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underthecity
11-15-2008, 12:36 AM
In my story, my MC, Greg, attended Caltech for one year in 1987 and was expelled. He then went on to UCLA and changed majors.

One big reason that he went to Caltech is to show the reader that he is a smart guy; you have to be smart to get into Caltech. You have to make a really stupid mistake to get expelled.

So then, why does a student get expelled? I'm looking for a dumb mistake. I've thought about his getting involved in a prank, but pranks at Caltech are tradition and are not punishable. I don't want him to do something patently illegal, or harrass anyone, but it did cross my mind to have him plagiarize something and turn it in as his own work. However, that isn't always an expellable offense.

Any ideas?

truelyana
11-15-2008, 12:38 AM
Bringing alcohol to school, passing it among others and getting drunk in class, so much so, that you pass out? (Well it happened to me anyway!)

The story that you are trying to build, will depend more so on your characters personality and what you think he is capable of getting away with, and at the same time being found out.

Ageless Stranger
11-15-2008, 12:40 AM
Some one he dislikes taunts him into fighting and he takes the obvious bait. (It's what happened to me.)

hammerklavier
11-15-2008, 12:41 AM
Flagrant cheating would do it, such as stealing an exam from the professors office and passing it around. That would show some bravery and leadership skills as well as a certain amount of dishonesty and stupidity.

WendyNYC
11-15-2008, 12:44 AM
Maybe a prank could go horribly wrong and someone could get hurt? Some kids at a gifted high school here in NY recently pulled a prank where they spiked someone's Gatorade with fungicide and that kid coughed up blood. I'm not sure if they got expelled, but they deserved to!

RJK
11-15-2008, 12:58 AM
How about going nose to nose with a tight assed professor who fails him. This puts him in academic jeopardy causing him to be dropped from the program.

Kitty Pryde
11-15-2008, 01:01 AM
Every college deals with stuff differently. For example, Caltech's honor code is simply that:


"No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community."

Then if you violate it you get a hearing, and then (from their honor code manual)...


The title commonly given to the third decision is rather important: protection of the community. This is not an attempt to punish. It is an attempt by the Board to establish whether or not the defendant is likely to commit an Honor System violation in the future, and if so, to take appropriate action to protect the community. The Board can decide on any number of courses of action (protection of the community decisions have been known to be quite creative at times) The following decisions of the Board are common enough to discuss.

The most drastic action that the Board can take is to place a student on indefinite leave. The Board resorts to this only in situations where it feels that the defendant will not ever be able live within the Honor System. This decision may or may not include a recommendation for persona non grata status (i.e., severing all ties with the Institute).

So your guy would have to screw up so badly that a review board would have to think that he would repeatedly continue to do so in the future. He's a gadget builder, if i recall correctly, so maybe he has started repeated fires in his dormitory with his tinkering, despite multiple hearings and warnings. He knows he's supposed to stop but he thinks he's almost reached a breakthrough, and he thinks he won't start anymore fires. Or his beloved cat leaps into the machine he's tinkering with and short-circuits it and causes a major fire. Seems the most realistic.

The previous examples, drunk in class, starting a fist fight, or even flagrant cheating wouldn't result in expulsion at caltech. i believe the reason for the terribly lenient honor codes at schools like caltech is they expect smart students to behave smartly, and they want to encourage creativity and exploration by not suppressing student activity. Even if that student activity causes mayhem.

My uni had a similar honor code and policy ("Students are expected to show both within and without the University such respect for order, morality, personal honor and the rights of others as is demanded of good citizens. Failure to do this will be sufficient cause for removal from the University."). A teammate of mine tore down all the fliers in the dorm hallway, poured lighter fluid over them, and was standing over them with a lit lighter. she would have succeeded in arson if the resident advisors had not called the police. the gal in question was ranting and raving about how much she hated everything and wanted to burn down the dorm, which was part of a complex of dorms housing hundreds of students (including me!). For this violation, she only got a two-quarter suspension.

melaniehoo
11-15-2008, 01:10 AM
Cheating was a reason to get expelled at my college, and that was in the 90s. I would imagine those same rules would apply in the 70s, especially at a well-known school. You can show that he's smart but slipped up, didn't finish a paper/study for the test, and took the easy way out. Make it even more painful by having it be his easy class and that's why he put it off. Or not, your story. ;)

