Some students dream of receiving the email students in Robert Zellmer’s Chemistry 1250 class received roughly 25 minutes before their Fall Semester final that said the exam had been postponed. Unfortunately for them, the email was a hoax.
Zellmer, senior lecturer of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, taught two sections of Chemistry 1250 during Fall Semester. Zellmer said for the final, he had students taking it in three different rooms at different times.
Zellmer was getting ready to give one of the chemistry finals, which was set to start at 8 p.m. Dec. 6.
At about 7:35 p.m., students in Zellmer’s class received an email, allegedly from Zellmer, stating the Chemistry 1250 final would be postponed to the following day because of poor weather conditions. The email was brought to Zellmer’s attention, and once he saw it, he said he knew it was fraudulent.
He sent out follow-up messages to all of the students who had not yet taken the final when he saw it, about 11 minutes after the fraudulent email was sent, telling them the previous correspondence was not from him. Some students in the other classrooms who had seen the email, though, had left their respective exams.
“I sent out two more emails, telling the students we would wait until 8:15 p.m. to start the final, since we were the last scheduled exam, and (then I sent) another telling them to come back to the exam,” Zellmer said in an email.
He said he was able to get all of the students who had left the room after seeing the fake email to come back to take the final.
Blake Gehret, a second-year in mechanical engineering, said he was in a different room than Zellmer where the final was about to be given when a student received the fake email and told the class that the final was postponed.
“Initially after reading it, I started walking home,” Gehret said.
On the walk home, Gehret called his friend, who was also in the class. His friend told him Zellmer said the email was a fake and the exam was still set for that night.
“I then headed back to my exam. When I got back to the building, I noticed a lot of people had left and Zellmer was shouting that the exam was still on,” Gehret said.
Jake Cordonnier, a second-year in mechanical engineering, was also in a different room than Zellmer where the final was set to be given when he received the fake email.
Cordonnier said he got really excited when he first saw the email, thinking he would not have to take the final that night.
Cordonnier said he happened to be standing by a teaching assistant who also saw the email.
“If I wouldn’t have been standing by a teaching assistant when I saw it, I would have walked home and never checked my email again to see Dr. Zellmer’s other emails that stated the final was still on,” Cordonnier said.
To accommodate those students who arrived late, Zellmer said he stayed past the assigned finish time to allow them as much time to take the final as the other students.
Zellmer said he still does not know who sent the email or why.
“I feel it was a juvenile prank, which caused a lot of commotion and could have caused a lot of problems, including perhaps causing someone to have an accident, because they were sent home and then had to come back,” Zellmer said.
Zellmer said the problem was sent to someone another staff member knows after the incident and was told it would be forwarded to the Office of the Chief Information Officer. So far, Zellmer has yet to hear anything regarding whether OCIO was able to identify who sent out the fraudulent email.
According to OCIO, there is no record of the issue being reported.
If a student sent the email, OSU’s Code of Student Conduct states that any student found to have engaged in dishonest conduct, including “misuse or falsification of university or related documents by actions such as forgery, alteration or improper transfer,” is subject to disciplinary action by the university.
Zellmer said he has already taken steps to attempt to ensure a similar incident won’t happen.
“I told the students this semester I would never send an email canceling an exam, lab, recitation or lecture,” Zellmer said. “The only way anything will be canceled is if OSU does so and it’s officially posted on the OSU web page.”