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As one who sees the world through pale-pink glasses, I tend to assume people are honorable, sometimes making stupid or selfish choices, but generally moving through the universe trying to do the right thing as they know it. People who lie, cheat, and steal are the exception, not the norm.

I still believe that, but this week I've had my faith in people's basic goodness rocked just a little bit.

As an adjunct instructor at a major university, I teach two sections of a class in the college of business. Cuts in tax-payer support over many years mean tuition has increased at well over the rate of inflation, and universities across the country find they must pack more students into classrooms, doing more with less. My classrooms are full. When they take exams, the students are nearly shoulder to shoulder, reminding me of the elementary school "lunch room," really metal folding picnic tables in the gym with the little kids pushed together on the benches, butt to butt.

Temptation overtakes some students. Those who are especially competitive for grades or just feeling insecure in their own knowledge may be tempted to let their eyes wander, barely farther than their own papers, to their neighbors' exams.

Last week while grading exams, I found three that all answered a particular question the same way. I number the exam booklets before handing them out, so consecutively numbered exams are taken by people sitting next to each other. Here there were three in a row. All answering the same. All answering in a way I did not frame the material in class. All answering in a way the material was not framed by texts. All the same.  All wrong. Wrong the same way.

So what should I do about cheaters? Well, I talked to the dean, discussing the exam papers, which he agreed were just alike. And we discussed policy, protocol. The students are foreign, and they pay a pretty penny for the privilege of studying here. The university needs the high tuition paid by foreign students, and they are actively recruited. Still, cheating is not tolerated. There is an honor code, each exam requires the students to affirm they did not cheat, and the course syllabus must delineate the penalty for cheating.

My first task is to notify each of them and give each an opportunity to explain their answers, and why their answers so closely resemble those of the next two people in their row.

Frankly, I don't care. I have a hard time thinking any answer will do.

Right now I am waiting for them to contact me. Thursday and Friday I'll have to speak with them, if they choose to respond. Unless I am persuaded of innocence (and I am quite skeptical, so that seems a reach) they will get zeros for the exam, and I will file honor code violation forms. In this college, two strikes and you're out; a student generally gets one chance to screw up. The second time, they'll be suspended or thrown out.

Cheating. Does it help? Does getting caught teach a strong lesson? I don't know. I just don't want cheaters in my life, in my class.

Do you have examples of cheaters in your life? If you teach, what happened and how did you deal with it? If you are in another line of work, what happened?

I'm headed for class now, so won't be around until this evening to respond to comments.

Originally posted to Melanie in IA on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 01:12 PM PDT.

Also republished by Teachers Lounge and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  When I was in college, I noticed another (22+ / 0-)

    student trying to copy my answers....I'm left-handed so it was pretty easy to cover up my test sheet.  When we got our papers back, he had scored higher than I did.  

    "Forever is composed of nows." Emily Dickinson

    by Leftovers on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 01:31:10 PM PDT

  •  Professional Experience... (27+ / 0-)

    A co-worker (contractor) would come to me daily since I was not only performing technical and procedural writing but assisting in the personnel control for the department in which I was working. I was not 'in charge' of those records, but I had access and could perform updates as required.

    He started asking me more and more about software and on various points for how the dept. policy for procedures required specific formats be used etc. He also became very interested in other documentation that was open and visible for me due to my responsibilities but he wanted to 'see' it and get copies. - Something I would not do.

    I gave him an overview of the software and how we used it twice and I was informed after the second day by one of my direct co-workers that this had been covered by each of them with the same person more than once and that he should know what I was showing him - though they did say they wanted to go through it with me so we could all share our individual knowledge pieces and improve, so in that respect, I earned some credit for knowing something they did not expect me to know about immediately or without guidance....but...

    He came back again, and he started pressing for document.
    Finally, there was a day he was in absolute tears and he admitted he had no knowledge of certain software or how o use it, format it.  Behind that, he demanded I provide him with documents I had been working on which involved our New Drug Application and were need to know (which he did not).

    I sat down with my team and we documented our experiences, each of his verbal requests, printed off any email references for requests, and we build the issue facing the team, but me specifically since he was not accusing me of...something.  It went to management and management investigated finding others who had had this same person attempt to steal their documentation and have this person present it as his own.

    In a check of his resume', we found software which he maintained himself as expert, was the very same software he was crying he could not use.

    Management eventually got rid of him and since I had worked with my team and we handled things through the chain of command, I made the place home a lot sooner than anticipated. The job did not last as the 2007 downturn hit, but they gave me advance notice and its a place I still miss. It was a good job and there were many good people there.

    But, the person who was fired...He lied on his resume... someone else might have gotten the job had he not lied.  I do my utmost not to embellish my resume'. At some point, someone will look at my resume' and might expect me to do what I say I can do. If I can't, what does that say about me? It speaks very poorly at minimum.

    He attempted to steal from others work, not just me, but several others. He made a general nuisance of himself. He tried to gain access to documentation which he did not need or require or have permission to view.
    And worst for him, he thought he was clever.

    It's not the same, but he was doing his utmost to cheat in an environment where he had to deliver and he could not measure up because he lied, he cheated his way into a position he could not perform. Even if he could have performed it, he misrepresented himself and set himself up to fail because the expectation was that he could do what he stated he could do on his resume'.

    For me, it was another example of why cheating and lying does not help. If I stick to the truth, I never have to remember what lie I told, or to whom, and about what.

    -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

    by Vayle on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 01:41:28 PM PDT

    •  This is a great example of how (19+ / 0-)

      winners never cheat and cheaters never win. Sooner or later, it catches up to you. I read someone else's comments recently about a similar situation. She's been hired as a contract worker with a major industrial company to update code. It requires she KNOW the old code and also how to convert it and get it into production. SHE knows her stuff. There is another co-worker whose work, work ethic, and general ethics are highly suspect, and he has tried to pin problems he is having on other team members.

      Spare us ALL from co-workers like that!!

      Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate hearing your story.

    •  It's a cultural thing (9+ / 0-)

      Realize that in some cultures the stronger are EXPECTED to help the weaker along.

      They don't see it as cheating.

