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!


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


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


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.

River Vox

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.


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


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.


Not just local legend, Snopes has a page on this fairly pervasive story:

Jake Beauchamp

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.


Same rumor flew about the University of Rochester campus when I went there in the early '80s.

Come to think of it, there was the opportunity to see if it was true... a student slipped in the tub and died during xmas break one year - could have asked his roommate if it was true. On second thought, it happened between semesters, so it might have been a moot point.


I heard, but never believed, the same rumor about getting straight A's if your roommate dies while in college, too. In 1987, in San Antonio. It is a hearty myth!

Jonathan Levy

It is not a local urban legend. It has been around since at least the 1980's at many schools. I generally heard it as a 4.0 if your roommate committed suicide. Sometimes a 3.5 or some other number for a non-suicide death. Many roommates have looked at each other during finals week and joked about which one of them was going to sacrifice himself (herself? Do women make the same poor-taste jokes?) for the others.


My roommate got straight A's when I died but she had to take a loan to get 'em. This was at University of Phoenix. The robo-dean told her the loan prevented moral hazard.


I've heard that about many universities. Definitely urban legend.


The only one of these that makes sense is the free tuition if you get hit by a university vehicle. If that is the offer versus a lawsuit that might generate hundreds of thousands or even millions, then it is clearly in the university's interest to do this. It is also then in the school's interest to keep this rumor alive, true or not, because that helps set the expectation level lower than if people heard that you could sue and collect. I'm not saying this rumor is true, only that there is at least some rationality to it.


Just want to chime in that it was claimed at St. Louis University too in the early 2000s. Someone map all the responses and let's see how this spread.


Assuming it is true, why do people take pity on your grades when a death occurs? If anything, deadlines should be graciously extended.

"You don't have to learn this stuff, because we feel sorry for you."

NOT the way the world works.

Get a degree because you know something, not because people pity you.


What does it say about a professor who publishes a blog post before doing any research into his school's policies whatsoever? I'm sure a quick call to Univ. administration will reveal the true bereavement considerations given, if any. Well, I guess if an economist is 99.99% sure of something, he need not check his theory.

Vince Skolny

The dead roommate legend is neither new nor UT-Austin specific. We believed it 20 years ago at WVU. 8D


And if 3 or more women are living together it's considered a brothel!


Well if we are throwing out school urban legends my favorite is the 15 minute rule... If the teacher shows up for class more than 15 minutes late then class is dismissed fore the day. Same goes for the school bus picking you up for school.