Senate Report — November 1, 2021

Senate extends elective grading system to Summer 2023

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AQ building
PHOTO: Allyson Klassen / The Peak

By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer 

Senate discuss contract cheating agencies 

Senator Shafik Bhalloo brought up the longstanding issue of contract cheating agencies at SFU which “incessantly targeted vulnerable students, and particularly students from the Chinese community.” 

Senator Bhalloo explained the posters, which have been widely distributed in Mandarin on Burnaby campus, guarantee good grades in 141 courses. 

He said he’s caught at least 11 students using their services to cheat. These students allegedly revealed these agencies sell past exams, audio recordings of lecture materials, and other proprietary information. 

Senator Bhalloo reprimanded contract cheating agencies for targeting vulnerable students.

“They are the antithesis of what we do here and they interfere with the work that we do with our students here,” said Bhalloo. “I feel despondent when I’m walking to my class to teach and I take down these [posters].”

He noted although the BC Academic Integrity Network is petitioning for the government to take legal action on contract cheating agencies, SFU needs to proactively address this issue as well. 

Senator Bhalloo asked if SFU would help professors in obtaining legal resources to sue these agencies and take legal action against them. 

“They’re trespassing; if you send them a cease and desist letter, and they still carry on doing it, you can get injunctive relief [or] you can use the trespass act. Let’s do something,” urged Bhalloo. 

Academic vice-president Catherine Dauvergne responded, “This is a really serious and pernicious problem and it’s one that SFU has been engaged with quite seriously over a number of years.” Dauvergne said while pursuing various legal action, they were met with threats to sue for defamation as the posters advertise a service. 

Dauvergne emphasized SFU’s work to educate students on the severe consequences of academic dishonesty and contract cheating. She acknowledged this challenge has been worsening since the pandemic, and stated SFU’s commitment to continue “exploring all legal avenues.” 

Senator Dauvergne clarified “individual professors are represented by their union,” should they wish to take action on their own.

This response was met with several senators stating SFU is not being proactive enough. They point to the lack of  legal actions against these agencies, the monitoring of these agencies on social media, and academic help for English as an Additional Language (EAL) students. 

“I worked at the Student Learning Commons for nearly a year and I would see students all the time who are desperate, near tears, coming to me because they had no idea how to do well in their classes these are, the majority of them, EAL students,” said student senator Judit Nagy. “SFU is not doing a good job at providing adequate help that fulfills academic integrity.”

President Joy Johnson referred this to the Senate committee on university teaching and learning, where they are to consider these comments and report back in a timely manner. 

Elective grading system extended to Summer 2023

Academics associate vice-president Wade Parkhouse moved a motion to “approve the extension of the pilot elective grading system through the summer 2023 term.” Senator Parmar seconded the motion. 

SFSS president Gabe Liosis spoke in favor of this motion. 

“I continue to hear from students that this elective grading scheme is incredibly transformative and helpful for students’ academic experience at SFU,” said Liosis. “This elective grading scheme really allows students the flexibility to explore and take chances without the risk of negative repercussions on their GPA.” 

Senators discussed future possibilities for the elective grading system to be incorporated as a permanent option, with a higher max number of courses, and a wider variety of courses allowed. Further discussion will be held on this expansion.

The motion to extend the elective grading system to Summer 2023 was carried.

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