Burden of Proof

N. O’Cent*, a student from Nirvana, had just received a zero on a thermodynamics test. His professor, Dr. Eff, had accused him of cheating. The test was given remotely and closely monitored.  Professor Eff’s explanation of the cheating accusation was that the test N. O’Cent turned in was “too perfect”.  There was no actual evidence of cheating.

N. O’Cent was furious. He wanted to appeal the cheating accusation, but Professor Eff threatened to give him an unforgivable F (UF) in the class if he appealed.  If N. O’Cent had a UF grade, the Nirvana Cultural Mission (NCM) would withdraw his scholarship.  In spite of the risks, N. O’Cent went ahead with his appeal, partly because he felt that Professor Eff, a native of Valhalla, had a bias toward him.

The appeal panel consisted of five faculty.  Three were from Social Sciences and the Arts.  Two were from STEM majors.  One of the STEM faculty was absent.  The remaining four faculty were all women.  The basis for N. O’Cent’s appeal was:

  • He had a 4.00 GPA and had never had less than a 95 on any test he had taken in college
  • His ACT entrance test scores in science and math were a perfect 36 out of 36.
  • He had a perfect grade on every assignment leading up to the thermodynamics test
  • There was no evidence that he cheated on the test

Dr. Eff’s only response was that it would have been impossible for any student to have done that well on the test.

The appeal panel agreed with Professor Eff and N. O’Cent received an UF grade.  NCM revoked his scholarship and N. O’Cent was sent home in disgrace.

Was justice done in this case?  Can there ever be true justice when the accuser holds such a dominant portion of power over the accused?  Where should the burden of proof lie?  With the accuser or the accused?  How might external factors be removed from consideration of what is just?  In N. O’Cent’s case, might geopolitical animosities and his native country’s treatment of women have influenced the appeal decision (or is this another unjustified accusation)?

Just imagine how we can make justice live up to the image of Lady Justice blind folded and holding balance scales?  Just imagine how we might make justice truly equal for everyone, no matter their status?  Just imagine the impact that true justice might have upon the many issues that confront any society that believes in democracy.

* * *

Justice cannot be for one side alone, but must be for both” — Eleanor Roosevelt

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.