Straight A’s If Your Roommate Dies?

Several students claimed in class that our university will give you straight A grades in the semester in which your roommate dies. I said I doubted this claim for two reasons. First, it creates a moral hazard: you are more likely to engage in behavior that would kill your roommate; you might even kill him/her yourself. Second, it will generate adverse selection — people will be more likely to want to room with the dying or those in bad health. 

Given these difficulties (and the absurdity of the story), I am 99.99 percent sure that this is a local urban legend. A similar, equally implausible student urban legend at U.T.-Austin is that you receive free tuition for the rest of your college career if you are injured by a university-owned vehicle. I don’t see any adverse-selection problem here, but it sure creates a moral hazard!

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  1. Andrew says:

    This was also a rumor at my university. There was very little substance to it though.

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  2. Ben says:

    Scarily i just watched a Csi:NY episode ( don’t judge me) where this was the main plot theme…

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  3. gene says:

    There is actually a movie based on this supposed rule, called “Dead Man on Campus”. I saw the trailer back in the day, but never saw the movie.

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  4. River Vox says:

    My stepfather died during my freshman year of college. I got automatic A’s for that semester. I’m not sure what the policy is on roommate deaths.

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    • Neil says:

      My father died in 1982 while I was a student at University of Michigan. I finished the semester on academic probation — no automatic A’s a Michigan.

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  5. Stuart says:

    I have heard both of those rumors here at Ohio State as well.

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  6. M.M. says:

    Urban legend it may be; LOCAL, though, definitely not. This is a widespread belief on college campuses across the country, and has been for decades.

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  7. Nick says:

    Not just local legend, Snopes has a page on this fairly pervasive story:
    http://www.snopes.com/college/admin/suicide.asp

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  8. Jake Beauchamp says:

    I have heard both of these same ideas brought up at my University. One of the more popular ones is free tuition if you are hit by a bus, which definitely brings about a moral hazard.

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    • Kristen says:

      I’ve heard (and believed) both these at my school. We have the second largest bus system in the state, and kids are always joking about purposefully getting hit by one…especially around exam time!

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