?Dishonorable F? not needed

By By Alicia Williams

By Alicia Williams

College grades used to be strictly pass or fail. Students didn’t stress about GPAs, cry after receiving an A- or desperately beg for a D. You either passed or you didn’t. As for students caught cheating, they were expelled from the school or class, or received whatever punishment administrators or teachers decided to give. Even with harsh consequences and extreme punishment, students still cheat.

Fed up with cheaters, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia chose to improve today’s weak standards of repercussion by adding a new grade. Beginning in May, FD8212;failed dishonorably8212;was enacted to help society distinguish between the utterly complete failures and those who failed because they cheated.

Apparently, SFU cheaters of the past have been unfazed by the threat of receiving just an ordinary F, and the administration believes the branding of “dishonest” onto a student’s transcript will act like a scarlet letter, becoming a super-deterrent.

Cheaters have evolved and adapted throughout the history of education. Could the threat of public shame and humility finally bring them to heel?

It’s extremely doubtful, but you can’t knock SFU for trying to implement yet another strategy to further enlighten students about academic dishonesty. Focusing this attack toward inhibiting future employment opportunities might force students to pause and reflect before deciding to cheat, but it won’t be enough to compete against the extreme demands of today’s global employers who zero in on high achievement and superior performance.

It also doesn’t help that the mighty blow softens a bit when you hear the FD isn’t permanent. It only stays on the guilty student’s transcript for two years after graduation, and the university assures the public it will only be applied in situations of multiple offenses.

So basically, if you’re only caught cheating once, a good old-fashioned F will be sufficient, leaving unsuspecting future employers completely in the dark about their potential employee’s sordid past. With only an F to consider, those cheaters just might get hired. I guess SFU considers expelling a student too harsh or not a strong enough of a deterrent.

Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, John Francis, said the U’s academic misconduct is handled by allowing the accusing faculty member to impose a sanction in writing on the student, which, according to student code part 5B, could be redoing the assignment or test, a grade reduction or a fail for the assignment or course. The student can appeal to the teacher, the department chair and ultimately to the Academic Appeals Committee. Multiple acts will lead to suspension or dismissal from the program or the university.

“People who teach, who are then obligated to assess the work that they receive, take plagiarism or cheating very seriously, because you’re assessing someone on work that is not their own,” Francis said. “Here at the U, there’s a lot of interest in making sure we have a set of governing conventions when people are taking tests…we don’t want to make it easy to cheat and making clear expectations for papers.”

There’s absolutely no need for an FD. An F is an F no matter what you did or didn’t do to receive it. Employers are savvy; they know an F has value. It means something to them; it means something to the student. It means you failed, you didn’t have what it took to pass the class or more than likely, you did something that prevented you from passing.

A temporary scarlet letter of shame isn’t going to stop cheating. Motivating students not to cheat comes naturally when you help them want to learn. Academia needs to stop dwelling on performance and focus on knowledge, and students need to realize there’s more to a degree than the GPA. It’s about the gift of learning.
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