      In my experience it tends to be a Mediterranean things--I taught at a private Turkish school (where admin changed a grade for an admitted cheater) and currently I teach Spanish, Italian and Greek kids (among others)

      My message is usually you're no longer in your culture, so adapt and take the zero.

      •  Thanks. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, mjbleo

        I know there are cultural differences but don't know just how that impacts behavior specifically. Most of my students are midwestern, Iowa or Illinois kids. But we've recruited more and more from China, especially in the last few years. When I spoke with the dean yesterday, he did say that a lot of them don't come in understanding expectations. I guess that's it.

      •  This guy would not get a pass on the 'culture' (4+ / 0-)

        excuse.  We worked in a multi-ethnic/multi-national employee base environment too, but this guy was your typical average American on the surface.

        I understand the cultural references, but I've found that more than help/cheating/assistance, there is a large divide amongst other nationalities that see politeness and disagreement as more of a problem. By problem, I mean, they are so used to polite discourse, they will be overly polite and agree to things which later, when asked to perform, they politely disagree on the requirement to perform.

        It goes back to training environments where the trainee says they understand but really do not. Some of the passive aggressive tendencies are so ingrained, they see any disagreement (no, I do not understand, show me again, show me a different way to do that), as being impolite.

        I've coached a few people who, after feeling as if I was being mean or overly aggressive, slowly came to realize that my personal ownership of certain things pushes my decision making process to do what is in the best interest of the accounts on which I work. Even with that ownership though, I keep things non personal when it comes to managing things. Once they take the personal out of it and realize, this is the process that the company expects, and that is best to serve the customer, they begin to see that polite and congenial is still possible, but more importantly, doing so while challenging others is still possible without blame being a factor.

        I've had the pleasure of several people of different cultural norms ask me to be there to guide how they approach dealing with others and in relating policy to others in such away that they can resolve problems without the need to place blame. I know there is always a root cause and that won't go away, but what we focus on is fixing problems, and others can worry about assignment of blame. When your efforts become about the blame and not about the process improvement on that which is being looked at, I find one has chosen a losing path because placing blame very easily becomes a personal issue to many.

        You mentioned Mediterranean, but I have sen this kind of attitude of non challenging, non questioning over politeness in various South American nationalities, as well as Asian and Indian. It does make me realize maybe we're not as polite here in America and I try to measure that with my words when I communicate because when one is trying to pull any team together to improve an overall process which is deficient, one still has to evaluate oneself and how others are responding.

        -6.38, -6.21: Lamented and assured to the lights and towns below, Faster than the speed of sound, Faster than we thought we'd go, Beneath the sound of hope...

        by Vayle on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:54:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I had a similar experience (2+ / 0-)

        when my student body was heavily Asian, Turkish, and Indian.  They would copy material verbatim from books on essays.  Within their cultural framework learning means having the answers and having the answers means repeating what the experts said.  They didn't know they were cheating.  It was a tremendous challenge, as a philosophy professor, to convey the idea of original work and that it wasn't acceptable to simply copy.

  •  A dead giveaway of cheating (23+ / 0-)

    is multiple identical wrong answers, just the sort that you've observed.

    It seems that a culture of cheating has taken over in some universities in this country, and it's even worse overseas.  The motivation is to obtain the best possible grade for the minimum effort.

    Anyone who teaches finds this attitude to be incredibly depressing.  After all, the point of taking a class is to gain knowledge, not necessarily to pass a test.  A test is just an imperfect means to measure what's been learned.  The test grade ought not be the objective, but to so many, they see nothing else.

    Of course, the mindset that launched "No Child Left Behind" holds the exact opposite view, and, sadly, it appears that that mindset has recently infected it to higher education in a major way.

    -5.13,-5.64; If you gave [Jerry Falwell] an enema, you could bury him in a matchbox. -- Christopher Hitchens

    by gizmo59 on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 01:58:43 PM PDT

  •  Oh yeah, they've tried to trick me, too.... (20+ / 0-)

    I teach college English, so plagiarism is constant concern. I try to deter them by telling them on the first day of class--in the most authoritative and righteous tone I can muster--that they if they try to pull a fast one, I'll almost certainly catch them, and that getting caught never ends well for the student. And on the syllabus, I boldface the passage that says, "in accordance with university policy, plagiarism may be grounds for expulsion."

    Now, that's a big "may." Out of the 5-6 students I've busted over the last several years, I haven't sought expulsion for any of them; I haven't even failed them all. It's usually obvious when they're cheating--after a month of turning in garbled, borderline-illiterate essays, they suddenly learn to write as skillfully as I do! So first, I Google suspicious passages to make sure they didn't just get it online (this is what happened in a couple cases). If they didn't get it online, I'll wait for a one-on-one conference and ask them tough, but innocent-seeming, questions about their topic that I know they can't answer unless they've actually done the work. Either way, once I've ascertained their guilt, I tell them there's no way they're getting an A or a B in my class, and then instruct to write a new paper, and also write an extra paper or two to atone for their sins. All this is due very, very soon after I confront them.

    How hard I am on them, final-grade-wise, depends on how well they handle themselves after being confronted. A couple of them failed the course. A couple got a C or a D. But one student was so contrite, and worked so hard, that I ended up giving him a B. His case wasn't as egregious as some, though; he had actually written the paper... but then had his roommate rewrite almost entirely (a few original sentences remained, but not too many).

    Also, I've had quite a few students lift bits and pieces of stuff from the internet and insert it into their own writing without citing it. How upset I get over this depends on the circumstances.

    Anyway, I'm obviously in a different field, so I don't know how well it compares. But that's what I've done so far.

  •  It's a difficult issue (22+ / 0-)

    I teach large intro level courses for the most part and cheating of some sort is not that uncommon although serious cases like you describe are fairly rare.

    Some people go overboard (IMHO) trying to catch cheaters and turn the classroom into something of a police state.  I tend to err on the side of being less restrictive (to a point) with the recognition that a small amount of cheating will go undetected.  It's a tradeoff.

    Certainly really blatant cases like yours get prosecuted but they are fairly rare in my experience.  With situations like wandering eyes we generally just ask students to move to another seat if we observe it - it is too hard to prove.

