Saturday, August 3, 2013

Crazy Grad. School Stories

Not so long ago, I had a chance to meet and listen to a talk from Jorge Cham, the created of PhdComics.  He gave a hilarious talk about his comic strip, suffering through graduate school, and about how to deal with grad. school.

At the talk, I asked him what the craziest grad. student story of suffering or pain was that he had heard during his touring and talks.  He said that amongst the worst he ever heard were about students that went into their final thesis defense without a presentation or slides.

So I began to think of the best "grad. school" story I've heard.  Here's the one I could think of.  It's not about research or grad. school suffering, but it's still a funny story none the less.

My friend was TAing the CS class for business students.  It's the class where you teach Excel, Powerpoint, and some introductory programming in Visual Basic.  Since the class is all business students, and the majority of them do not intend to ever look at code in their life, the programming assignments are not liked.

So he tells me there is a website called, where you can find programming contract work.  While the website is mostly for small contract work (i.e. design this aspect of a website for me) a fair amount of the contract work posted is apparently homework assignments from students.  While most of the people posting contracts are smart enough to anonymize the assignment, one was not and listed the class name and school in the contract (apparently cut & pasting it from the assignment).

A good samaritan found the class online and e-mailed the Professor and TAs about the cheater.  At first, the Professor said she was irate, but eventually got over it, realizing there was nothing she could do to catch the culprit.  After all, how were you going to catch the cheater out of a class for several hundred students.

Weeks later while grading the assignments, one of the TAs found a very special submission where "Written by Joe Smith @ Hire A Coder" was at the top of the comments.  Clearly, the student didn't even bother to look through the code they had bought and blindly turned it in.

When questioning the student, the Professor and TAs asked how much they paid for the assignment to be done.  The student said about $50 (late 1990s money).  Which the Professor replied, "There are senior CS students that would have done that for a slice of pizza.  So not only did you fail my class, you've also failed finance."

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