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Giving students the answers - Ethical Dilemma

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This is my first time TA for this professor, who has a very bad reputation at my school. He doesn't teach much in lecture, just showing films and talk briefly about the readings (this is an intro level class). 

The midterm exam is in two weeks and after a first look at it, I realize there is no way my students can finish it (not even to get an A). They are supposed to write 8-10 essays in 120 minutes (usually they are 5 short essays, and 4 long essays). By short, I mean around 450-600 words, and by long, I mean 600 and above. So, the total amount would be about 4000 words at least. 

I did the math and physically, it's impossible to write that many words in two hours. At first, I thought he meant "short answer," but he actually meant "short essay." When I approached him regarding my concern, he simply said the students will be graded against each other,  but he did not provide any rubric or anything. He also said that in the previous years, 7 essays have been too low, and 11 was too many. I didn't believe it, so I asked my roommate's girlfriend, who took this class few years ago, and she admitted that there were 10 essays but her TA gave out the answers for everything so that the students would pass the exam. 

The exam is in two weeks and honestly, I don't know if I should just give the students the answers or not (other TAs are thinking of doing that, too, or they would grade them very easily, which means to ignore all of the standards). I feel really bad for my students because some of them have been doing very well in my class. There is a bad reputation of this class that it all depends on the TA whether you would pass the class or not. I guess I'm just disappointed now because I either have to do something so unethical to save my students, or to let other students get a grade that they don't deserve. 

Although I have heard a lot of horror stories about being a TA, this is so far the most outrageous thing ever happened to me. Did any of you have the similar experience? What did you do in that situation?  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Document it, speak to your chair or department head, see if other students/classes have document these same issues. Do not give out the answers. You are not the instructor of record.MIT is not worth your job or career.

That aside I am uncomfortable with faculty who have vague and subjective grading systems. Look for rubrics, anything your department might have for the course.

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