    The real problem I have is the bureaucracy associated with academic honesty.  In my institution it is not possible to give any penalty for academic dishonesty, not matter how minor, without taking it through official channels and making a permanent (if hidden) part of the student's record.  Most of the cases I deal with are students doing worksheets for labs.  They gather the data as teams and are allowed to work together on the answers but they have to write them in their own words.  Sometimes they are a bit careless with the writing part.  What I'd like to do in those situations is give them a zero on the questions involved but if I want to do more than scare them I have to go through the official process which is a) a pain and b) much too big a stick for the actual offense.

    The most amazing case of cheating I ever encountered was when I was a graduate student and was the result of poor course organization on the part of the faculty member in charge.  He gave slide exams in class every week.  There were significantly more exams offered than the students had to complete for the course so only a (more or less random) subset of the students took any given exam - it was completely up to them.  The exams were then divided among the six TAs (again randomly) and graded.

    This was a system ripe for grade entry error and we discovered one or two students who had had exams graded and not entered into our records more or less by chance (this was in the pre-internet days).  So we posted (physically on a wall) a spreadsheet showing which exams had grades (without posting the numerical grades) for all the students.  Two or three more students brought us individual exams that had been graded and not entered.

    Then a student approached me and said that she had six exams that had been graded and returned to her that were not posted.  I was astounded and took them from her.  This was over half the unrecorded exams from the entire class of 150 students and one student had the bad luck of getting that many?  The odds were astronomical against that happening.  Closer examination revealed an example of being extraordinarily clever and stupid at the same time.  She had mimicked the style of individual TAs in writing point totals on her exam, making check marks that again matched the style of individual TAs, and had not given herself really high scores.  However she had written the exams by copying out the keys verbatim so they were actually perfect exams and she had graded quite a few correct answers wrong.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 02:05:36 PM PDT

  •  A friend in retail dealt with this a lot. (15+ / 0-)

    He was involved in hiring and security for a few different stores, and was the first person from whom I heard the concept that 10% will steal at every opportunity, 10% will never steal, and 80% will steal if the circumstances are just right.

    This might just be a shared exaggeration in loss prevention to encourage watchfulness and deterrence, but the number of employees they've had to let go for theft and the leniency of the system towards same was kind of surprising.  Usually the former employees are made to make restitution (regarding the part they were caught with), and that's that.  

    He's even had a few former employees cite him state law on how quickly the store will be required to send their final paychecks, but to be fair these folks might have been among those let go for other reasons; I can't really remember.

    I like your college's approach.  It doesn't ruin anybody that's caught for the first time, it does remove habitual offenders, and it allows students who have gone through this once to deter their friends from the same behavior.  Hopefully you're able to discover which one came up with the answer and which ones copied it.

    •  It doesn't matter which did which. (5+ / 0-)

      Allowing someone to copy is considered the same as copying. And unless 2 of them pointed to the 3rd and said she was innocent, I would have no reason to believe any of it.

      •  As a student, I can say it's often hard to tell (4+ / 0-)

        I've actually been questioned about academic dishonesty twice. In both cases it was quite obvious which direction the copying went. The first was a math exam, where the cheater in question actually copied my solutions exactly, including the scribbled-out mistakes, but some lines were glaringly wrong because they misread my handwriting; the second was an essay test where once again the person copied one of my answers verbatim but with some misspelled words and some nonsensical lookalike words.

        I was lucky that both cheaters at least had the integrity to admit that I had nothing to do with it. Either could have dragged me down with them. But I really had no idea in either case. When you're sitting in an overcrowded room, shoulder-to-shoulder with other students, and you aren't cheating yourself, you tend to studiously avoid even glancing in the direction of the people next to you - which means, unfortunately, that you have absolutely no idea where their eyes are. (I have to be very careful not to take my eyes off my paper. I can't see text without reading it.)

        Now, I do find it rather unlikely that two students would just happen to copy off a single third student. But if it were just a pair, I'd be more concerned about giving the benefit of the doubt.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:40:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Guess I'll be talking to all 3 tomorrow, (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, FloridaSNMOM, foresterbob

          separately. Of course in their emails to me they are astounded they could be thought to be cheating...  hmmm...

          When they see how similar their papers look, I don't think they will wonder why it looks that way.

          •  now what happens (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Melanie in IA, kyril

            if someone cheats off someone but cites the other persons work?  hehe ;)

            Bad is never good until worse happens

            by dark daze on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 09:54:45 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've actually had a professor address that (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Melanie in IA

              directly. It was a computer science class, so academic dishonesty was a bit broader than plagiarism in most other fields.

              Basically, he made 2 points:
              1) A correct citation is an ironclad defense against academic dishonesty;
              2) You earn no credit for any part of any assignment that isn't entirely your own work.

              So if two students collaborate and then turn in clearly distinct assignments, citing each other, there's no issue. But if the cited portion of the assignment would raise red flags without a citation, both students earn no credit for that portion (but are not subject to any disciplinary action).

              Of course, I think cheating on tests would have been a different matter. I don't think citing your neighbor's exam would go over very well.

              "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

              by kyril on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 10:10:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Melanie in IA

                My undergrad CS program had a very simple way to delineate between cheating and legitimate collaboration:  there was no such thing as legitimate collaboration.

                According to my alma mater, no students could work together or help one another on any programming assignment.  Even so much as looking at someone else's code was sort of taboo, like peeking at someone else's exam.  If they needed help, they could only consult a professor or T.A.; nobody else was supposed to help you debug your program, because debugging was considered part of the assignment.

                I think it made much better programmers than I see coming out of CS curricula today, along with other departmental policies like teaching everything in assembler and having very strict late submission policies.

                Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

                by Caj on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 01:47:02 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well, ours tried to draw a finer line (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Melanie in IA

                  Looking at each other's code was taboo (I think that's very standard, never had a CS class where that warning wasn't given) but collaboration in the sense of talking about the assignments, coming up with ideas and strategies, helping each other with conceptual stuff, etc. was encouraged.

                  The citation 'out' was given for students who felt they were legitimately collaborating but were concerned that maybe they went into too much detail about their strategy for the assignment and were worried their code might look too much alike. It also applied to anyone who slipped up on the 'looking at other people's code' thing. The policy was "It's not academic dishonesty if you're honest about it...but you're still not getting credit if it's not entirely your own work."

