'Will A Rape Victim Kill Herself?' Asks Awful Exam


Computer science classes are notoriously difficult because there’s a lot of math, a lot of code translation, and a lot of logic involved. Well, actually, the logic part may not be a strong argument considering the question an instructor at Memorial University in Canada put on his exam.

Check it out:

John Shieh may not have been thinking that the question pictured at left might cause such backlash when he was writing it, but he may have not been thinking at all, considering that he literally asked his students to write a program that would determine if a rape victim would commit suicide based on her experience. I imagine he was trying to make the assignment interesting, but what kind of person thinks “man, I really want to connect to my students and make the assignments applicable to real-life situations. I should probably bring in a violent sexual assault and see how my students react to the problem.” Unsurprisingly, students aren’t reacting well.

“I was pretty appalled,” said Candace Simms, executive director of external affairs at Memorial University’s students union.
“I think it’s pretty disgusting and disrespectful, the way this question was posed to students as part of an assignment, and that’s reflective of what we’ve been hearing from students who are in that class.”

It’s awful that this question was ever posed, but it’s awesome that people are reacting to it with disgust as opposed to just letting it go. The university is currently investigating, but its clear that some training needs to happen at the very least. (Also: according to a programmer I know—my partner—this question is basically gibberish in the first place, so maybe there are other problems, too? I am not a programmer however, and when he started trying to show me diagrams I had to go lie down. Also: anecdotal evidence.)

Simms adds:

You wonder why this example, in particular, was used — an example of rape and a victim. It’s pretty irresponsible of the instructor and definitely insensitive when you think about how many students this is impacting.

And that’s also really important here. By posing the question so casually, Shieh was completely ignoring the fact that his students may have been impacted by sexual assault in their lives. Couple the emotional impact of seeing such a question with the anxiety that taking a test can bring and you’re not just insensitive, you’re hurtful and irresponsible. Even if Shieh was trying to start a conversation or really getting his students to think, this wasn’t appropriate for a computer science course (especially considering the other questions were about jugs and not sensitive human issues) and certainly not an appropriate subject to touch on without the prior training and expertise in discussing such issues.

Lead image via Shutterstock

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