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Student tearfully reveals her ‘zero’ grade on six-page essay: ‘Should’ve just cheated’

‘A zero should only be given if simply nothing was submitted,’ one viewer claims

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 28 April 2023 05:31 BST

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A university student has sparked a debate about college expectations after tearfully revealing her professor gave her a zero on her six-page philosophy essay.

Erika Schafrick, 22, who goes by the username @erikaschafrickk on TikTok, shared her dismay over the grade in a video posted to the platform on Monday, where she began by acknowledging that the paper she had submitted wasn’t “that good,” but that all she’d needed to pass the course was 17 or 18 per cent.

“I wrote an entire six-page paper and, like, I get that the paper wasn’t that good, and it was for a philosophy class, so there’s so many ways that what’s being said and the text can be interpreted,” Schafrick said, before adding: “And so I wrote this entire paper, and all I needed on it was a 17 or 18 per cent to pass the course. The professor gave me a zero.”

As she became emotional, the college student revealed that she’d initially thought the grade was a mistake, so she’d reached out to her professor with proof that she’d submitted the paper.

“And I’m literally sitting here thinking it was a mistake so I sent him my submission receipt and he was like: ‘No, it’s not a mistake, here’s your feedback,” the TikToker continued.

According to Schafrick, her professor claimed in the feedback that what she’d written “misrepresented” the text the class had been writing about. However, she alleged that the work could be “interpreted in so many different ways”.

In the video, Schafrick then suggested that the grade was unfair because she’d actually tried to interpret the ideas herself, and because she hadn’t used AI like some of her classmates allegedly had. “Like sorry I didn’t f***ing cheat and use ChatGPT just like everyone else in the f***ing course probably did who passed,” she continued. “I actually tried to do it myself and use my own ideas.

“But that’s what I get right. That’s what I f***ing get.”

In her follow-up video, Schafrick claimed there was “no reason” her essay deserved a zero, as it “wasn’t that bad” and it was “six pages of work that took [her] two days to write that was related to the prompt”.

“There’s just no f***ing way that it was that f***ing bad,” she continued, adding that the only critiques were identical comments from her professor claiming that she’d “misinterpreted” what the text was saying. “Not why it misrepresents it, not why it’s wrong, not how it’s wrong, just that it’s wrong,” she said. “And philosophy is not that objective. It’s subjective. When you are reading a book, you interpret it how you interpret it when you’re not allowed to use outside sources.”

The original TikTok, which has been viewed more than 2 million times, has since sparked a debate among users, with some arguing that Schafrick deserved at least some credit for completing the assignment and submitting it.

Although she has since disabled comments on her initial TikTok, the debate has continued in the comments of her follow-up videos.

“I’ve never ever ever seen someone get a zero on an essay that they actually completed and handed in,” one person commented, while another said: “Philosophy major here, it’s not subjective but even if everything in your paper was wrong you should still get marks for an attempt that follows the rubric.”

According to someone else, who said that they’ve been enrolled in university for five years, it’s a “struggle” to get a zero on an assignment. “I would love to see him make a very itemised review on EVERY REASON why you got that,” they added.

“A zero should only be given if simply nothing was submitted,” another person argued. “The worst essay in the world still deserves literally any number above zero.”

Others defended the TikToker’s emotional reaction on the basis that they would also be upset if they received the failing grade, while many viewers encouraged Schafrick to contest the grade with her professor or university.

“You need to contest the grade,” one person wrote, while another said: “Book an appointment or go see him in office hours in a few days once you can keep composed and challenge it, he’ll probably budge.”

In another follow-up video, Schafrick said she felt like she was being “gaslit” by her professor, and that, after reading it over, she believes her essay, which was based on the book Existence and Existent by French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, deserved a grade of at least 50 per cent.

Schafrick also addressed her previous comments about her fellow classmates relying on ChatGPT, with the TikToker claiming that she hadn’t meant to bash the students or imply that they had been cheating.

“I’m not trying to bash my classmates or really accuse anyone of cheating at all. I’m just saying, how amazing do these other essays have to be for him to read mine and be like: ‘This is absolute dog s**t and deserves a zero.’”

After reiterating that she wasn’t trying to accuse her classmates of cheating, the TikToker admitted that it could be that she just doesn’t “know how to write philosophy”.

In the comments, viewers continued to side with Schafrick, with many alleging that her failing grade is a reflection on the professor’s teaching.

“It’s the professor’s job to teach so you explain the lecture properly.. so it’s a reflection on your prof!! Not you,” one person wrote, while another said: “I really hope this gets appealed, I’d be so upset if this happened to me. I can’t imagine what you’re feeling.”

In a comment posted in the comment section of her most recent video, Schafrick said she would be meeting with her student accessibility advisor, and that she would be fighting the grade.

The Independent has contacted Schafrick for comment.

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