                  "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

                  by kyril on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 04:23:38 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  I do software development for a living (0+ / 0-)

                  cheating goes on all the time in college in these course, its how they test.  

                  Instead of writing a full program over the course of weeks, in which of course the kids will collaborate.  They need to test other ways.

                  Give the kids code that doesnt work in the class.  You have 50 minutes to spot it, tell me why it doesnt work, and how you would address fixing it.

                  Thats real world. Thats show understanding and application.

                  Writing code out of class leads to people like me writing code for my neices and nephews so they can get an A in a computer class, They arent their majors anyway, so personally I think its dumb from them to even have to take such classes.

                  Bad is never good until worse happens

                  by dark daze on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 12:28:53 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  asdf (0+ / 0-)
                    Give the kids code that doesnt work in the class.  You have 50 minutes to spot it, tell me why it doesnt work, and how you would address fixing it.
                    I once took a course from Brian Kernighan, who assigned us to take the source code for ed and throw away whatever was necessary to make it the source code for grep.  It was a challenging and illuminating exercise.

                    That being said,

                    Instead of writing a full program over the course of weeks, in which of course the kids will collaborate.  They need to test other ways.
                    The problem is that a "full program" should not take weeks.  When program assignment deadlines are more than 1 week apart, it leads to less writing and less understanding.  

                    When I provide code examples in senior-level classes, I make a point to write all my code on the spot, in lecture, with no notes.    I just plug the laptop into the projector, open a blank editor window, and type for 5 minutes.  Then I compile and run and say, "now we have a program to display a histogram."

                    I do this because kids have this bogus idea from their programming class that a computer program takes weeks to plan and write, even simple little one-shot programs.  Nobody ever tells them that a simple program is supposed to take minutes instead of days, and be a few lines rather than a few pages.

                    Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

                    by Caj on Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 01:22:53 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

  •  In the early days of computers (17+ / 0-)

    My parents took a computer language course together because my father needed it for his job.  He was extremely busy  at work and wound up copying my mother's take-home test answers.  Daddy got an A, Mother a C.  We always assumed that the instructor thought the poor little lady had to copy her husband's work.

  •  I found cheaters (20+ / 0-)

    Some like you did by numbering exams. It got so bad that for exams with many multiple choice questions (some fill in blank and short answer), I would make 4-different versions. Odd rows would get versions A & B alternated by seat. Even rows get versions C & D alternated. Thus no one is sitting next to someone with the same exam.

    Sometimes I would slightly alter the stem and or answers. The stem for one version might read the "largest" and the other "smallest." I would do similar things for answers. And since I use "all above" and "none of above" I would change one of the a-c responses to be false or true so the correct answer might be any of the 5 responses but from the next desk the questions look identical - remember they are cheating so cannot read them closely.

    When they copy wrong answers, I consider that their penalty. For other kinds of cheating that I caught (cut and paste from websites or "turnitin" caught them, I do report it. Once I did not turn it in but just told the student to redo it. The student filed a grievance - not a good move. I was told to officially report it and student ended up with 6-hours of F on transcript.

    There was one instance where I caught an "honor" student and one the administration loved (the student's photo was displayed as an example of a great student). My proof was about 99% but no photos. A Dean told me to let it go as she was such a favorite. I thought it over and did not. She did not challenge me and had to retake the course.

    Student cheating and whining is one reason I took a buyout in January. Good luck.

    I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

    by SocioSam on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 02:44:16 PM PDT

    •  Thanks. (8+ / 0-)

      I do different versions of the exam, A form and B form. But this only works well on the multiple choice, where I can scramble the questions. (And thanks for the suggestion to scramble the answers, also. I may have to do that for the final.)

      But on the "short answer" stuff, I have one long case problem on each test. It isn't realistic to make different versions of this that test exactly the same thing. Unfortunately, this is the part they cheated on.

      So how to deal with it? I'm not sure. I'll just be glad when the semester is over.

      •  I did this too. (5+ / 0-)

        I was an instructor for a few years at a large state college. Since the topic was computer science, changing a few symbols in the questions was easy and would completely change the answers.

        (I had TA'd this course in prior years, with a professor who handed out numbered exams. And re-used them from year to year. It was easy enough to find out asking around that all the fraternities had copies of the exams and many of the students had all the answers. And I saw a lot of other cheating as well, so I had some interest in both finding out how much there was and in limiting it.)

        I never had an exam where I didn't get some right answers to the wrong questions. (I always made up write-on-the-exam exams, with workspace under the questions.) And I gave entirely new tests every year.

        I also got a lot of cheating on homework. I was very surprised just how many people apparently shared programs. They'd take a working  program, and then rename all the variables and rewrite the comments and maybe the routine names, and assume I wouldn't see the similarities. Sometimes this was a matter of students picking others' work out of the garbage (back in the days of terminal rooms); often it was not. Usually I could tell, however, if I sought out the students individually and asked them questions about the homework (particularly when it was a program and I could ask how it worked). [This was much easier to do as a TA than as a prof, however.]

        Particularly bad were the television courses out to local employers. I don't know what they're generally called, but we typically had several students from IBM or Honeywell or ... in each class. I recall several instances where every single student at one of the companies submitted the same homework (sans comments and variable names).

        We had procedures for handling this (reporting it and providing the relevant materials to the dean of undergraduate studies), but I don't think much was ever actually done. Getting zeroes from me was probably the worst of it.

        •  Coaches have old copies too (5+ / 0-)

          Back in the 1960s I was at Iowa taking a Geology course. I was on the wrestling team (we were not great back then). One night I got a call that the football (or maybe basketball) assistant coach had the exam from the previous year and I could attend the "review." I did not go. Got an "A" on my own.

          This is why I always made new exams each year and put my old ones in the library and in more recent years on-line so all students have an equal chance.

          I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

          by SocioSam on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:54:26 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kyril, foresterbob, Cassandra Waites

            I never reuse an entire exam but I do reuse some questions. I realize some students have access to old students, giving them an "advantage." But I also believe that ANY student who wants to do well in my class can. If they don't, it's usually because they have put the effort in.

            •  do you grade on a curve though? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Melanie in IA

              curves do not allow every student to do well if they want.

