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A Teacher Asking Students To Destroy Notes? 931

zwei2stein writes "I found this question with far-reaching implications in the off-topic section of a forum I frequent: 'My economics teacher is forcing us to give up all of our work for the semester. Every page of notes and paper must be turned over to her to be destroyed to prevent future students from copying it. My binder was in my backpack, and she went into my backpack to take it. Is that legal?' Besides the issue with private property invasion, which was the trigger of that post, there is much more important question: Can a teacher ask a student not to retain knowledge? How does IP law relate to teaching and sharing knowledge? Whose property are those notes?"
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A Teacher Asking Students To Destroy Notes?

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  • Notes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nametaken ( 610866 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:16AM (#26586123)

    You wrote them? They belong to you.

    • Re:Notes? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:38AM (#26586253) Homepage

      Ask a lawyer, it could prove interesting. If the lawyer smells a chance of winning a case it may be even more interesting.

      But this means that you shall always have a backup of your work. A copying machine will do fine!

      • Re:Notes? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @01:24PM (#26589913)

        "A copying machine will do fine!"

        A scanner will do even better. If a teacher tried that shit with me I'd spend the time to type the notes (redacting anything that might refelect my style) and ensure they spread widely. I would instantly lie when asked for the notes, either that I didn't have them or that they were mixed with unrelated info.

        It is OK to lie to enemies, so be ready and be convincing.
        Friends deserve the truth, courts command it, but opponents should be defeated. The teacher removed any moral obligation to respect her when she demanded the notes.

        • Re:Notes? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EconomyGuy ( 179008 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @02:21PM (#26590443) Homepage

          This is exactly the sort of response that make things worse. I'm all for *sticking* it to the teacher, but there are better ways that won't expose you to unnecessary accusations of being a bad actor.

          Every school has an ombudsman whose purpose is to negotiate conflicts between students and the administration / faculty. They are usually very pro-student. I have zero doubt this issue would be resolved in favor of the students, but you have to approach it diplomatically... scorched earth policies make as much sense here as they do in international relations.

    • Why bother? (Score:5, Funny)

      by quenda ( 644621 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:54AM (#26586651)
      In economics, the exam questions are the same every year. They just change the answers.
  • by NNKK ( 218503 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:16AM (#26586127) Homepage

    This is called theft, there is no other word for it. File a police report immediately.

    • by cerberusss ( 660701 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:08AM (#26586427) Homepage Journal

      I always had run-ins with teachers because I thought they were being unfair or something. Until I realized that things would work smoother for myself if I just assumed I lived in a tyranny and I'd have to work hard to be able to escape it as soon as possible.

      Your advice is not going to make things simpler for the topic starter. Best is to question the situation politely and in firm terms. If no response happens, leave it the hell alone and get the hell out as soon as possible.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:51AM (#26586641)

        The correct thing to do is to go to an appropriate dean (which one depends on how the school is structured - in the university I attended, it could have been the dean who oversees the professor, or the dean of the college of my major, or the "dean of students") and explain that the professor opened your backpack without your permission and took from you notes which you wrote on paper you paid for, and that this is theft and you want your notes back. If they are reluctant to act, explain to them very politely that you're trying to help them by not making this criminal theft a matter for the police, and won't they please consider doing something about it?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Volvogga ( 867092 )
          Also, this is quite honestly lazy ass teaching. Reusing 100% of the material year after year...? Hell no. Theories change, textbooks update, and teaching methods improve. Beyond that, as pointed out before, the notes are for your future reference, not just for reference of the class. If you were to write all your notes into the margins of your textbook, would they tell you that you have to burn the book?

          Bring this to the Dean first. If nothing else, just to get his/her reaction. If the Dean thinks this is
      • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @06:43AM (#26587127) Homepage Journal

        Best is to scan the whole notebook, stash the files away, never mentioning it, then turn in the original.

