I am a student who is completing a course where the major assessment is a Project where you work in a team of four to complete it in different deadlines (Draft and Final).

However we have been informed that two of our group members have dropped the course and no considerations will be made. We are expected to work as a team of two when everyone else has a team of four (with some that I know of experience one person drop outs).

Would it not be ethical to make some sort of consideration? Maybe splitting my two person group and placing us in other groups that have had one member drop out?

The Lecturers reasoning is that "If someone is sick on your team you are still expected to make deadlines". However I know that if I had a deadline for a project and half of my team was off the entire time with some sickness then some sort of consideration would be made.

Is this ethical or am I looking at this wrong?


EDIT: The students are NOT COMING BACK

EDIT: I just got back talking to him. He does not plan to change anything, stating that some people only have one person in their group now.

I said I would be happy to take them into our team but he said that was not an option. I emailed my unit coordinator as I believe this is unfair but I doubt anything will come of it.

At this stage we are just pushing on ahead but I am keeping my emails in case we fail and need to apply for a review.

  • 2
    Let's hope that your instructor will take this setback into account when grading your grouplet's project. // Don't forget, sometimes a larger group is less effective than a really good partnership.... Jan 12, 2017 at 9:29
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    Is it fair? No, it's grossly unfair. But it can happen to you even in the job business. So, try to make the best out of it and you know what to write in the course evaluation. That being said, sometimes small groups do better work than larger ones, as aparente says. So, be your best, even if your lecturer clearly isn't. Jan 13, 2017 at 11:22
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    I think it was worth asking once, to put into the lecturer's mind the idea that some adjustment might be appropriate. At this point, the time and effort you are putting into trying to get a change might be better spent doing the project. Meet with your remaining partner to determine what are the essentials for each deadline and concentrate on getting those done, just as you would in any hard deadline short-staffed project. Jan 13, 2017 at 14:09
  • Men and months are equivalent only for perfectly partitionable tasks. If you had to dig 12 miles of ditch in 12 weeks, losing half the team would be a disaster. For a typical course project, unless both remaining team members are duds, your life has just gotten much easier. (Thanks to Frederick Brooks for insight into partionability of tasks. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month )
    – Bob Brown
    Jan 13, 2017 at 21:13

4 Answers 4


I've seen this happen before. What ended up happening was that Mr. Doe ended up being allowed to do an individual assignment on par with the level of effort as a member the group assignment.

Losing members does not change deadlines. The same result is expected, i.e. a paper is due on a deadline. That shouldn't change, even though your group has changed. Half a group doesn't mean you can get twice as long to work on it, mostly because deadlines rarely move as a result of group changes, and practically because the schedule won't account for it.

What has changed is the amount of work you can realistically accomplish. Instead of having four person-units to work with, you have two person-units to work with. You will not be able to make the same effort as four people, but I highly doubt the professor will expect you to be able to meet that level of effort, simply because asking a human to fill in as two humans rarely ever works in the real world, at least not for long before that human breaks down.

Do not expect to change your deadline. Expect to change how much work you will complete by that deadline. Talk with your professor about how much effort the two of you will need to apply to meet his expectations, as opposed to whether or not you will meet his deadlines. Does he expect you to perform as much work as four students will do, or just meet the same timeline?

If he also wants you to do twice as much work as other students, then I'd have issue, but if he only wants you to meet deadlines, and will take into account that you're short 50% of a normal group, then I wouldn't find any real merit to saying the deadline is unreasonable.

  • 1
    I just got back talking to him. He does not plan to change anything, stating that some people only have one person in their group now. I said I would be happy to take them into our team but he said that was not an option. I emailed my unit coordinator as I believe this is unfair but I doubt anything will come of it. Jan 13, 2017 at 10:13
  • Have you asked whether the marks will be adapted appropriately to take care of the circumstances which are not of your making? Jan 13, 2017 at 12:06
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    His answer is that in a business your work wouldn't be lessened at all so the marks wont be adapted. Jan 13, 2017 at 13:48
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    Well, I can't say you tried. It'll be tough work, but if he thinks you, or even a single student, can do it, maybe the assignment is geared toward a smaller than expected group size in the first place. Either abandon ship or tough it out.
    – Compass
    Jan 13, 2017 at 14:28

The teacher does make a valid point in terms of work place environment though. Say you are working on a project for company ACME. Rough times have hit the company and now your team has went from 4 people to 2 people and the client is still expecting the project to be ready by the same date. You wouldn't be able to go to the client and ask for an extension because it can be taken as a lack of ability. If you tell the truth, the company recently let go 2 employees on the team, it shows the company may have some financial instability and the client may pull the project all together.

It sucks, I have experienced this in my previous job where I was on a development team of 10 and was chopped down to 4 while we were still expected to complete all the new projects while maintaining old projects all at the same time.

I have also experienced something similar with my senior college paper that we had to write as a group of 4 about 100 pages worth of information or about 25 pages each. 2 of our members decided the class was not worth their time and slacked off writing barely 10 pages each leaving much of the work to myself and another. We approached the teacher and luckily for us, the grade was based on our individual parts you did and not as a whole group.