Medievalist
11-15-2008, 01:31 AM
Stop going to class

Fresie
11-15-2008, 01:43 AM
Whatever it is, it has to be related somehow both to his character, as the others have already said, and to the story itself. It has to be something that foreshadows the climax and his choice, and/or symbolizes the book's idea. So if you have some idea of how your story is going to end, you might think from there backwards and come up with an expulsion scenario that, in a minor way, mirrors the book's climax, is in keeping with the hero's character and/or symbolizes the book's idea.

underthecity
11-15-2008, 01:53 AM
Whatever it is, it has to be related somehow both to his character, as the others have already said, and to the story itself. It has to be something that foreshadows the climax and his choice, and/or symbolizes the book's idea. . . .

I agree. And thanks everyone for the suggestions, and I have to agree with (and thank) Kitty Pryde for that information about Caltech's code of conduct. I briefly explored their webpage earlier and couldn't find information like that.

Medievalist, your suggestion would work, but it's too haphazard for my character. He WANTS to be in Caltech. What engineering student wouldn't?

The prank idea could work, but it's all about Greg. Pranks are usually pulled by groups.

Going partially by Kitty Pryde's quoted box as well as Fresie's observation, my idea for a reason for his expulsion is this.

Please see if this works.

Greg is into electromagetism. In the story, he builds a device to send electricity through the air. It fails, but inspires him to create a device to catch ghosts using the electromagnetic spectrum.

So, years earlier he's at Caltech and designs and builds and EMP (electromagnetic pulse) for a class. Professor warns him of its danger. Greg later activates it and kills power to the whole campus. Perhaps even to all of Pasadena. And to make things worse, for some reason the sprinkler system activates, too.

Now Caltech (and maybe Pasadena) is without power, and everyone's drenched. There's only one guy to blame and he had been previously warned.

Expelled?

mscelina
11-15-2008, 01:54 AM
Hmm...making water balloon catapults out of surgical tubing and shooting them over a four story dormitory to hit all the flooz...er...young women tanning on the green in front of it...

Not that I would know anything about that. I did hear later from one of my vict...er...friends that a water balloon dropping from four stories in the air really hurt upon impact, so I'd assume that the Dean of Students...er...a random passerby would think the same thing.

*whistles and walks away with the utmost innocence*

mdin
11-15-2008, 01:59 AM
If you google "expelled from Caltech" you get three real-life examples... email harassment, a hobby rocket that exploded and killed someone, and some sort of mental disorder. I suspect if you pick other similar colleges you'll come up with all sorts of ideas.

Of the three, the second is probably the most dramatic, and even though it had the worst consequence (someone died), it probably lends itself more to making your character sympathetic.

I guess it depends on how big is this to the story. Accidentally killing someone would affect someone massively and change them forever, but being a nutjob stalker points to a character flaw that existed before the event, and getting punished for it may not have changed him too much mentally.

underthecity
11-15-2008, 02:03 AM
If you google "expelled from Caltech" you get three real-life examples... email harassment, a hobby rocket that exploded and killed someone, and some sort of mental disorder.

I did in fact google that very phrase, and found the same examples. From what's reported on the web, it's not too easy to get expelled from Caltech.

I can infer that as long as a hobby rocket or a big prank (Rose Bowl pranks, for example) doesn't affect anyone directly, i.e., nobody gets hurt, then the student is okay.

mdin
11-15-2008, 02:05 AM
Then maybe someone should get hurt.

Kitty Pryde
11-15-2008, 02:10 AM
Greg is into electromagetism. In the story, he builds a device to send electricity through the air. It fails, but inspires him to create a device to catch ghosts using the electromagnetic spectrum.

So, years earlier he's at Caltech and designs and builds and EMP (electromagnetic pulse) for a class. Professor warns him of its danger. Greg later activates it and kills power to the whole campus. Perhaps even to all of Pasadena. And to make things worse, for some reason the sprinkler system activates, too.

Now Caltech (and maybe Pasadena) is without power, and everyone's drenched. There's only one guy to blame and he had been previously warned.

Expelled?

