English, Fake News
 

Pass by catastrophe is an urban legend; Universities do not award graduation degrees to all students at the time of catastrophe

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A social media post accompanying a screen shot which claims that ‘if a university burns down or is destroyed otherwise, all the current students immediately graduate with a bachelor’s degree’. Through this article let’s fact-check the claim made in the post.

Claim: ‘If a university burns down or is destroyed otherwise, all the current students immediately graduate with a bachelor’s degree.’

Fact:  There are no reports of universities awarding degrees to all the students at the time of any catastrophe. Further, researchers and academicians have also rubbished the claim and described the claim as an urban legend. However, there are instances of universities providing some relief to students by reducing the course work in such cases. Hence the claim made in the post is MISLEADING.

The screen shot shared in the post actually shows Google search results for a query, which goes like ‘what happens if a university burn….’.

The first result carries a Wikipedia link with a title ‘Pass by catastrophe’ and the wiki snippet displayed is in line with the claim made in the post. However, upon clicking the link the wiki page features content which contradicts the claim.

This Wikipedia page describes the ‘pass by catastrophe’ as an academic urban legend and also give examples of this particular urban legend. Further ,the Wikipedia page states that urban legend expert Jan Harold Brunvand rubbished the claim.

Similar legends have been doing rounds on internet for years, primarily in US. However, we could not find any reports or official information in support of this claim. In fact multiple reports have rubbished the claim, after speaking to researchers and academicians.

‘Jan Harold Brunvand, a researcher, investigated the Pass by Catastrophe claims but could not find any post-secondary educational institution that had such a rule’, reported one such article.

Whereas spokesperson of University of Cape Town, speaking to a news agency has categorically stated that ‘this is definitely an urban legend. No matter what happens, students have to earn their degree by passing the exams’.

There are also examples of universities acting contrary to the claim made in the post. Tulane University in New Orleans was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005, however, the university did not allot degrees to all the students but cancelled the particular semester and encouraged its students to take up classes in other universities.

Similarly, in the case of Virginia tech shootings, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University did not allot graduation degrees to students, but provided some relief by reducing the course work.

To sum it up, no, universities do not award graduation degrees to all students at the time of catastrophe. Pass by catastrophe is an urban legend.

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