I received the following email (with no salutation, reproduced here entirely as-is except for replacements indicated in brackets for anonymizing purposes) in reply:
Very well then. It's just that I've had other things to attend to regarding my schoolwork and I have been trying to polish my paper so that it makes sense. It is too bad that you cannot help out and help see that this paper is exactly what you ask for.
I was going to ask you about the format of the paper, because on your instructions it says that the format is based on primary sources. The thing is that with the topic of my paper being [TOPIC FOR WHICH PRIMARY SOURCES DO INDEED EXIST], it is quite impossible to get primary sources. I was going to ask how should my paper be set up to account for that.
After several hours in which I allowed my blood pressure to return slowly to normal, I replied:
I think you've missed the point somewhat. If a student does not fulfill some of the basic requirements for a course, requirements like class attendance on a workshop day and submitting a first draft (even a late first draft) that were put into place to ensure that all students could receive adequate face-time and feedback on their work, and then waits until the last day of the semester to ask for help with something as fundamental as not being able to find primary sources for an assignment that requires their use, it is simply not a reasonable expectation that his professor would necessarily be able to reschedule or neglect her other professorial responsibilities to accommodate those deficiencies.
To answer your question about form, you'll find that the assignment sheet says that the sample organization that is offered is merely a suggestion, that the primary concern of this assignment is content rather than form and that students are welcome to organize their papers as they see fit. Hope this helps.
I'm just baffled. I understand that the student was frustrated that neither of us was available to meet with him. But I have trouble understanding the lack of self-awareness about the wisdom of asking for exceptions to deadlines and modifications to schedules (and ex post facto, to boot!) from a person after you've just told her that her class is a low priority for you; it's not a question of offending me (this is not something my ego is caught up in that way at all) but of making me wonder why I should make any given student's work for the class a higher priority than he himself makes it. And I do definitely understand the temptation to take blocks of "free" time and rearrange or re-prioritize the work that's meant to be done over the longue duree; but I can't see making a decision to do so somebody else's problem. Nevermind that passive-aggressive is rarely the right tone to strike with anyone. I was pretty pleased with my response.
I took a while to consider the advisability of publishing this post, and I think what drove me, ultimately, to go ahead with it is that it wasn't really just about this student. This email is emblematic of what the semester as a whole has been like. I'm so glad it's over. First year on the TT is really rugged. More on that later, though. For now, back to the article.