There is a guy in my Master's classes, who says hi to me (and to a bunch of other women) and with whom I have occasionally engaged in small talk, mainly commenting on the lectures.

Last week, I missed two consecutive lectures because I was sick. Next time I had class, the moment the guy saw me he instantly was like,

Hey what happened to you? Why didn't you give any of us your phone number? Don't be silly, we could have signed you in.

Apparently, there are a number of women in this program and this guy, who sign each other in when some of them don't want to attend a lecture. No biggie to them.

So ideally when that guy asked me that question, I would like to have said "Duh, because I didn't want to?". The guy had already given me his name and number before I had the chance to respond.

I decided to not think much of it. I would never call the guy anyway. We ended up exchanging numbers. It felt "whatever" at the time.

However, I now have second thoughts about it.

We are only allowed ten absences in this course, and this is why a lot of students sometimes just show up to sign their name and leave. Smart, right? So far none of the lecturers have taken attendance and I have a feeling they don't care. They are getting paid. (Meanwhile, the number of attendees has visibly decreased).

Long story short, I don't want to forge someone's signature, even if it's just their initials. I find it unethical, enabling and so on...

How can I avoid signing for someone else if I'm contacted about it (I clearly messed up by giving the guy my number)?

  • 3
    Do you want to be honest and prevent further requests from this person or are you looking for a way to get around it (possibly by lying) without actually doing this? Or are either an option?
    – Catija
    Nov 11, 2017 at 19:24
  • Is there any reason you can't just say "Thanks for the offer but I'm not comfortable with signing for other people"?
    – Cronax
    Nov 17, 2017 at 14:04
  • @Cronax I don't always have the answer I want ready when asked a question, especially when that question brings back bad memories. But yeah this is something I should otherwise be able to say. Nov 17, 2017 at 14:14
  • @Tycho'sNose I didn't mean to imply anything, I just wanted to ask for clarification before writing up an answer that wouldn't work for you. Sometimes there are extra variables that mean that the 'normal' solution doesn't work for us. For instance, a history of being bullied can make people more reluctant to take an 'antagonistic' approach by showing a conflicting opinion on a subject because that means being different and they were bullied for being different. That warrants more explanation of why the approach is correct.
    – Cronax
    Nov 17, 2017 at 14:31

8 Answers 8


For next time

If you're not interested, say so. Something along these lines:

Thanks for the offer, I appreciate it! I'm fine like this though, I've got a handle on my attendance.

For this time

You've gone along with it because you didn't completely think things through. Now, after some reflection, you've come to realize that you do in fact have feelings on the subject and are no longer fine with just going along with it: you feel you've created the expectation that you'll sign in for someone if asked to and have decided that's not something you're comfortable with.

I would approach the person sometime and make it clear how you feel:

Hey, after your generous offer last time we spoke I gave the matter some more thought. While appreciate your offer to help me, I'm not really comfortable with signing in for someone or having someone else sign in for me. I didn't think it would be a big deal at first, but I just don't feel good about it. I'm not going to rat you out or anything, what you do is your business, I just don't want to be involved in this at all and I wanted to make that clear for my own peace of mind.

By approaching them pro-actively rather than waiting for a case to come up where someone asks them to sign for you, you achieve two things: you take away the stress of "what if they ask me" and you make it clear to the other party what they can expect: you won't sign for them nor will you tell on them. If someone were to ask you about the whole thing, you can simply answer something like "that's none of my business, you'll have to take it up with them".


You are currently in your Masters. This is a time where you are allowed to and expected to have more personal responsibility. Nevertheless, the organiser of the course(s) values their lectures enough to make attendance mandatory.

They dislike that, judged for themselves that they don't need the lectures to pass, and decide to skip them. Power to them. They'll have less material to study with, so they will have to make up for that in some other way. But responsible as they are, of course they would spend their time not in the lectures studying some other way, right?

It doesn't matter. It is their responsibility on how to pass the course.

Should you enable them?

I don't think it matters all that much. One way or another, they'll find someone to sign off for them. Does that mean it has to be you? No, if you don't feel comfortable doing it, it is better to be honest and tell them, than to just keep quiet and not do it. If they're hell-bent on skipping class, they'll find a way, so you don't have to be an accomplice if you don't want to.

But what about my occasional absence because of sickness?

That's what those 10 absences you are allowed are for. If you want, you could send the lecturer an email saying that you're absent because of sickness. This might help you if you end up missing more than 10 lectures, as it is better than a silent no-show. It also shows the lecturer that you are interested in the lecture, but are indisposed, rather than that you don't give a fig and just decide to not show up.

What if they are just ill, instead of skipping class intentionally?

Same thing, that's what those 10 allowed absences are for. The same I said above goes for them too. However, if they would end up going past 10 absences, and don't want to rely on the lecturer to allow them some extra (basically, rely on the lecturer believing them calling in sick instead of making it up as an excuse), covering for them might be somewhat more noble than if it were a case of blatant skipping.

All in all though, this is an issue between them and the course/lecturer/university, so you should appeal to their responsibility to solve this problem, instead of needing you to cover for them.


From what you describe, it looks like it's very easy to avoid this for you.

Lets review the facts:

  • A group of people has already been doing this amongst themselves
  • Some of them might not show up
  • Now they've incorporated you into their group

It seems unlikely that you will be asked to sign someone. I think all you need to do is to not call them and have them sign for you. It seems like they're already doing it for each other, and the chance that all others of them aren't in is low, and since you've never done it for them, they might prefer their usual accomplices anyways.

If it does come to it, you will have to state firmly that you don't feel comfortable doing it. If necessary, remind them that you could get kicked out of uni or have criminal charges leveled against you for this. (Forging a signature is illegal)


Just be honest about it. Tell whoever calls that you don't feel comfortable with signing them in.

