New XF grade review revived

Heather Bing

Most students don’t like to think they earned an F in a course.

However, a new XF grade proposed by the Student Advisory Council would distinguish students who earned an F for the work they turned in and students who earned an F because they were caught cheating.

The Student Advisory Council will be hosting an open forum for faculty and students Monday at 7 p.m. in the Kiva. The panel will consist of both students and faculty with differing views on the proposed grade.

The Dishonesty Failure Grade, XF, has been under consideration by the council for three years. For the grade to go into effect, it will have to pass through several stages including the approval of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Faculty Senate and the Educational Policies Committee.

Danielle Tomcho, senior philosophy major and president of the Student Advisory Council, said it is working to answer questions about the proposed grade. Students and faculty members can currently take part in an online poll at the College of Arts and Sciences home page at

Tomcho said if the grade were established, everyone would be educated on it – from department chairs to professors to students.

“It’s a happy medium,” she said. “The policy currently in effect doesn’t teach students not to cheat, because they often don’t know what they did wrong. It doesn’t promote awareness of cheating and plagiarism, it just says don’t get caught again.”

A professor would begin the process of assigning the grade after a student acted dishonestly. The matter would have to be investigated, and the student would have to be approached. If the professor reached the conclusion that the student did not act in an ethical manner, the grade could be given at any time during the semester.

Tomcho said the council doesn’t think the grade would be handed out thoughtlessly for small problems because each student would have a way to address the situation if he or she did not deserve the grade.

A grievance policy is already in place for students who have a concern about a grade they received, and the same policy could be used if an XF grade is given.

E. Timothy Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who has been working with the Student Advisory Council as a faculty adviser, said the grade would show a level of integrity in regard to the university’s academic policy.

“Really, it’s another tool within a faculty member’s toolbox,” he said. “It’s a good step for the university. It signals that we’re a pioneer on a problem that is nationwide.”

The grade would also emphasize how work ethic learned in college can be applied to success in eventual careers, said Brian Meeks, senior geology major and member of the Student Advisory Council

“It would stress that you need to do your own work and take your time,” he said. “It would show who didn’t really apply themselves.”

One problem with the current system is if a student gets caught cheating in one class and just gets a warning, that student can then cheat in another class with a different professor and only get that same warning again, Meeks said. This could go on in each class with the professors giving the student the benefit of the doubt while not knowing the student is actually a repeat offender. The XF grade would allow professors to know that history.

“I put a lot of work into my classes,” Meeks said. “The people who don’t deserve to show that they took the easy way out.”

One of the concerns about the proposed grade is that the grade will be on a student’s permanent record. This is especially a concern if the problem was that the student didn’t research or cite properly.

Meeks said the grade might actually alleviate this problem, however, because professors would teach citation and plagiarism rules more thoroughly while students would gain academic responsibility.

Tom Dowd, psychology professor and Faculty Senate chair, said he could personally see the positives and negatives of the issue although he could not speak on behalf of the senate or the senate’s executive committee.

Dowd fully supports the students who have taken the initiative to work on the grade proposal because there have to be rules in place to deal with cheating.

“What I applaud is that students are taking this seriously,” he said. “Cheating is a serious problem.”

He also had some concerns about the permanence of the grade on a student’s record. Students do have to bear the consequences of their actions, he said, but in certain cases those actions should not harm their entire career.

“My biggest reservation is branding someone for a mistake they made when they were young,” he said. “It might be something following them for life that they can never overcome.”

Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Jerry Feezel said he also admired the students’ work on the project but echoed concerns from faculty as well as the administration.

“I don’t want to see it as something to penalize students who make a mistake,” he said. “I think the motivation of the students is that when they work ethically and morally, there should be some punishment for those who don’t.”

Contact College of Arts and Sciences reporter Heather Bing at [email protected].