              Bad is never good until worse happens

              by dark daze on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 09:57:07 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  The department has a rubric (0+ / 0-)

                for how many As, etc., so yes there is a "curve" but it is dictated by above. The students have that information in the syllabus and I discuss it at the beginning of the semester. Theoretically, they are all bright and capable enough to get As. But they wouldn't, regardless, because some will put more effort in than others.

                •  Really? (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Melanie in IA, eyesoars

                  Is that a common practice in your discipline (having some sort of curve mandated from above)?  I've never heard of such a thing in all my years of teaching biology.  I've taught at (counting on my fingers) six different institutions since getting my PhD and the distribution of grades in my classes has always been completely up to me.

                  "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

                  by matching mole on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 04:34:37 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I have no idea (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    matching mole

                    if it's common or not. I think the intent is to reduce grade inflation, preventing the situation that all the students get As and Bs. It doesn't change things substantially from when I taught at a different institution years ago and didn't have that kind of structure. I still had C and D students, and I do now.

      •  Do you suspect electronic device (phone) was used (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Melanie in IA

        in relaying answers? Could they all have had the pre-packaged answer and dialed it up? I always stress that part of the code is that those who willingly and knowingly provide answers to others (or write their papers) are as guilty of cheating as those who get the info done by the others.

    •  The GED students in my alt-high school class (12+ / 0-)

      found that when they were seated at the real GED exam, there were about eight different versions, all completely different.

       I took the pressure off cheating in class by reporting scores on practice tests quarterly, and then they were only competing with themselves to get a high enough score to be seated for the real exam. Logically, it didn't make sense to sit for a two day exam if you weren't actually ready to pass.  You never failed my course; you improved until you were ready.

  •  No rose-colored glasses here. (16+ / 0-)

    In my forestry business, I've had the good fortune of working with honorable people.  With rare exceptions, my clients and associates do what they promise to do.  And, more importantly, they always pay me.

    Stepping into the real estate world, my experience has been totally different.  Contractors, renters, buyers, and sellers will cheat you, and have no remorse about it.  The existence of a signed contract is of no significance to them.

    In a recent Cheers & Jeers post, I mentioned that a woman had signed a contract in front of church, and promptly defaulted.  The first time I ever attempted to buy a car, and the first time I ever attempted to sell a house, the other party claimed to have "had a talk with the Lord" who told them to renege on their promises.

    I've been cheated out of thousands of dollars in other deals, the details of which would take an entire diary, and would be rather boring to read.

    Despite my generally optimistic nature, life has caused me to develop a cynical side.  I have a saying that falls in line with ferment's comment above...

    The world is full of scoundrels.  The average person will screw you over in a heartbeat if given half a chance.
    Catch me on a bad day, and I might adopt that saying as my sig line.  I trust that nobody reading this is an "average person."
  •  How were you able to determine ... (8+ / 0-)

    which 2 students were the cheaters, and which 1 student was the one copied from?

    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

    by Neuroptimalian on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 04:37:19 PM PDT

  •  Outcome focus (15+ / 0-)

    rather than process focus.  

    a logical, though regrettable consequence.

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:00:42 PM PDT

  •  Counteracting cheating is like (15+ / 0-)

    fighting the Dark Arts.

    “The Dark Arts," said Snape, "are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible."
    The usual way that students cheat on tests in my classes is to slip a study guide under their test paper. If I catch them I tear up the test.  They get a zero.  If they're suitably contrite, I usually let them take it over -- after they've had some time to reflect.

    For other types of cheating, like turning in papers that are identical, I give one grade and they get to split the points.

    It never stops, though, and the really hopeless thing is that adults are setting the example.  I was shocked when a colleague asked me for my answers to the FEMA test  She got mad when I refused and got them from someone else.  They were passed around and everybody thought it was a great joke. I was disgusted.

    Light is seen through a small hole.

    by houyhnhnm on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:05:01 PM PDT

    •  I like your solution to assign points and (12+ / 0-)

      split them. I could do that with these 3 students if I decide to be generous. At this point I'm not feeling generous and believe they have earned zeroes.

      Thanks for stopping.

    •  When I went to college, the faculty (6+ / 0-)

      assumed that the students were all smart enough to successfully conceal study guides and the like during tests, so they often dealt with things in a different way:  you were allowed to bring to the exam one 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper with as much information as you could fit on it.  Reading it was your own problem.  

      And then the questions were devised so that knowledge of facts that had been in the assigned reading or presented in class was necessary but not sufficient to respond to the question.

      In my experience, the effort it took to create one of those "cheat sheets" usually made it unnecessary to use it during the actual exam.

      We must drive the special interests out of politics.… There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will neither be a short not an easy task, but it can be done. -- Teddy Roosevelt

      by NoMoJoe on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:28:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I really love tests like that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Melanie in IA

        They tend to be substantially harder than fully closed-book exams, but in a more interesting way. I think they're a better gauge of actual understanding.

        I actually rarely find myself looking at my notes, but just having them there helps keep me from experiencing those mental blanks I sometimes get. I'm a pretty good test-taker, but even so, sometimes I just fail to access something directly from reading a question, and it takes several minutes of valuable time sort of thinking 'around' the problem to finally unlock the memory.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 09:16:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mental blanks... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I remember a test from my Intro to OT class. We had to remember a list of names of those considered to have founded Occupational Therapy. I'm really really horrible with names, so I tried to make up mnemonics for it. The problem was with one of the names, the initials were J.T. and the only name with those initials I could come up with at the time was Justin Timberlake LOL. I knew it was wrong, but despite finishing the test and then trying for like 20 minutes to remember the right name, all I could think of was Justin Timberlake. I didn't write it down though, I just left it blank LOL.

          Later there was a commercial in which Justin Timberlake falls and is fake injured, I remember one time thinking, "Serves him right for messing up my test." LOL.

          "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

          by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 11:31:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Cheating comes in many forms. (12+ / 0-)

    I went back to a local guy who helped me buy a laptop 3 yrs ago. He does a small business dealing with laptops from college and business settings that are being replaced. He checks them out and resells.

    This time, I wanted to upgrade a few yrs. He wanted $200 up front. I also gave him the old machine to sell. He did that for $150. But, he always had an excuse when it came time to deliver for me. Something always made the deal fall thru.