        Then, when you finally finish your contact with the asshole, post the entire content on the net and publish the info on your school website.

        And let THEM fight YOU.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jcr ( 53032 )

      I concur. If she opened your bag and took something without your permission, that's petty theft. File the charges.


  • Easy solutions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AchiIIe ( 974900 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:19AM (#26586131)

    easy solutions:
    a) photocopy the notes
    b) type them up to begin with
    c) leave ITT TECH and go to a real university

  • Go nuts! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Swordopolis ( 1159065 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:20AM (#26586149)
    Theft, unlawful search and seizure, destruction of property..... You could go nuts with this. This can't possibly be legal.
    • Re:Go nuts! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mikelieman ( 35628 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @08:11AM (#26587605) Homepage

      Well, perhaps it's best to remain focused.

      Assume the kid had 90 days of class. That's 90 hours.

      90 hours * 20 = 1800$

      Now, given this is America, and people are entitled to profit from their works, double it to $3600, the value of the notes STOLEN.

      That's Grand Theft. Focus on that. The police can get their heads around that.

  • File a complaints. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TokyoMoD ( 1425399 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:21AM (#26586155)
    1) With the school. 2) With the local police. 3) Contact a major news outlet. 4) Refuse going to that class until settled. 5) Contact local ACLU type outfit. Write down the event now, while it's still fresh.
    • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:38AM (#26586259) Homepage

      Write down the event now, while it's still fresh.

      And make sure to not let anyone steal it!

    • Make sure to do all these things on the same day. Make sure the news story goes out before school officials have time to react. That is what they deserve.
      • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:02AM (#26586403)

        Hold it. You may actually deal with a sensible school board. Yeah, sounds funny, but such things exist. They may be very interested in settling this quietly, return the notes and do what they love to do: pretend nothing ever happened. And that's basically what the OP wants, if I got him/her right.

        Once you blow it up and it gets news coverage, they can't simply return the notes and sweep it under the rug. They'll probably start to make up some big excuse why this is necessary in an attempt to save face, the student gets all sorts of troubles... Realize that schools have a lot of abilities to make oyur life really miserable if you're a student there.

        So far, the principal could still be unaware of the problem and be on the side of the student.

  • IANAL, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DaHat ( 247651 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:23AM (#26586165) Homepage

    ... back in my undergrad days I had an issue with a professor who tried to pull his own stunts, even trying to call me out (while claiming to not know who he was calling out) publically in class. After a conversation with couple of lawyers and a few folks at the university after making a complaint of harassment (me being a white male who at the time was in his early 20's) and which at one point resulting in the university president calling me on my cell personally, it was decided that given the professors work was a paid for by the university, they had effectively no rights to it... so my copious note taking, and eventual whole scale recording of classes what perfectly legitimate and up to the university... and not the individual professor who was being paid to perform for the classes behalf.

    As sad as I am to say it... a tape recorder, obvious or not (ideally obvious be it in public or private) can be your best friend... though in my case I also had a laptop recording everything as well.

    Let me give you the advice I was given when I was dealing with an overzealous professor who thought they were god in the classroom and eventually was threatening to sue me and the school... talk to a lawyer.

    Remember though... I am not a lawyer, I've just talked to a few over this issue and think you should to.

    • Re:IANAL, but... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by theheadlessrabbit ( 1022587 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:42AM (#26586285) Homepage Journal

      i would like to add to this that in many countries, it is illegal to record audio (but not images) of someone without their permission. if you don't have the professor's permission to record the class, you could be in some legal trouble if you are caught.

      note: this didn't stop me from making recordings of several of my courses.

      I've archived every single note from every class, and even now, 3 years later, i will review a random class from time to time to keep it fresh in my mind.

      your written notes are yours, and yours alone.

    • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:55AM (#26586365)
      This is a weird situation (in the case of a public University) because arguably most of the money for the lecture comes from the public... but it is not a public forum. The University has the right to restrict the lecture to students who have paid tuition.

