Update: see below for an important emendation.

Our Bellesiles discussion got into the tedious issue of verifying students’ tragic stories. In the last few years my policy has been to accept all stories at face value, and to tell students that this is my policy.

Rationale one: ever have someone tearfully unfold a beloved relative’s death notice in front of you? Boy did I feel like an asshole.

Rationale two: this enables me to tell students that the cost of a lie-based extension is…being the kind of person who pimps grandma’s corpse for a week’s delay in handing in a paper. Whether this is a genuine harm to their well-being is an interesting philosophical question.

Rationale three: they always use the rope to hang themselves anyway. The late work is never any good, and I like giving out Ds more than I like failing people. (Fs are usually for colossal screw-ups or just disappearing; a D is like, I tried, but I was still terrible.)

Rationale four: be honest, you’ve lied to editors. It’s not that I’ve been playing starcraft II for 36 straight hours, it’s that I’m thoughtfully correcting all the typos. So really it’s a more accurate simulation of professional life.

Update I: [deleted on account of me being a prick. Apologies to all concerned.]
Update II: more seriously, and on reflection, the excuses offered to editors et al. very well might be (literally) true, though I suspect they often violate implicatures.
Update III: on a more practical note, a general policy of flexibility with deadlines lowers the incentive to lie.
Update IV: come to think of it, there’s a slightly interesting question about when implicature violation counts as a lie.