    So, we shook hands and decided to give up the quest. He would return my $350. We agreed on a time and place to meet for the transaction. Well...he was a no show. A few days later he claimed he had lost his cell phone and couldn't reach me.

    A week ago, he called from Chicago, 200 miles away, asking if I would money gram him $30 to fix his fan belt so he could get home. Then he would pay me. I was a mentsch, he said.

    He is still a no show. I figure I've been cheated out of my time, old laptop, and money.

    GOP JOBS PROGRAM ----> Ⓙust Ⓞur Ⓑeing Ⓢtupid

    by jim in IA on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:16:56 PM PDT

  •  I used to assign seating... (12+ / 0-)

    ...during exams.  I would put students who were failing in the same area.  That way, if the copied, they copied from someone probably doing no better than they were.

  •  well, technically two of them cheated (6+ / 0-)

    the other one was just stupid!  How will you manage to figure out which one was the original "thinker"?

    Go Bernie Sanders! You are what a politician should be!

    by Former Chicagoan Now Angeleno on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:45:30 PM PDT

    •  Our policy is (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, nomandates, anafreeka, kyril

      that everyone involved is involved, everyone is at fault. So I don't need to figure out who was the original thinker. That person is assumed to have "allowed" it to happen, so is just as wrong.

      Obviously there are times when this wouldn't be true. But in this instance it fits well enough to go with it. None of them seemed to be shining stars, based on the rest of their exam scoring.

    •  In one of my daughter's classes (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Melanie in IA

      at Community College, she discovered that there was a group of students who always sat together in the back.  At the final, one of my daughter's friends sat right in the middle of their group.  The group was upset, but couldn't do anything about it.  When my daughter asked her friend why she sat back there, her friend told her that this group had been cheating all semester and she was trying to break it up for the final.  I believe it was a calculus class and one of the cheaters had already taken the class in his home country.  He would essentially allow all of his friends to copy off him.  The teacher was either apparently clueless or simply didn't care.

  •  The time has come for someone to put his foot down (8+ / 0-)

    And that foot is me!

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:54:16 PM PDT

  •  We had someone doing this (11+ / 0-)

    in an online class on the Message Board posts (we'd have to research an issue and present our findings in x amount of words, and also critique other people's posts, the set up was similar to a board here).

    On the bright side, it was very apparent when someone was only paraphrasing other students, as they posts were time dated. You could see them picking a point from this post verbatim, from that one with one word difference, etc. And as they were time stamped and we were not in the same room, there was no getting blamed because someone else cheated from your post without your knowledge.

    In high school I was on the bad end of this one. The kid next to me liked to cheat off of my paper, without my knowledge. And of course I'd get in as much trouble as he did, never mind I hadn't done anything. It wasn't until the history teacher realized that the dates were inverted the same as mine (and I had a reputation for that even though I didn't have the diagnosis then yet), that it finally came out for certain who was at fault.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 05:58:05 PM PDT

    •  Sorry you got caught in this yourself. (8+ / 0-)

      Seems like the teacher could have started by moving one of you, to see what changed.

      Yeah, like you, my son-in-law did online classwork. IIRC, he had someone in class with him that would steal whole projects which had already been posted by other groups or students!!!

      Hard to imagine what it takes for someone to do that. As you say, with the time stamping of posting, it's easy to see whose work came first. Weird...

  •  I do not curve, and (11+ / 0-)

    I do not care.

    I tell them that at the beginning of the class.

    If they choose to waste their money (and it's a LOT of money) by attending University and not learning anything on their own, but rather copying someone else's work... that's their problem.

    My only goal is to ensure that those stupid enough to cheat do not in any way impact those who do not cheat, hence, no curve.

    If I catch blatant stuff, I will do something... but I am not their nanny, nor am I a cop. They're paying to have me instruct them in my speciality, and they're adults (or should be).

    I make myself more than available for extra help, make-up material, and extra work for extra points to ensure no failures...

    I cannot and will not do any more than that, and frankly, the fuss that arises out of the accusations, disruption and bad vibes that surround academic honor code violations is so disturbing to everyone, including those who have done nothing wrong, that I refuse to participate in the Charade.

    The only way to ensure a free press is to own one

    by RedDan on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:05:44 PM PDT

    •  I get your point. (5+ / 0-)

      I've had a couple of incidents in the past that I took care of individually, without involving the protocols. This was a somewhat different set of circumstances, though, and seemed to call for a sterner approach.

      We'll see what the young ladies have to say. In the meantime, all the students have had their attention recalled to the honor policy, and hopefully it will make them all think twice.

  •  I Wonder ... (6+ / 0-)

    how the students presently in high school are going to fare when they reach college.

    The internet is used as a reference for everything, and copy-and-paste is so easy.  How much organization wording change is necessary  for the student to make it his own?

    How rigorously are they being taught about referencing and footnoting?  Not very, I fear.  And not having been taught properly, are they going to be innocently walking into a mine field when they get to college?

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 06:28:26 PM PDT

    •  As with everything, (5+ / 0-)

      some are taught better than others. I think the teachers who demand the most initially may have highest risk of cheaters showing. But those same teachers also may be most likely to catch offenders and teach correct standards.

      It is something to worry about, not just in business but in all lines of work. Do you want the nurse writing your chart to "cheat" by short-changing the correct information? I could come up with 100 examples. Scary...

    •  It should probably be a first semester required (6+ / 0-)

      class for every student.  To be honest, I've spent nearly 2 decades in college, and I'm probably still even fuzzy on all the bounds of plagiarism and citations.  If I've got a paper to do, I go out, read a bunch of papers, and if most of them mention the same points, I assume those points are 'common knowledge' and that it's rather pointless to throw in a citation, but rather merely say something like 'As many authors agree, ....' and only cite if I want to throw in something specific to one author or paper, or that only a small subset talked about.  Otherwise you could end up citing every darn sentence.