      However, if you are a student, and you have paid tuition, you have every right to all materials that are presented in that lecture.

      My University (after some legal wrangling) recognized this and thereafter allowed the Student Body Association to record (on paper) and sell "official" lecture notes for recurring lectures, and in fact found it to be a valuable educational tool for those who could not take good notes, or could not keep up due to language or coordination problems, etc.

      Everybody benefited as a result.

      Study is study. Lecture notes do not help people "cheat", except in the sense that they might not have to physically be present at the lecture in order to benefit from them. They still have to read the notes and learn the material. Heck... that's what televised lectures are all about anyway!
      • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) * on Saturday January 24, 2009 @05:37AM (#26586837)

        Study is study. Lecture notes do not help people "cheat", except in the sense that they might not have to physically be present at the lecture in order to benefit from them.

        Funny thing for me is that I find the whole situation bullshit from the beginning. I understand the idea is to verify that the student has retained the information and more preferably can demonstrate an application of that knowledge in a meaningfully productive way. What I find is bullshit about it, is that it does not represent real life for many people in most the of the areas of study that I am aware of.

        Personally, I have an inordinate number of reference books around me and when I code I even have a whole monitor dedicated just to references on my systems. Many people are no different. Mechanics, Plumbers, Doctors, Lawyers, Coders, Technicians, Teachers, etc. all have access to reference materials around them at all times. You almost cannot do most of the jobs without it.

        The value that a class should provide, IMHO, is the core understanding of the material itself and how to apply it. Critical thinking. Additionally, any academic institution should be instilling very strong research skills into their students. Research is a person's real strength. Not that they have the answer immediately on the tip of their tongue, but they can say, "I don't know, but I will get the answer shortly". Over time any experienced person will refer to the references less and less, but they will never have to stop doing research.

        Look at this way. If you have no beforehand knowledge of the material and you cannot apply it to a problem either, how can references possibly help you solve a problem in a real world time-frame? You would lose the contract or get fired since you have zero experience entering the field. A genius cannot become a doctor and diagnose and heal a bunch of people within 24 hours with references alone. It would be a rather huge learning curve to overcome.

        The only way you could do that in an academic setting is if the test is multiple choice, and multiple choice tests are the biggest single catastrophic failure in our education systems since we first had written languages. There is always one right answer, a reasonable answer that is not correct, and a 2 or 3 other answers that are off the wall bullshit. It's the easy way out for educators and most often leaves students with very little retention of the material over time. Life is not a multiple choice test. I know that sounds counter intuitive, but it is true. There is not always a sign in front of you with the correct course of action. You have to be able to think and gather all the data around you and analyze it. In short, research skills.

        I would absolutely challenge anybody to the following experiment. Have 100 students that have been discussing the material for 6 months with their professors and each other. Have 100 students in isolation, or with no exposure to the material at all. Create a test with no multiple choice answers. This test would have so many questions that nobody could answer them all within the testing period. Allow any and all references to the students during the test.

        Grade it according to a curve. Look at how many wrong answers a person gives relative the right answers. Then look at that relative to their peers.

        I would be willing to bet the 1st set of students do dramatically better overall than the 2nd. Some of the students in the 2nd group may be do as well as their 1st group peers, but I would bet they are already possess exceptional research abilities and be able to think fast on their feet. Some of the students in the 1st group may be "low watt bulbs". Even after being exposed to the material for six months and talking about they have not retained much information or garnered any insights as well.

        The students that do well in such an experiment would probably do well in any real world setting too.

        Problem with testing that way is that it represents more work for the teacher. However, that is what teaching assistants are for. Just do the damned work IMO. My tuition paid for it.

  • by Varitek ( 210013 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:26AM (#26586185)

    Is the purpose of a college class to give a student knowledge of a field of study? Or is it to just award a credit towards a degree?

