A friend of mine teaches at a university where one of your grade-assignment options is "DNA," which stands for "did not attend." If you assign a student a grade of DNA, you have to specify the last date on which they attended class. If that date is early enough in the term, the student is retroactively withdrawn from the class. I don't know how common this is, but I don't think this is an option at my school. At least, nobody told me it was at the bullshit new faculty orientation thing I had to attend.
One immediate drawback to the DNA grade is that you have to know that the student never attended, and you have to know when the student stopped. For a number of reasons, I don't collect that information in any detailed or rigorous way.
Why would you assign this grade? Apparently, the DNA grade can fuck up the student's financial aid. You have to maintain a certain credit load in oder to get certain scholarships or student loans. A grade of DNA retroactively reduces the student's courseload. This can make the student retroactively ineligible for financial aid for that semester. Obviously, this can cause all sorts of problems for the student. The DNA grade can be worse than an F in profound ways.
I guess the logic is that Fs are for people who try and fail; DNAs are for people who blow off the entire class. It is, apparently, much, much worse to blow off the class than it is to make a failing attempt to complete it.
I kind of have a problem with this. I see why you'd want a complete failure to attend class to have certain consequences for the student.* I see why you'd want there to be a failing grade on the transcript. I see why you'd want the medical school or the nursing school or whoever to know it's there. I see why you'd want it to be academically troublesome for the student, and insofar as these academic troubles cause personal troubles, it seems to me that the personal troubles are sort of warranted. You didn't attend class all semester and now your parents are upset with you? That seems right to me. You didn't attend class all semester and now you're not getting into nursing school? That seems right to me, too. These things don't seem to me to count against assigning the F. They seem like the negative consequences rightfully associated with earning an F.
But I guess I think getting the student's financial aid yanked is going too far. That consequence seems far worse than what is deserved.
What do the Smokers think?
* I am assuming that there are no mitigating or extenuating circumstances.