‘Failure due to dishonesty’ at SFU

Last year, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver introduced a new grade for university courses: ‘FD’ or ‘failure due to dishonesty.’ Department chairs are empowered to give the grade on the basis of “behavior [that] warrants a severe penalty”. Usually, it is applied to repeat offenders. The grade continues to appear on a student’s transcript until two years after graduation.

To me, this seems like a sensible thing to do. Particularly when it comes to take-home essays, cheating in university is easy. When students do it, they harm the quality of education that everybody gets, while also gaining unfair advantages when it comes to things like scholarships. Having a mechanism for conveying the fact that someone has behaved in a seriously improper way (rather than failing a course for some more acceptable reason) would be beneficial both in terms of deterring bad conduct and by giving an obvious sign to anyone making decisions on the basis of a transcript, whether the issue at hand is a scholarship, grad school admission, or a job.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “‘Failure due to dishonesty’ at SFU”

  1. As long as standards are applied in a fair and impartial way, this proposal doesn’t seem problematic. There should be some sort of audit procedure to make sure everyone is getting equal treatment, however.

    For instance, everyone should get the same number of warnings.

  2. Seems sensible to me, although there is a lot of potential for inconsistent application. At the moment a lot of students essentially get away with cheating, so having a penalty that isn’t too onerous for teaching staff to pursue is important. I do wonder why they chose to have it only appear on the transcript for 2 years, though.

  3. Perhaps for exactly the reason you mention: instructors may be unwilling to impose a penalty that would be a perpetual black mark.

  4. @Milan: It’s the department chair that awards this wonderful grade, not the prof. The prof simply reports academic dishonesty, and a separate process begins to decide how to handle it, using the new “permanent record” system which holds every documented case of academic dishonesty for all students at SFU.

    It makes sense to have this power delegated to the chair, forcing it to be something only awarded after a lengthy investigation. It removes the ability of a prof to award it, so a cheating student can’t blame the prof for “ruining his/her life”, and shows that the student really had to earn it rather than being able to claim “the prof hard it in for me”. It also makes the decision more impartial and objective, so students can’t use some sob story to excuse their dishonesty.

  5. In my experience, the University of Toronto (at least the Political Science department) is very lax about plagiarism. Profs for the most part seem to not want to be bothered with it, and unless a student confesses during an interview about a suspicious paper it seems they won’t even get a warning.

    Furthermore, all over campus there are constantly posters for custom essay writing services. Since our only real tools for identifying plagiarism are TurnItIn and the unlikely chance that a TA will notice a major difference between a student’s performance on a paper and their performance in class, plagiarism could be widespread.

    Personally, I would investigate the paper writing companies and expel any U of T students involved as customers or authors. Perhaps even advertising a false company and then giving a very stern warning to any students who try to buy from it would be justified. Requiring more papers to be written in class could also help, as it eliminates the possibility of many sorts of academic malfeasance

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