A grade below F

Simon Fraser University in British Columbia has introduced a grade lower than F:  FD stands for failed due to dishonesty.  Hit with a wave of Internet-facilitated cheating, the university hopes to discourage students from buying essays from online sites.

The FD would remain on a student’s transcripts during their time at SFU and for two years after graduation, which could affect the possibility of postgraduate studies or even getting a job if a potential employer asks to see transcripts.

 The University of Alberta also gives a special grade for failure caused by cheating; it’s changed to a regular F after three years.

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  1. Andromeda says:

    My husband’s (private) high school did this. They didn’t use letter grades, but they essentially had “you failed” and “you failed and we hate you” (academic dishonesty, etc.). The latter grade was likely to get you expelled. I always found it charming.

  2. That’s an interesting idea: FD. I’d like to see it catch on.

    Though I suspect then there’d be a wave of lawsuits claiming the “dishonesty” grade libels the student.

  3. “…I suspect then there’d be a wave of lawsuits claiming the “dishonesty” grade libels the student.”

    It ain’t defamatory if it’s true.

  4. Good luck getting them to use the grade. If you can’t upset anyone with your opinions, how can you fail someone for cheating?

  5. Actually, this might backfire. I’ve spoken with a variety of people at college and in business who say that most Fs are now explained away through a kind of handwaving about some impropriety–oh, yeah, I flunked, but that’s because I cheated on a test–and that this is considered a more acceptable answer than actually “earning an F” as it is called, where you do the work, and yet fail.

  6. The whole pupose of an “F” is to indicate that the student did not acheive what was needed to pass. For whatever reason.

    It is pretty pathetic to fail these days. In most cases you show up, shut up, and do the best you can and no teacher or professor I know will fail you. A “D” says pretty much the same thing as an “F” – basically, YOU SCREWED UP! Most educators will use a “D” rather than an “F” to at least give the student credit for showing up and doing the work (and not acting like an idiot or spoiled brat in the process).

    I taught for 30 years and never once did I fail a student I was certain was trying their best. Cheating is not trying at its worst. It is using someone elses work and pretending it is yours. I do not think this practice is needed but I do not object to it.

  7. Greifer, your comment makes me so sad. For me, that is a genuine “What is this world coming to?” kind of anecdote. It makes me feel old, because I’m only in my early 30s, but when I was in school, cheating was not something to risk lightly. Is it any wonder kids think it’s perfectly normal to cheat if this is the education and employer response to it?

  8. Richard Lee says:

    I’m amazed that SFU is even putting up a letter for this. Most schools I’ve dealt with (and I have relatives on both sides of the border) don’t even dignify a grade category for cheaters. Usually the letter F is used, along with a long-winded paragraph on the transcript that states just how long the student is banned from coming back. (One of the schools I worked at used a grade of WF – or withdrawn failing – to mean the same thing.) I myself when teaching remedial algebra state that an F on a transcript and an expulsion is the least of their worries — most states’ licensing boards for the professions (Bar, Medical, Nursing, Education, etc.) consider cheating to be a lack of good moral behavior and deny accordingly.

  9. I’m in my late 30s. Twenty years ago, I took a C programming course at MIT where it turned out 70 some students were found to be cheating. I don’t think any of them were thrown out of school.
    According to this article: http://tech.mit.edu/V111/N61/cheating.00n.html
    none of them were expelled. “The cases involved students accused of turning in problem sets containing identical code.

    Most of the 78 students received one of a variety of punishments, including informal probation, internal probation with a letter to the student’s faculty advisor and formal probation with a notation on the student’s transcript. Though a few students were suspended from MIT, none were expelled, according to Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Sheila E. Widnall ’60, former COD chair.”

    The article is interesting. As I said, this was 20 years ago now. “Members of the COD were surprised to hear students’ attitudes toward cheating. The COD found that the prevailing student culture was to work together on all types of assignments, including coding. Even though students knew of the prohibition against joint coding, “this awareness did not deter their behavior because many regarded the policy as being counter to the dominant student culture,” Widnall wrote in the COD’s report on the case.

    The committee also found that students thought professors expected them to cheat on assignments, ignored the possibility that misconduct could affect their professional lives, and thought the only problem with cheating was getting caught.

    After concluding their hearings, the COD sent a letter to students expressing concern over the possibility that “cheating and plagiarism have become rampant on campus.” The letter was meant to promote student discussion on the subject.

    22 years ago, I took a high school honors biology class where two of my fellow students cheated by stealing a test solution set (from the teacher’s desk, iirc). Neither of the two were thrown out; whatever discipline they received wasn’t much, as one of the two went on to be the valedictorian of our school, and she also went on to MIT (though I don’t know if she was in 1.00 that time or not). Both produced some sob story about how stressful school life was for them.

    I think people believe quite often that students cheat because they feel stressed–they lack time, they lack resources. There is no such thing as bad moral behavior or bad moral character.