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I came across this deleted question (10k+ only) in the mod tools overview. I don't understand why the question was deleted.

As far as I can see, it is a completely appropriate, non-spammy, non-offensive question. Looks a bit like homework, but actually shows some independent work, which puts it well above the median question quality here. It had answers that look good, one of them accepted, but no votes or comments on either question or answers. It does not seem to have been closed before it was deleted by a moderator with no comment or explanation.

I flagged the question, with a message that the deletion must have been a misclick somehow. That flag was returned as "helpful" but the question remains deleted. What's going on here?

I can imagine two possibilities, but I hope there's a third one I didn't consider:

  • The asker somehow annoyed the moderator enough to "deserve" a point-blank deletion in retaliation. No such cause is apparent in the user history I can see, but of course comments seem to really disappear when they are deleted.

  • The OP discovered that asking the question here was in violation of a school policy that could get him into deep trouble, and so flagged the post to have a moderator delete it for him.

The latter hypothesis intuitively feels more charitable, but upon further thought I still think it is quite problematic. The question had already been answered, and the answer was good enough that the OP accepted it. So if there was an academic violation, the cheating had already happened and the deletion was only to help destroying the evidence.

I'm cool with not having a policy against homework; whether people use MSE to cheat or not is primarily a matter between them, their conscience, and their school. But a "we will help you cheat and then also help you cover it up afterwards" policy -- if indeed that's what is happening -- would be crossing a line I'm not comfortable with.

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    $\begingroup$ I sent you an e-mail about your inquiry last night, before I cleared the flag. Did you not receive it? $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 26 '11 at 9:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Willie, I see it now. My email is horribly spam-ridden and I check it infrequently except when I know to there's something to look for. I did not expect email in response to on-site communication. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 26 '11 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ I was afraid it'd be seen as rude to use the "contact user privately" function for a mod. That function is usually only used in preludes to suspensions, and I never really liked using it for actual communications. If you would prefer I use that function in the future, I'll keep that in mind. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 28 '11 at 8:25
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It was deleted at the request of the OP. The OP's professor is aware of the existence of the question.

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    $\begingroup$ May I suggest that in such cases a short explanation be added to the question after it's deleted? $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 25 '11 at 23:43
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I'm a bit concerned for the users who spent time writing answers that were afterwards deleted together with the question. Their labor is now for naught; I hope the OP's rationale for wanting the question gone was weighty enough to justify deleting their work. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 25 '11 at 23:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Henning: well, the OP's professor asked that it be deleted. $\endgroup$ – Qiaochu Yuan Nov 25 '11 at 23:53
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    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the question could be undeleted once the assignment is due? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 25 '11 at 23:54
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    $\begingroup$ I'll just add that according to the CC license used here the users can't force us to have their content deleted, though they can ask to have their name disassociated from it. Of course, this only defines what you would have to do, what you actually want to do in such cases is probably something the community should decide. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Nov 26 '11 at 7:58
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    $\begingroup$ @Fabian: If the community of this site wants to "stay friends" with the community of mathematicians it would be best if we have guideline regarding this sort of etiquette. I believe it is the respectful thing to delete the questions, at least temporarily, if the professor asks to do so. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Nov 26 '11 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ I think temporary deletion is the best compromise; that way students can't use the answer until the homework is due and turned in, and the answerer's efforts aren't completely wasted. $\endgroup$ – user7530 Nov 26 '11 at 21:06
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Could we have more details about the exact circumstances that led to the question being deleted? It's not even clear from the above answer and comments, for instance, if it was the OP, or the OP's professor, who asked for the deletion. If the latter, what was the rationale? So that other students in the class could not copy the accepted answer if they happened upon the question?

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    $\begingroup$ The OP took the question from a homework. The professor saw it. The professor asked OP to remove it from the website. The OP asked Mods to remove it for him. Rationale? You have to ask the professor. But I'd be a bit annoyed if a student of mine posts one of the homework assignments that I came up with (not one taken from a book or something like that) on the internet. Coming up with random problems is easy. But it is a bit of work to come up with problems so there are not too much unnecessary complications from computations. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 26 '11 at 9:40
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    $\begingroup$ @WillieWong, this is interesting. Your objection is not that the student is cheating, but that I might take advantage of your hard work in creating the assignment to assign some of your problems to my class? $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 27 '11 at 0:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry, or perhaps that if the question is publicised enough he will have to work hard thinking up a different one the next time he teaches the same course. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 27 '11 at 5:07
  • $\begingroup$ @HenningMakholm, on reflection, you probably have it right, and I just didn't think of that explanation. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson Nov 27 '11 at 5:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Gerry: what Henning said was what I meant. Sorry for the confusion. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Nov 28 '11 at 8:32
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This question, by the same user, has undergone the same process (professor finds it, asks OP to delete it, but is unable to because of an upvoted answer / multiple answers, mods delete it for him).

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    $\begingroup$ I have edited the question to add a pointer to this explanation. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Nov 26 '11 at 22:10

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