The most proficient of students had no idea what they were doing.
did we really dumb down so much that we're having problems using smtp libraries nowadays? i don't think so.
There exists a type of CS student that doesn't really seem to enjoy programming all that much -- if at all. They do the minimum required to nail that passing grade, and then never type another line until the next assignment. Thus, when they actually need to pull on some of those tools (like sending some mail), they aren't there.
Not that this guy is one of those, but I'm just saying, they exist, and in alarming numbers.