    Sound to me that the lecturer thinks it's the latter, which is a problem. Those notes are a valuable resource to any student who wants to retain that knowledge, whether for future classes, a job after college, or just for the pure love of knowledge for its own sake. The student has paid for those notes in time, effort, and money. Asking him to give them up is short-sighted and stupid. Taking them from his backpack is theft.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:26AM (#26586187) Homepage Journal
    Not like you're going to use anything taught in there after that class anyway...
  • Galindo? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Vrallis ( 33290 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:29AM (#26586203) Homepage

    I'll venture a quick guess... Ms. Galindo, Harlandale High School, San Antonio, TX? (I'm surprised she's still teaching if so, she has to be pushing 70 by now. I graduated in 1996..didn't have her for classes, but knew of her antics far too well.)

    If it isn't her, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that someone else would do the same.

    Besides being anal about exactly how students take notes, she was notorious for making all students turn in their notebooks at the end of the year. She would make sure they were complete (you'd fail the entire class if not) and then make you shove it through an industrial shredder she had brought in just for this task.

    Fun fact: She was teaching there as far back as the 70's...a family friend had her back then. The friend ended up out of school due to medical issues. An hour after waking up from a major surgery that had her gutted like a fish, that teacher was on the phone making sure she was doing her homework.

  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) * <> on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:31AM (#26586213) Homepage Journal

    You paid your tuition so that you could gain knowledge.

    Forcing you to give up your notes is effectively saying that you must retain everything in your head, which is ridiculous.

    They're your notes, you paid to be able to take them. She has no right.

    And even beyond that, it's unreasonable search and seizure by a civilian (what would that fall under, larceny?) for her to go into your backpack without your permission. File a police report and involve the administration of your school.

  • by jsimon12 ( 207119 ) <tzzhc4@yahoo. c o m> on Saturday January 24, 2009 @03:40AM (#26586265) Homepage

    Assuming you are NOT a minor and are in college then they have no right to take your notes. As stated before you wrote them so they are your property. I would at least file a formal complaint even if the professor is tenured and talk to a lawyer.

    On the other hand if you are a minor and this isn't college then your rights (if any) will depend. In this case it really depends on what your parents are willing to do and or back you doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:02AM (#26586393)

    Are you serious? You allowed the teacher to go into your backpack, which is your private property, and take something which belonged to you, while doing nothing about it? Not even the cops can go into your backpack like that.

    Why are so many people so freakin spineless?

    I don't want to sound like an internet warrior here, but dude, if a teacher tried to do that to me, I would prevent them, pushing / punching / kicking them if I had to as a last resort.

    (No, this does not make me a 'violent idiot' as someone else stated, it just means I have enough backbone stand up for myself in person with ACTION rather than on the internet with words. ACTION is the only sort of standing up that really matters, when it all comes down to it.)

    You do know that you have the right to defend your personal property, right? Man up.

    Yes, I know this could lead to repercussions from the university, such as being threatened with expulsion - that's when you get lawyers involved.

    There's no way to say how it would pan out, but you have the advantage that, in the eyes of the law, you are in the right and they are in the wrong - provided you don't pull a weapon or beat them to death, anyway. That equates to a lot of potential negative publicity which the university probably doesn't want.

    If you make a big enough stink about it, they'll most likely just let it slide eventually - though it will be tough for a while.

    You might get kicked out, but Jesus H Christ man, you cannot go through life acting like a minnow and bending over when you know what someone else is doing is wrong.

    STAND UP for yourself for god's sake. Let the chips fall where they may. When you get to the end of your life, you aren't going to wish you were nicer to that teacher (instead of punching them square in the solar plexus), but you will probably regret allowing people to trample all over you and never quite getting what you wanted.

    This has been a public service announcement.

  • What the? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Oyume ( 464420 ) <`jdshaffer' `at' `'> on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:34AM (#26586561)

    What the heck? I WISH my students would take notes in class!