In most situations where someone is asking you for a favor it's completely ok to decline. In a situation where someone is asking you to take a risk for them, it's even more so.

Admittedly it probably would have been better to voice your concern from the start, but that's no reason not to voice your concern when/if someone calls you.

If you feel the need to explain, I'm sure signing someone else in violates some part of your student code of conduct, and you could use a fear of expulsion as a reason.

  • I used to get bullied for being honest about it in High School. Nov 11, 2017 at 19:55
  • 6
    @Tycho's Nose Sometimes that happens, but it's usually better to have a few enemies and your integrity, than a few "friends" who try to get you to do things you're not comfortable doing.
    – apaul
    Nov 11, 2017 at 20:00
  • 1
    Just the perspective of someone who's been kicked out of a few schools ;) @Tycho's Nose
    – apaul
    Nov 11, 2017 at 20:03
  • 1
    @DarkPurpleShadow Oh, I know. Bullies tend to back down when you become more fight than you're worth though.
    – apaul
    Nov 13, 2017 at 16:19
  • 1
    @Tycho's Nose people in a Master course are usually more mature than people in high school. So I wouldn't worry too much about that. If you still worry, maybe it helps to prepare yourself for this situation, just in case. This might also help to gain some confidence.
    – Purrrple
    Nov 13, 2017 at 16:21

I agree with Magisch's answer that it seems unlikely you'll be the first person they contact, so I wouldn't be too worried about it.

If you aren't comfortable with the direct approach, make a habit of turning your phone on silent when you get to the class. Now anyone tries to contact you, you can simply ignore it. If they ask you later, "hey, why didn't you text back when I asked you to sign me in?" - oops, your phone was on silent so you didn't get the notification. Or, you can be proactive and text back after class to say "Sorry, I had my phone on silent and just checked it now." Congrats, you are now the least appealing contact on their list! But instead of "that classmate that looks down on us for being dishonest about sign-ins", you're just "that classmate who is bad at checking their phone".

No need to feel bad about dodging their messages (...besides the fact that they're being dishonest in the first place) as they clearly have other people they could ask to forge their signature, and you avoid being roped into their scheme without making enemies.


How can I avoid signing for someone else if I'm contacted about it [...]?

Easy, just don't sign their name. Signing is an action that you take, or don't, as you wish. It's not like someone is going to control your mind and force your arm to make the motion of signing someone else's name!

Perhaps what you're really worried about is how to ethically reconcile your desire not to sign for someone else, with the impression they may have that you would do so if asked. If that's your concern, then the ethical and polite thing to do is, if you're asked to sign for somebody, simply tell them you won't do it. Depending on how direct you want to be, you could say

No, sorry, I'm not going to do that.


Sorry, I'm not comfortable doing that.

or you could make up some excuse for why you can't (but then that's lying of a different sort... up to you whether you want to go down that path).

You could even include something indicating that you've changed your mind, like

Sorry, I've changed my mind and I'm not comfortable doing that.

But you only need to do so (or more precisely, it would only be impolite not to do so, in my opinion) if you actually said you would sign in for people. From what you've written in the question, it doesn't sound like you made any such promise.


We are only allowed ten absences in this course, and this is why a lot of students sometimes just show up to sign their name and leave. Smart, right ?

No, not smart. Just cheating and wasteful.

It's frankly embarrassing to see Master's students behaving in this juvenile way and worse to see the institute rubber stamp this behavior.

So far none of the lecturers have taken attendance and I have a feeling they don't care. They are getting paid. (Meanwhile, the number of attendees has visibly decreased).

The correct solution would be for the students to get together and ask (the institute) for this class to be made entirely optional or (more sensibly for both sides) simply removed from the schedule.

It's not serving any useful purpose (for either side) to keep this class going. It's a farce.

So the adult thing to do would be to simply deal with the real problem - nobody has any interest in the class at all.

People pretending to turn up simply achieves nothing - it's time and money wasted all around.

Better to replace the class with something that is useful to both sides.

  • 1
    I was being sarcastic about the "Smart, right?" and I agree with you. What is going on is that the professors email us the lectures and so obviously some of these students don't find it necessary to attend. All they got to do is study the Powerpoint presentations. Nov 12, 2017 at 12:12
  • 1
    Understood. Do any of the students who do attend actually find the classes useful ? Nov 12, 2017 at 12:14
  • 1
    And, for the record, I consider the institute at fault. They should either enforce the policy or abandon it. At Masters level if people won't attend then there's no point in trying to force them, IMO. Nov 12, 2017 at 12:20
  • Although not precisely the answer to what the OP is asking, this seems like the correct answer to the attendance problem. Trying to enforce attendance is a losing battle, apparently the perceived value of the lectures is low enough that people don't want to attend them. I understand that as a teacher it's not a great feeling to be speaking to an empty classroom, but if your lectures don't add anything to the source material, what value are you providing?
    – Cronax
    Nov 17, 2017 at 14:08
  • @StephenG you say "People pretending to turn up simply achieves nothing - it's time and money wasted all around" yet also claim that the conduct is cheating. are they cheating themselves, or taking something from their peers?
    – faustus
    Nov 17, 2017 at 15:37

You are your most authentic - and least stressed - when your words and actions align with your values. When you base your response on the facts and on your values, it is very hard for another to complain.

Something, perhaps, along these lines:

When you ask me to sign in as you, so that you can avoid too many absences for the course, I regretted giving you my number, because my value of integrity does not allow me to impersonate you. Would you mind asking someone else?

A followup question might be:

Would you please delete my phone number, too?

That would allow you to live at peace with yourself.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.