignment extensions for me (because asking for extensions myself would require me explaining my situation to multiple people, and would probably result in some embarrassing crying jags). One of my professors went above and beyond, and gave me an "indefinite extension" on all of my assignments for his class; my entire class grade is made up of three essays, and I've turned in none of them so far, which I realize is probably a big inconvenience for him. He's also helped me personally, as he's been the only person comfortable asking me straightforward questions about my situation at home (which is a topic that most people are very uncomfortable talking about).

I'd like to get both of these faculty members thank you cards, but I'm also considering getting the professor, who's really gone out of his way to make things easier for me, and who I've spoken more extensively with about my situation, a small additional gift (a travel mug from the campus coffee shop that he frequents, a paperweight, etc.). I'd also like to get the professor a gift because I might not see him or take any of his classes again, but I speak with my adviser pretty frequently and have more opportunities to thank her.

Knowing all of this, would it be inappropriate to give the professor this kind of extra gift while my adviser is only getting a thank you card? The two faculty members' offices are fairly close to one another, and I assume that they speak regularly. I don't want my adviser to find out and feel that I somehow didn't appreciate her efforts as much, especially since I rely on her for recommendation letters and the like. Any advice?

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    In theses situations, it might be best to stick with cards to avoid any suggestion of reciprocity – Ric Dec 1 '15 at 18:57
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I would suggest sticking with a card, but writing your appreciation as extensively as you wish. There's no reason for the contents of the cards to be similar.

Even ignoring the question of differences between faculty members, gifts can be tricky for professors to deal with, ethically, particularly when it's regarding a favor in a class.

Finally, I guarantee that a heartfelt explanation of how much the help mattered to you will mean a lot more to the professor than a $10 mug.

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