  • by Meor ( 711208 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @04:36AM (#26586571)
    Well you can't do anything now since you consented to her taking them by letting her in your backpack. Sounds like you just got a lesson in 4th amendment rights. Never let anyone, including authority figures cop teachers, have your personal property ever. Even if you have nothing to hide.
    • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @07:17AM (#26587327)

      Well you can't do anything now since you consented to her taking them by letting her in your backpack. Sounds like you just got a lesson in 4th amendment rights. Never let anyone, including authority figures cop teachers, have your personal property ever. Even if you have nothing to hide.

      Of course you can do something. He didn't consent to hand it over, he was tricked into falsely believing that she had the right to it. So making him hand it over fully fits the definition of fraud: Fraud happens when you hand over your property yourself because you were made to believe something which is not true, whereas theft happens when something is just taken away from you illegally. If he believed she had the right to take his notes and handed them over, she committed fraud. If he refused to hand them over and she just took them, then it is theft.

  • d'curriculum' = 0 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kramulous ( 977841 ) * on Saturday January 24, 2009 @05:09AM (#26586715)

    That's pretty disgusting. Not only for the obvious invasion of privacy (reaching into the bag - not for suspected contraband) but mostly because the teacher never changing the curriculum.

    This is the epitome of terrible teaching, to me. The teacher could no longer give a fuck about 'freshening things up' and instead will drone on, with *exactly* the same material, year after year. The kids in the class will pick up on that vibe and will never experience the joy that *can* be found in the material.

    That is the sackable offense.

  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @05:13AM (#26586723) Homepage Journal

    ...such as a livescribe pulse, or the like would allow you to capture not just the notes you take during the class, but in some cases the actual audio involved. Each day sync the pen to your computer, post your notes to your web page and blog. At the end of the year turn in the notebook as requested, and for your reference from then on, either look up the data on your web page, or print out the online edition of the notebook.

    After the term is graded, and the grades are recorded permanently, publicly thank the teacher for wasting the time you spent in the class, as the notes you took as part of the class are no longer available to refer back to.

    From my own experience, I have to admit that perhaps one or two of the classes I took through the various schools that I attended, ever provided me with useful reference material for subsequent classes. In almost all cases the real intent of the class is to learn how to find the answer to the question, and rarely ever has it been strictly having the 'correct' answer.

    That applied to being able to demonstrate in the materials turned in for projects that you were able to derive the correct information, or in situations where research on a subject was required, being able to demonstrate that you were able to find resources that support the conclusion you are presenting, or in some cases the ability to propose a conjecture, and demonstrate through the appropriate research that the conjecture is invalid.

    The knowledge gained in the process should become a tool you can use that does not rely on the material specific to that course.

    In much of the US, high school students are required to take classes in a couple of English classes, some variety of mathematics, a Science class, and a variety of general electives. I strongly suspect that the vast majority of college students have never picked up their high school notebook for one of these classes to refer back to when attempting to understand a topic being discussed in college.

    One side effect of this teacher's process very well may be to instruct the student in the value that their notes may have later on, but only if the material is available to them, and reviewed. If you have constructed a means of insuring that your notes are available to you, whether it be with a pen that captures your notes, or if you personally spend time each week transcribing your notes into your computer, or into another notebook, then you will have gained on the availability side, if not on the initiative to review those notes.

    Think also of the library at Alexandria. We very well know that we lost significant knowledge of a number of topics as a result of it burning, and have no way of knowing if we have recovered that knowledge, or not.

    Server admins have a pretty good idea of the value of having an available backup of the files on the server.

  • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @06:04AM (#26586945) Journal

    ... I was eating candy while reading. The librarian came up and demanded that I stop eating in the library and to give her the candy. I said no. She tried to take it away but I grabbed it, said I would put it away and proceeded to put it in my backpack. She tried to grab it from my backpack and I slapped her hand. She looked shocked and walked away. I was 16 or 17 at the time. I suffered zero repercussions due to my actions.

