Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Tricking the faculty?

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-01-25

There is an angle on the "Womens’ studies student puts virginity on eBay" story (tip Business Pundit and the comment thread at Shakesville) I haven’t seen around the traps.  I’m not writing on the many issues of morality, law, hygeine, or even gender issues.

It could be a "tricky" way of getting better academic results.

Most acts that are illegal, immoral, or plain stupid that can affect your academic career are obviously detrimental, most obviously felonies stopping you practicing law (but maybe not getting a degree).

There are illegal acts that are very specific to your course, like the guy at pharmacy college, called in after an exam he thought he’d done brilliantly, only to be told "We know why you started signing your name at the front of one booklet, and continued signing your name all the way to the end of a second booklet: and there is NO way we can let you continue and become a pharmacist."

Yes, he’d be speeding off his brain trying a 48-hour cram session.  No good as evidence to the cops, even though an illegal act, but really stupid given his course.

There are acts that aren’t illegal, but just plain stupid, like the medical student in a microbiology prac who stuck a finger in a culture of diphtheria and then put it in his mouth.  By the time he’d been dragged across the road to the hospital, he was already banned for life from the micro lab, and without microbiology, there was no point continuing in the Faculty of Medicine.

This girl, doing Women’s studies, may or may not be doing anything illegal, but unless it is a covert and unconsummated research project, I’m pretty sure most of her lecturers/tutors will be really annoyed with her, to say the least.

But will this affect the marks she is given for essays?

Imagine you are her lecturer/tutor.  You are probably sorely tempted to punish her by ostracism in class, give her a hard time, and look for any excuse to take marks off.

Then again, you might be one of those ultra-liberal feminists who probably watched the plotline in The West Wing involving Sam "Hello Sailor" Seaborne and his friend with amusement and approval, who look on it as an empowering act that certainly makes at least some males look dumb and troglodytic.  Such lecturers might be tempted to view her favorably.

But even if you don’t mark harshly, there will always be the suspicion that you will.  There will always be the suspicion that every lecturer and tutor feels the same way.  There will always be the suspicion that a lecturer from any other university will feel the same way if the marking of one paper is "outsourced" in an attempt at fairness – for why else would one paper need to be marked externally?

If the girl ever appeals against a low mark, then how easy would it be to argue she was being discriminated against because of her extra-curricular activities?

She’d probably win the appeal – whatever the merits of the original marking.

So, what does the faculty have to do to avoid all the trouble and possible expense?

The least troublesome strategy for the faculty is to use any excuse they can, against their own feelings, to bump her marks UP by marking her very leniently.

Personally, I can’t decide about anything apart from hoping the results of her auction are hygeinic and consensual.

By the way, if the girl is straight, were women excluded from bidding and might that exclusion be sexual discrimination?  Such an exclusion would certainly make for robust faculty common-room debate!

But… could this girl be pulling a swifty on her faculty, or am I just too old, devious and cynical?


One Response to “Tricking the faculty?”

  1. Dave Bath said

    Update by the girl herself, and it was the first thing I posited, a research project, which hadn’t been reported in what I read (my post was in my half-done basket for a while).

    So my thoughts about tricking the faculty were WRONG.

    (Still, it is an interesting approach to getting better marks, and could be applied to many courses)

    Hat tip shewhostumbles

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