[Poll] What to do about SLU?

As discussed on:

Many community members have concerns about the many posts in Welcome to Discourse! by St. Leo University students, apparently enforced as a class requirement, which then typically don’t further participate here. Given our options as @davidism summarizes in his post there are

I wanted to gather informal feedback on how to proceed. You are welcome to select both options, if you think we should do both merge existing and any future posts, and try to ask the instructor to not require this. Just to note, I’ve already begun the process of trying to reach out to the professor, to open a channel of communication regardless of what we decide now or in the future.

What to do about St. Leo welcome posts?
  • Take no action
  • Request instructor discontinue requirement (& suggest other forms of interaction)
  • Merge all SLU posts into single megathread
0 voters


I’d have voted for “Request instructor discontinue requirement” if we had a recommendation for an alternative.

I suspect there’s some benefit to the student of having posted here once to get past that “can I disturb people?” threshold. How much I don’t know.

So: what could we suggest as the alternative?

Perhaps, but it doesn’t seem to be very effective, at least judging by the Jan 16-18 batch. As mentioned over on the other thread:

There were some mentioned on the other thread:


Doesn’t the SLU professor or lecturer that made this a requirement for their course, participate in this forum?

If not then they’re making the very point themselves, that making a Hello World post mandatory to pass their course, does not serve the community or the students at all.

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This smells. All the posts have Saint Leo University in the title. I think their sole purpose is to advertise the school, which by the way, is not on the Shanghai ranking.

That makes way less sense than “you need to post in the Help forum as a homework assignment”. Why the heck would a university advertise itself this way to the Python discussion forum of all places?

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I was responding to James. He stated that making a HelloWorld post mandatory does not serve students at all. Which is sort of obvious, you don’t see similar posts from students at MIT or Stanford. So why would the course instructor make such assignment?

Because they didn’t think about it that much. Lots of courses include some well-meaning but poorly-thought-out assignments.

Sometimes students are instructed to edit a Wikipedia article (thus causing busy-work for the editors). They’re asked to make a PR against a open source project (busy-work for maintainers). This stuff happens, the solution is to talk to the person giving the assignment.

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Maybe you are right, I think too highly of mental qualities of academia.

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FWIW, maybe it’s just me, but I was never at all impressed with most of the academic CS courses I took, at least those taught by actual CS people. Most of the topics tended to focus on things like implementing algorithms, creating basic data structures, etc. which is great if you’re going the CS academic/research route, but is a relatively small part of actual real-world programming.

Most of the quizzes and tests seemed based more on rote memorization of edge cases rather than actual programming reasoning and ability, and they insisted that we only spend the allotted 1 hour 30 minute period, in person, on the labs rather than taking the time at home to actually be able to explore, try and test things and implement more complete and robust solutions at our own pace, reserving the classroom time to help others (they even took a whole letter grade off since I figured out how to SSH in and submit the labs remotely, even though I still showed up in the classroom to help, which we were not at all required to actually do).

What really helped me learn was applying the concepts I learned to simple but real-world-applicable projects I worked on my own alongside the course—refactoring relevant parts my code when I learned something new that would make it simpler, more elegant or more powerful—than I did from the courses itself. But once the topics in the second level course got to more abstract concepts (OO, encapsulation, data hiding, abstraction, etc) it was hard for me to see how the intangible benefits justified the extra complexity (especially in Java, the most popular teaching language at the time). It was only when I started contributing to Spyder that all that really made sense, and I learned far more in a few months working on open source than I did in the few programming classes I took.

But I digress…


Exactly, which is why at the Thinkful bootcamp where I used to teach, every phase of the course was built around a project. As a web dev focused course, it used web apps for every step, and while they did tend to be a bit cliche at times (like a shopping list app, or a note-taking app), they all followed the patterns that real projects want to follow.

Sadly, I don’t still work there, but we parted on very good terms and I have many many fond memories of the other instructors and the students that I mentored.


Anyone who has at least one post intact receives an Anniversary badge one year after the creation of their account. This typically generates an automated email notification of the event. That will serve as a reminder to each student that they have an account on this forum, and as an opportunity to consider whether that account can be of any benefit to them.

Hmm, I don’t get emails when I get badges… I’m not sure what the default settings are.

Hanlon’s razor provides another strong suggestion. It’s just a Rich’ move for a non-forum user to encourage a huge group of people to clog up a forum they don’t even use themselves (the least they could do is join up, and make their own post mentioning the idea). It’s effectively friendly brigading without the trolling.

Nonetheless, and much more importantly from the university’s point of view, it’s unethical to pass/fail students based on an uncontrollable external dependency.

Is there a committee or standards body at SLU, to whom a formal complaint can be made?

If the forum changes the usage rules or policies, and installs a spam filter, is the entire class going to fail?

I may have been mistaken about getting an email about the Anniversary badge. On some Discourse forums, I have received emails about receiving certain other badges.

I don’t think anyone disagrees the aspects you highlight are problematic, and they’ve bothered me too. But speaking as someone who was greatly disenchanted by pedagogy and methods of the few CS courses I took at the university I attended for undergraduate studies, realistically this is presumably a tiny portion of their grade, there would be some kind of fallback if we did start banning them or something, and its all within our current rules and guidelines, so I don’t think

is an appropriate or reasonable reaction, particularly as as a first resort.

EDIT: Just speaking for myself here, but I feel “assuming good faith” is a central ethical precept of cultivating the civil, collegial discourse (pun not intended) that our community and its guidelines exists to facilitate, and IMO the adversarial approach of accusing them of a (rather far-fetched) malicious conspiracy and looking to immediately go up the chain with a formal complaint doesn’t seem very conducive to that, methinks.

AFAIK, as discussed on the other thread, if this exists its presumably an admin setting that is off on our Discourse.

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Where, sorry? Do you mean in

or in

I’m not seeing it, sorry.

Sorry, am stupid.

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No worries; I figured you might have missed the “so I don’t think” directly preceding the quote due to the complex structure, which is why I included it specifically in what I quoted above as a hint.

the adversarial approach of accusing them of a (rather far-fetched) malicious conspiracy

I agree with everything you said, apart from this. You didn’t quote me mentioning Hanlon’s Razor. I did so specifically to imply incompetence and/or stupidity, not malice.

If standards and ethics committees are to do their job, and get a university employee who makes a stupid mistake to rectify it and noone to repeat it, then incompetence and stupidity must be complained about (as much, and perhaps even more than conspiracies).

But to complain is not my decision to make, of course.

I’m not worried about the students at all by the way. They should all be complaining loudly too. Them getting failed en masse over ‘not completing’ a trivial antisocial task due to someone outside the university’s spam filter would also provoke multiple complaints to the university, and mean noone is failed over it. But that’s playing hard ball over an inconvenience.