I like it! PS here's the Caltech Student Guide (http://donut.caltech.edu/about/boc/ug_handbook.php) to the honor code and violations thereof. Maybe he took out his dorm or classroom with a baby-size EMP and got a serious warning. if he then later took out power to all of Pasadena (plus it would fry/destroy all the fancy electronics in the Caltech labs, right? AND at Jet Propulsion Labs, too, I'd think?) then it's accidental, it's keeping with his character, and it's costing millions of dollars, so it's pretty serious as well.

Haggis
11-15-2008, 02:19 AM
Stop going to class

Heh. Yeah. That one worked for me. :)

Medievalist
11-15-2008, 02:29 AM
I agree. And thanks everyone for the suggestions, and I have to agree with (and thank) Kitty Pryde for that information about Caltech's code of conduct. I briefly explored their webpage earlier and couldn't find information like that.

Medievalist, your suggestion would work, but it's too haphazard for my character. He WANTS to be in Caltech. What engineering student wouldn't?

Sure, but speaking as someone who has expelled students for non-attendance, they fall into three types:

1. Mentally ill/drug/alcohol issues

2. People who don't want to be there'

3. Artists/geeks who get distracted by the current project and essentially forget to go to class. This is pretty common. They maybe go to one class, one that the project relates too, and just blow off the other three or four; the smarter they are, the more likely this is to happen.

You don't get expelled, per se; that's the wrong term. But a university will dismiss you, and refuse to allow you to enroll in classes. And there's a note about it on your official transcript.

A.L. Wright
11-15-2008, 02:39 AM
Depending on your MC's psychology, this probably wouldn't work, but I'll just throw it out there in case someone wants to use it. It's also possible, at least in some schools, to be "asked nicely" to take a medical leave due to mental illness if it causes them to be disruptive in class. Sadly, it's happened at least twice at my university. The first girl was actually asked to leave because she had a breakdown in class. Here's an article about it that I had bookmarked: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2007/dec/27/news/chi-kickedout_27dec27. (The article some spacing problems, sorry.)

underthecity
11-15-2008, 02:53 AM
3. Artists/geeks who get distracted by the current project and essentially forget to go to class. This is pretty common. They maybe go to one class, one that the project relates too, and just blow off the other three or four . . .
You don't get expelled, per se; that's the wrong term. But a university will dismiss you, and refuse to allow you to enroll in classes.

Thanks, Medievalist, this is very helpful. I could have the character blow off going to classes to work on this project. (Later in the book, he's blowing off his whole marriage and job to work on the Ghost Machine project). Maybe he has a partner. Once the EMP project is complete, he and the partner demonstrate it in class DESPITE the partner's repeated warnings about what it might do. (Which also happens later in the book. He gets warnings and ignores them.) The EMP is deployed, takes out Caltech and surrounding area. Disruption ensues, loss of business, millions in damage both on campus and off. (Machine blows up at end of story.) Since he caused this chaos, and coerced fellow student to help (see Code of Honor: "No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community."

Greg is dismissed. (Not expelled, as he has to correct someone.)

There's the outline.

Thanks!

Smiling Ted
11-15-2008, 03:00 AM
When I was a student...back before the Deluge...college discipline was often a political process, guided by the question of who made the most trouble.

Could the student's crime leave the university legally liable? Was physical harm done? Then see ya.

Is it something we can sweep under the rug? Can we avoid an expulsion, which will lead to a loss in revenue, an embarrassment for the school, and a parent who might sue? Then let's do that.

So you might consider factors external to your character's infraction.

Fresie
11-15-2008, 03:51 AM
Please see if this works.

Greg is into electromagetism. In the story, he builds a device to send electricity through the air. It fails, but inspires him to create a device to catch ghosts using the electromagnetic spectrum.

So, years earlier he's at Caltech and designs and builds and EMP (electromagnetic pulse) for a class. Professor warns him of its danger. Greg later activates it and kills power to the whole campus. Perhaps even to all of Pasadena. And to make things worse, for some reason the sprinkler system activates, too.

Now Caltech (and maybe Pasadena) is without power, and everyone's drenched. There's only one guy to blame and he had been previously warned.

Expelled?

Works just perfect for me. I love it. I'd go for it.

Sounds like one hell of an interesting story.

Also if, as XThe NavigatorX says, someone gets hurt... that would give them a very serious reason to expell him, for sure. And later this someone may play some part in the plot.