    •  I wish colleges thought about this more (3+ / 0-)

      when creating schedules. As an adult learner (I started college in my late 30's), I knew nothing about APA or MLA when I started college. This was a college that generally catered to adult learners. But I didn't have the writing course that covered APA and citations until about 8 months in. We were just expected to already know it for the first course however.
      This created a lot of floundering and stress for those of us who had never even heard of it before. Citations and foot notes were a LOT different on the papers I did in high school.
      I liked APA better once I got the hang of it. But for many courses I at least checked my citations on the Son of Citation Machine website online. It almost felt like cheating, but I did the work myself, just plugged in what I needed for the reference page until I got the hang of the format.
      If the college had put the course which taught APA first, I wouldn't have had to do any of that because I would have understood it. And trying to find the guide to it was both expensive and difficult. EVERYONE including Amazon and the local college stores were sold out in the beginning of the school year when I needed the book. I didn't have weeks to wait to order one when I had a paper due the first week.

      "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

      by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 08:45:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are two ways to discourage (9+ / 0-)

    cheating in a large lecture, and I use them both regularly.  

    First, while all the exams have the same questions, we break the exam into 3 or 4 parts (keeping related material together), and print out the exam with the parts in different orders, with (e.g. for a third exam) 3.1, 3.2, 3.3  etc so we know which exam each student has.  These exams are interleaved, so every student has on either side an exam with a different arrangement of questions.  

    Second, I proctor the exams by walking the room, and I have one or two grad students with me to do the same. We walk behind, along, and across (down the aisles, of course) as long as more than half a dozen are still working.  We watch behavior - wandering eyes, rummaging in bookbags, etc.  In more than a dozen years we have only had one instance where we had to curb some untoward behavior.  

    At the beginning of the exam, I tell them we do this so that they are certain that no one is going to get a better grade than they do by cheating.  

    So far it's worked, and I think a lot of them relax and concentrate better because of it.  Deterring bad behavior is better than  having to respond to it. Now, about homework...(shakes head)

  •  I taught measurement and evaluation (8+ / 0-)

    to education students for 4 years (and some other classes). I used my tests to model various strategies and principles. The first principle was to have a clear idea about what students need to know and be able to do. Testing students on memorized trivia does not usually meet that criterion. In the real world, students are able to look up information to solve problems, so I gave open book tests. Some tasks require more time than the time allowed for an in-class test, so I gave some take-home tests. In most real world situations people work together as a team or at least are able to ask someone for help. So I sometimes gave group tests -- two or three students were to work together, turn in one test or paper, and put their names on the one paper. (That also cut down on paper-grading time.)

    A second principle is that students need to have prompt feedback. The main purpose of tests (or other measurement techniques) is to help students learn, not to assign a letter grade. Feedback is essential. That meant frequent tests promptly returned and discussed.

    Near the end of the course, I gave a multiple choice test just to show that I could do it. (And it could be quickly scored.) The questions were clearly based on things that had been discussed in class, and students got most of the answers right. On the final day of class, I returned the multiple choice test, discussed it, and showed how to do an item analysis.

    I don't recall any cheating problems in four years. Of course, my tests were easy and grading policies were lenient and well-understood. Most students got A's. I'm sure on some of the group tests, the work was not shared evenly, but that's real world too.

    My college teaching time was after I retired from 30 years in K-12 public education. It was the most enjoyable time of my education career.

    •  Thanks for your comments. (6+ / 0-)

      I do really enjoy the age group. I'd love to have smaller sections, have real discussions, get to know them better, assign multiple types of assessments. Too many, just too many kids....

    •  That's a really good point... (4+ / 0-)

      Feedback should be prompt. I always tried to ensure that if they took a test in class X, the graded exams were given back in class X+1.

      The other thing I always did was, as soon as the last tests of the day were administered, I posted the answer keys.

      I also tried very hard to stick to the rule of accepting no late homework and no late exams. Exams could be taken early, but never late w/o IMO a legitimate excuse. I was probably a real hard*ss about it. I do recall giving at least two, including one for a broken leg.

  •  I know this is going to sound sanctimonious, (5+ / 0-)

    but I have never cheated on an examination. The closest I have come to academic dishonesty was to allow a colleague who contributed to a published paper to take co-author credit when it was not truly due. (This is done all the time in medicine and science, but is rare in music).

    I hope the students do contact you, and I hope that you have a serious discussion with them regarding the cheating. I am not surprised to learn that not only did they cheat, but that their answers were incorrect.

    When I was a grad student, I had the opportunity to teach a little (I have also taught public middle school, but that's another story) and all of my exams were blue book essay exams, which are difficult to cheat on and assume that certain knowledge has been assimilated. Not to mention the fact that music history is something you either know or you don't know--it can't be fudged.

    Academic dishonesty is something that should not be tolerated, but when it happens, it's an opportunity to actually teach a lesson. Teach it, and give the students a chance to redeem themselves. You might be surprised.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

    by commonmass on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 07:10:24 PM PDT

    •  Not sure they get "redemption" (6+ / 0-)

      or another chance. Their scores were not high, anyway, so at most I might discount their scores to half, rather than to zero. Really, the only reason I can think I might do that is if one or more of them admitted their mistake. If they deny it... probably not.

      The other student, the one who just plain didn't take the test... I'll probably grant some leeway for him, if his little world is tumbling in on him as it seems. We'll see.

      Thanks for stopping, commonmass. You are a good man. I knew that already.


      •  Thanks. I have a theory about undergraduate study: (5+ / 0-)

        All those exams and grades are preparation for scholarship. Those of us who have passed through universities either embrace it in our professions, or not, however: what you are preparing these students to do is original research and scholarship, and cheating is not part of what goes into writing a good professional paper. That is the conversation that I would have with them. Unless, of course, if they are business majors, in which case that will be utterly lost on their tiny little minds. That's what my dad says, anyway. ;)

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

        by commonmass on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 07:24:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  hmmm (4+ / 0-)

          Since all 3 of my degrees are in business, I'm not sure I go along with the "tiny little minds" statement. I'm sure you meant to add "present company excepted."

          Really, though, I believe most of my students' ethics are just as high or higher than the general population. But in any group there will be those who are more selfish, and display that in non-ethical ways.

  •  Not sure it was cheating (8+ / 0-)

    but it was certainly frustrating at the time ... although funny 20 years down the road.

    In a grad level philosophy course, we were assigned the reading and summary of a certain paper in a professional journal.  The library had one copy of the journal and we were to all to read it individually. Since I was a commuter, it took me a couple of days to get to the article to copy it.  But I found that it was no longer there. Apparently, one of the students had taken the journal, very neatly cut out the article and then handed in the journal to the reserve librarian.