This though, is not as practical as my experience I first described to you because in the real-world, a client isn't going to go to an individual worker and say hey! this project was terrible, but your part was great! They are going to go to your boss and say, this project is not what we agreed to, and not what we paid for. FIX IT. and you all get in trouble.

So while this may be a really lame situation, the teacher is actually preparing you for real-world situations that may come up. Of course if you still feel strongly that you should be given consideration/moved to a new team, there is always the option of talking to the dean or department head to find out what they can do. Usually though, they will stick to the teacher's choice.

With proper time management and understanding the priorities, you will find a way to get it done. Don't try to tackle it all on at once, but break it down into segments. if it is a 10 part project, talk it over with the remaining partner and sort them out. Which parts are you stronger at, which parts are they stronger at. See if you can balance out your weaknesses with their strengths and vice versa. From there see what is left over to do and see of the ones that you guys have mutual weaknesses on, which one of you feels MORE Confident in taking on one of the parts. From there just get working on it. You both know what you need to do, both know when they are due. If you cannot move forward with a part until they get their segment done, work on a non critical path item that you can do on the side that is not waiting for a pre-req to be finished.

Edit: To the person saying comparison to the business is silly and can always rehire... this is not entirely true. If a company let go people, the chances of them hiring anyone to take their place so you can get the project done is very unlikely. Rehiring in general is a long process that can take months to fill in the gaps. Are the workers just suppose to stop and wait for the new hire and blow all deadlines? No. That doesn't happen. Even if they start rehiring right away, you need at least a month or 2 just for interviews alone. New hires may not be able to start right away due to still being at old job or the have a prior commitment and cannot start for a time period. Working at jobs that isn't Mc'Donalds takes time to find suitable replacements with applicable experience. Again assuming that there is no hiring freeze which there probably is one due to being let go. not fired. there is a difference between let go and fired.

  • 5
    While you are right that this sort of thing can certainly happen in the workplace, I don't think that necessarily means it's appropriate to replicate in an academic environment. Jan 13, 2017 at 0:35
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    I just got back talking to him. He does not plan to change anything, stating that some people only have one person in their group now. I said I would be happy to take them into our team but he said that was not an option. I emailed my unit coordinator as I believe this is unfair but I doubt anything will come of it. At this stage we are just pushing on ahead but I am keeping my emails in case we fail and need to apply for a review. Jan 13, 2017 at 10:14
  • @NateEldredge I agree that it should not be applied in an academic environment for freshman and sophomores. They are still trying to adjust to a new life. However, by time you are a senior, you should be prepping for that real-world application. This is why a lot of senior level classes involve internship in some form too. Granted, I have always favored the stricter teachers and classes because I learned and grew the most during those classes. Anthony, sounds like this teacher could be playing God with grades if that many have group issues. Definitely keep records of communication.
    – ggiaquin16
    Jan 13, 2017 at 15:25

You have another option. Drop the class yourself.

The comparison with a business is silly as a business could hire new people to jump in and help out or they could reallocate resources. Your teacher cannot hire new students to take the class and seems to be unwilling to reallocate the teams.

Another way you could approach this is ask your teach to have a chat and explain to them your fear. That now a team of 2 has to do the work of 4 and that this could have a significant impact on the project as well as your final grade. Perhaps the teacher already has some thoughts on how she/he will mitigate these concerns.

  • This is my final unit in my course and it is past the census date. So if I dropped it, it would count as a fail. Jan 13, 2017 at 10:12

You have right to be worried about the future, but the lecturer's reaction might stem from such matters of which you're not aware. For example, the sick students have probably announced him that their sickness is something trivial and they will be back soon to be involved in the process again. You say that the project is the major item for the final assessment so those absent students are, probably, thinking to get back not only for their commitment to work with you on a shared project, but their own survival from a potential failed score!

I believe that you better talk to the lecturer again and reasonably posit that the project's workload was planned to be shared between 4 persons but their absence is overshadowing the project's progression, dramatically. It will hopefully drive the lecturer to initiate a plan B for you.

If she is still ignorant about your reasoning, you can reflect the problem to your coordinator and announce that this kind of treatment is not only unfair and decreasing your passion to continue but may lead to dissension between you and her. They are experienced to handle just situations.

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    I am sorry if I wasnt clear. But these students are not sick that was just an analogy I was using. These students have dropped out of the unit and will not be coming back. Jan 12, 2017 at 5:17
  • Then, the lecturer must be responsible for this issue, as it's harmful for your studies (at least in scope of his course). As I suggested, try again to convince her to plan again for your project. If she is not helpful, let the authorities manage the situation.
    – User
    Jan 12, 2017 at 5:26
  • Thank you, I am awaiting a reply from the Lecturer and if it goes how they hinted it would at the start of the semester I will have to go over their head. Jan 12, 2017 at 5:28

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