    In essence, get a spine. Someone cannot just take your property just because they want it. It doesn't matter if they are in a perceived position of authority. They don't have the right. That is unless you've entered into contract that states that they can. Which you haven't mentioned is the case and is *far* from standard practice at high schools in North America. Not to mention that minors can't enter into contract.

    But, at this point, I'd suggest going to the Principle *with your parents* to get this resolved. If they don't budge, then local news outlets are *always* looking for stories. I'm sure they'd be interested in this.

  • Context (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mjpaci ( 33725 ) * on Saturday January 24, 2009 @06:58AM (#26587201) Homepage Journal

    Is this in the US? Canada? Europe? It's kind of hard to formulate a legal defense/explanation for this without knowing the jurisdiction. The Internet is Global, what passes muster in one country may be completely alien in another. Please provide more context or a link to the original forum post.

    Thank you.


  • by Arcturax ( 454188 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @08:57AM (#26587791)

    This suggests a bad teacher/professor. If your students can get by simply by copying notes, then you are not teaching the subject properly. Students need to learn to apply the subject, not just repeat memorized notes.

    In a properly taught class, all the notes and books in the world available to you during the exam won't save you unless you learned and understand the subject.

  • Be reasonable (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DaveGod ( 703167 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @09:34AM (#26587981)

    Many responses here seem extremely excessive, especially on a site that is usually quick to criticise going heavy-handed with lawyers. Why go with the weapon of last resort and eliminate all the other options provided for the purpose?

    Try being reasonable and diplomatic. That won't limit the heavier options later on and can actually benefit them - here in the UK you are generally expected to extinguish reasonable options before going to court (either way it'll certainly look better).

    Try simply explaining that you require the notes to maintain the knowledge for use in later life and have no intention of handing it out to others. Carefully explain that the notes are your property, both physically (you bought the paper) and intellectually, making the position clear but leaving the teacher's own mind to envision the potential for legal action. You DID supply the paper, and there isn't any slide handouts in there, right?

    If that still doesn't work, advise the teacher that she should not destroy the notes while you explore other options (being careful to be non-threatening). At this point there may be a more friendly teacher you could approach who may be able to mediate and tactfully resolve this without fuss. People change their minds more readily when it is a friend/colleague/peer presenting their perspective, and where there is minimal consequence from being wrong. Why be all confrontational? This goes both ways: it's an opportunity for YOU to discover you are wrong, in a manner with minimal consequences for you...

    If that fails, keep elevating it one step at a time. That would probably involve a parent writing to the teacher, the headteacher and next attending a PTA/PTO meeting.

    Still not resolved? No doubt there are still more options and then, ultimately, court and/or newspapers. The intermediate steps will only benefit these options, not reduce them.

    Organisations and society in general provide numerous means, checks and balances to sustain your rights. It's such a pity when people ignore them and skip to the option of last resort - courts are supposed to be there only for when society and organisations fail to provide fairness and justice.

    Can't these people consider proportionality and appropriateness? Is it really necessary to harm a teachers career and potentially the school for the sake of some notes, without even bothering to make some common sense attempts first?

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Saturday January 24, 2009 @01:59PM (#26590269) Journal

    This was a number of years ago before some of the sociopolitical changes that led to TFA's situation.
    In my case we agreed to it beforehand.
    I was taking advanced organic synthesis, and what we had to do was make a new molecule, something that had never been made before (or, less attractively, had never been made by that particular route.)
    I chose to make explosives. My girlfriend at the time chose to make methamphetamines. The teacher talked it over with each of us and we agreed, in writing, before we started, that when we finished the school would confiscate and destroy our notebooks and reports... but they let us do it.
    The material we were producing was clearly dangerous, but in both cases they were novel syntheses that fulfilled the criteria for the class project. We knew that the work we were doing was going to be destroyed at the end of the term before we started. It seemed fair to me.

Disks travel in packs.