A University of Maryland professor allowed students to choose whether they wanted two points or six points of extra credit on their final papers – but only if less than ten percent of the 40-person class chose the higher point option.
"I was first upset because I was thinking, 'I know there's going to be some selfish kids in the class,' but I am still hoping that everyone was choosing two points," Shahin Rafikian, told the Baltimore Sun.
Rafikian, a student in the Social Psychology class who chose the two-point option, took to Twitter to show his frustration over the dilemma.
WHAT KIND OF PROFESSOR DOES THIS pic.twitter.com/ACtQ0FCwRm— shahanye (@shaunhin) July 1, 2015
With Rafikian's tweet, the psychology lesson quickly moved beyond the classroom.
It has now been retweeted over 5,800 times with many responses telling Rafikian to take the 6 points, and students from other schools replying with messages like, "Typical UMD. This is why I didn't go there.”
Rafikian even got a reply from his professor, Dylan Selterman.
I am that professor. https://t.co/5OIDw7ZXxX— Dylan Selterman (@SelterMosby) July 9, 2015
Selterman began offering this type of extra credit to his students in 2008 to explain the psychology behind ‘tragedy of the commons,’ which the Ph.D. describes as "the way in which people are torn between doing what is best for them in a selfish way, so consuming more of a resource, versus limiting your own consumption and doing what's best for the group."
Only one of Selterman's classes in the past seven years has received the extra credit in this exercise.
Rafikian told the Baltimore Sun that despite his tweet, he was actually not angry with Selterman's question.
“He's a really, really good professor,” Rafikian admitted. “What he did was risqué in a sense, but I appreciate that he did that, because it was interesting."
‘Tragedy of the commons’ is used as the foundation for understanding numerous political and economic occurrences, and many conservatives apply the principle to the overuse of Medicare funds today.
The activity brought the concept to a level that students could directly relate to.
“It has turned into a huge philosophical decision-making process among so many people," Rafikian said.
This article is from Red Alert Politics’ Campus Correspondent Program. Would you like to contribute a story from your school? Apply here to be a Campus Correspondent for RAP!