Bubastes
11-15-2008, 03:56 AM
I could have the character blow off going to classes to work on this project. (Later in the book, he's blowing off his whole marriage and job to work on the Ghost Machine project). Maybe he has a partner. Once the EMP project is complete, he and the partner demonstrate it in class DESPITE the partner's repeated warnings about what it might do. (Which also happens later in the book. He gets warnings and ignores them.) The EMP is deployed, takes out Caltech and surrounding area. Disruption ensues, loss of business, millions in damage both on campus and off. (Machine blows up at end of story.) Since he caused this chaos, and coerced fellow student to help (see Code of Honor: "No member of the Caltech community shall take unfair advantage of any other member of the Caltech community."

Greg is dismissed. (Not expelled, as he has to correct someone.)

There's the outline.

Thanks!

That sounds perfect. I like the way you link his past with his present too. Very believable.

FinbarReilly
11-15-2008, 03:56 PM
I don't know what year he was, but hazing freshmen if he were a senior. "Having intimate relations" with the wrong person (dean's daughter, for example) is always a no-no, as would be enjoying a certain herb or barley-based products a bit too much. Engaging in private behavior in public was another one.

A clarification on the pranks: The key was not getting caught. Too many pranks and the pranksters could be expelled (at that point it's gone beyond fun and is interfering with learning itself).

If it helps...
FR

"A" Is For "Agent"
11-15-2008, 03:58 PM
Flagrant cheating would do it, such as stealing an exam from the professors office and passing it around. That would show some bravery and leadership skills as well as a certain amount of dishonesty and stupidity.

Yep.
You can even use the site turnitin.com in your story to show how he got busted. (It catches, or attempts to, plagiarism.)

OneTeam OneDream
11-15-2008, 04:32 PM
He should nail the dean's hot daughter....

Keyan
11-15-2008, 05:27 PM
shotgun wedding!

FinbarReilly
11-15-2008, 07:00 PM
See! It's a bit old school, but it's popular!

Oh, and IIRC there was a story about a male student getting expelled from college for appearing in porn movie produced by a mobile production company. Although the kid was in great standing, he nonetheless got expelled from college for appearing in the movie. A bit new school, but given the Chicken and Porn movie, it may be an interesting way to up the rating of your book....:hooray:

FR

FennelGiraffe
11-15-2008, 08:42 PM
If you want to keep your guy honest and basically decent:

Watch a few episodes of Mythbusters. Visualize some geeky college boys trying to do one of those experiments on their own, on the cheap (using scavenged, improvised equipment). Imagine the experiment going wrong...

Having it kill or seriously maim someone might be too traumatic, but extensive property damage could get the authorities hot under the collar.

Keyan
11-15-2008, 11:38 PM
And it would be so good in a book, too.

I remember someone say that if a book got too dull, blow something up.

(Not saying your book is dull)

<Wanders off, pondering explosions for WIP>

Deb Kinnard
11-16-2008, 12:13 AM
I could have the character blow off going to classes to work on this project. Later in the book, he's blowing off his whole marriage and job to work on the Ghost Machine project.

I think you've now hit on something that sounds consistent with his character. Good intentions, a first-class mind, a bit vague as some of them tend to be, and relationships are the first thing on the list that gets sacrificed if a worthy project absorbs 110% of their attention. Gad! I knew someone like this once, and he was great to be around if you could corral his attention for more than a minute or two at a time.

dclary
11-16-2008, 12:51 AM
The two times my friends were threatened with expulsion it had to do with poor grades. When you're on a full scholarship to Cal-Tech or Occidental, they kinda want you to actually go to class and take the tests and such.

dclary
11-16-2008, 12:53 AM
For my Cal-Tech friend, the reason was simple. He was doing 80 hours a week of contract computer work on the side, and simply didn't have the time or desire to go to class. You could consider that for your character.

Fullback
11-16-2008, 03:31 AM
The character doesn't have to cheat or plagiarize... he only needs to be convincingly accused of it by the real culprit trying to save his own skin.

Engineering types can have blinkered and brilliant creativity at complex problem solving, but the innocence of a child when it comes to the cunning ways of people.

Having a falsely-accused character may be an old trick, but it's an effective trick at building empathy and capturing readers for the rest of the story to see if his reputation is redeemed.

underthecity
11-17-2008, 06:23 PM
Thanks again for the suggestions and advice. I've written the scene and put it into SYW (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=2968601#post2968601) if anyone's intrested in reading it.