10 December 2008

pop quiz

Let me tell you a story. Pay attention, there will be a quiz at the end. By the way, it's a true story.

An acquaintance of mine is a TA at the same university where I was a TA years ago. He recently sat down to mark his first batch of essays for his first year class. As part of his grading, he did some checks on the internet to see if anyone was downloading papers. As it turned out, seven of his twenty five students had downloaded their in their entirety. The acquaintance marched to the departmental office and demanded the immediately expulsion of these seven students, as is mandated by the University's statement on Academic Dishonesty and which these students very richly deserved.

But now he had a surprise. He was told the students would not be expelled. The department would wait, he was told. Let them move on, hang themselves. Then they'd really be in trouble.

He went back to his class in disbelief. He failed the students, naturally, who then dropped his course and went around looking for courses where the TA's don't look so closely into the essays they mark.

So, why didn't the University expel the students? Was it

1. for the reasons given?
2. out of a concern for the students' futures, the university wished to give them an opportunity to mend their ways?
3. because by letting them continue, the University could soak over a hundred thousand dollars out of these 7 chumps over the course of a four year degree?
4. because the problem of cheating is so wide, the university would have to expel one third to one half of its students to actually enforce the Academic dishonesty policy, thereby getting a huge black eye, losing money both in tuition and through government funding?
5. some combination of the above?

What a bunch of idiots. Wait till employers start finding out that graduates from this and other universities are getting more and more useless with every passing year. Wait till the people who actually work at their degree find out that employers don't trust degrees from this university because of all the useless people who were pushed along and handed a sheet of paper at the end.

Someone expressed amazement a while back when I was heard to utter the opinion that all my years at university were a waste of time, and even more amazed that I did not appear to care that my children could hear. I have become incredibly jaded over the educational experience, but every time I try and be slightly less cynical, something like this happens, and I realize I was not cynical enough.

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