Professor devises clever trick to check if students read his class syllabus

The 71 students were caught out after none of them read the clue their lecturer had hidden in their class syllabus, and the stunt left people in stitches after the professor revealed it at the end of term

Every new term at university means students are flooded with multiple syllabuses outlining what they’ll be studying in their classes.

While some dedicated students do trawl through the important bits, very few read them in full – as one sneaky professor proved.

He devised a brilliant way to check whether his class read his syllabus – and played the long game to see if he could catch them out.

Professor Kenyon Wilson who teaches performing arts at the University of Tennessee hid a cash prize in a locker on campus and put a clue in the syllabus at the beginning of the last term.

The hint read: “Thus (free to the first who claims; locker one hundred forty-seven; combination fifteen, twenty-five, thirty-five), students may be ineligible to make up classes and …”

Armed with the locker combination from the syllabus, the student would have been able to claim $50 – and prove that they’d read the class document.

But at the end of the term, when he went to check the locker, the bill was still there.

“It an academic trope that no one reads the syllabus,” the professor told CNN. “It’s analogous to the terms and conditions when you’re installing software, everyone clicks that they’ve read it when no one ever does.”

“There’s a standard boilerplate that doesn’t change. The university has us put a lot of legal stuff towards the end,” Wilson added. “But on the first day of class I told them there was stuff that had changed, and for them to make sure they read it.”

He left a note in the locker which said: “Congrats! Please leave your name and date so I know who found it.”

He waited until exams were done before checking the locker – and then revealed the cheeky stunt on Facebook.

He wrote: “My semester-long experiment has come to an end. At the start of the term, I placed $50 in one of our lockers and included the locker number & combination in my syllabus for a class with over 70 enrolled. Today I retrieved the unclaimed treasure.

“What academic shenanigans should I try next?”

His student Haley Decker said that she thought the stunt was “hilarious”, adding: “I think this was a really smart experiment for Dr. Wilson to test out.”

“It definitely made the music students realize that despite repetitive information you should still read through your syllabus carefully.”