    Turns out the student who did the cutting (it was obvious who she was because the journal was on the reserve list) had wanted to be the only one to hand in a summary.  She was gunning for a fellowship at some more prestigious school and wanted to beat everyone. It still boggles my imagination how she figured that no one would catch her (given the circumstances) and whether she ever learned anything at all.

    To be fair, she had been getting away with things for some time. When she was found out, the professor questioned her in private, but the rumor was that she had argued it was first come first served and she needed the A ... so too bad about everyone else.

    Needless to say, the assignment was changed. Learned alot in that class, not necessarily what was on the syllabus.

    "Life without liberty is like a body without spirit. Liberty without thought is like a disturbed spirit." Kahlil Gibran, 'The Vision'

    by CorinaR on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 07:24:13 PM PDT

  •  I posted this over in Top Comments, but (8+ / 0-)

    I'm a TA for a large 400-student history class. In our class, we have "clickers" with which students answer multiple choice questions during class, since the class is too large to have any kind of discussion. Students get participation points, plus extra points for correct answers. It's not exactly rare for a student to also have a friend's clicker who is missing class...what we call "double-barreling." We caught a student recently not double-barreling, but quadruple-barreling. And he was sitting in front of two TAs (apparently unknowingly). His argument to the professor was that he didn't realize it was against the rules to use other people's clickers.

    The lengths some people will go to get a few extra points. All students involved dropped entire letter grades, and one student failed as a result. I hope it was worth it...

    Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one. Which one seems unnatural now?

    by Chrislove on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 08:11:25 PM PDT

  •  You think that's sad? Check out craigslist in... (6+ / 0-)

    ... a big university town.   There, you will find ads from PhD students who are offering to write papers for people.  I've even heard of several who will go to class and take the tests for you (provided it's a huge class where the professor won't know).  

    One PhD candidate I know was looking for a few extra bucks and posted an ad offering tutoring.   An undergrad responded, stated what she needed help with, and asked the PhD student rather cryptically if they were willing to attend the class for her.  

    THe PhD student, naturally, said "no way in hell" and the undergrad replied with a "LOL.  K, thanks anyway."  

    This is an Ivy League institution.  

    •  I knew a dude who did this. (6+ / 0-)

      Back when I was in college, one of my friends decided to start a paper-writing business---any class, $5/page for a B, more if you wanted an A.

      This guy had a spiteful and discordian sense of humor.  He actually printed up flyers advertising his cheating service, and tacked them up on university bulletin boards.  It made the front page of the student newspaper and naturally caused the administration to blow a gasket and try to hunt him down.

      Nobody could identify him, however, because he used an anonymous voicemail box and an anonymous PO box. Even better, he somehow got his flyers stamped by the appropriate campus office, so they were allowed to be on the bulletin boards and couldn't be taken down for 30 days.  He laughed about that for a long time---I actually suspect he was motivated to start the business just for the lulz of putting up the flyers.

      The dude wasn't even a student, either.  He had a decent high school education, could type, and knew how to find things in a library.  This was apparently enough education that he could write A papers for whatever humanities class his customers requested.

      Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

      by Caj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 09:46:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I caught a kid! (10+ / 0-)

    I gave out a programming assignment, and a kid handed it in with code that I once wrote and put online.

    A pretty foolish attempt, considering how easy it is to catch that sort of thing.  After you've been writing for a while, seeing your own code is like looking in a mirror.

    Sadly, my first reaction wasn't "hey, that's me!"  It was, "Christ, who writes like that?"

    Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

    by Caj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 08:42:35 PM PDT

    •  Another story: the Prisoner's dilemma (6+ / 0-)

      Many years ago I was a TA for a PL/I class.  It was my job to give weekly recitations, hand out the weekly quiz, grade the assignments, and shield the students from the professor, who was a monumental asshole.

      One week I caught two identical assignments, but I didn't know who copied whom, or if they collaborated.  So at the next recitation, I announced out that I caught some cheating.  After giving everyone the talk about how cheating is dangerous to society because computer programs run banks and iron lungs, I gave my students an offer:  "if you cheated on this assignment, admit it at the bottom of your quiz and I'll just give you a zero for the assignment.  

      "However, if I collect the quizzes and the admissions contradict each other---if person A says `I worked with person B' but person B doesn't say anything---then I'll have no choice but to bring the matter to the attention of Professor Monumental Asshole."

      Technically all the cheaters could write nothing at all, which would be consistent, and nobody would lose points.  However, nobody wanted to risk deeper consequences, so both kids admitted to collaborating.

      They were good kids, though.  I later learned that they were high as a kite every single recitation.

      Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

      by Caj on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 08:56:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, foresterbob

      for the laugh! That's actually really funny.

      Guess you learned a lot in the meantime. :)

  •  We're all three in the same study group? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, kyril

    They could have just come up with a (wrong) form answer to any questions on the test they thought you might ask.  

    •  They may well be in the same (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      study group. But we didn't talk about the material that way in class, and they didn't actually answer the question. So the question of cheating: if they can prove that their study notes were that specifically the same.... Maybe but doubtful. We'll see.

  •  You pose a difficult question. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, kyril, foresterbob

    Do cheats prosper?

    Well, that depends on their personal motivation and ethical standards.

    The short answer is yes, many of them do. It doesn't make them happy, or healthy, or better than the next guy ... but it does fulfill a need to succeed, even if based on a lie, and it can lead to substantial personal enrichment. Financially anyway.

    The problem persists, and will continue to persist when the only measure of a student is a test score, and the only measure of an adult is "What do you make?".

    That is the society we live in. Change it and you change the drivers, the attitudes and the behaviours.

    Until then, all you can teach them is the cost of getting caught .... maybe that will be enough to help them realise that there might be a better way ...

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Wed Apr 11, 2012 at 09:52:34 PM PDT

    •  I talk a lot about ethics in my class. (4+ / 0-)

      It's a class on "wealth management", and the core of it is doing the right thing for the client. You can only consistently do the right thing if your motivation lines up with theirs. That's pretty hard to do in a transaction-based environment, where brokers only get paid when they sell something. Even if their intentions are good and their ethics strong, on the margin, if "all else is equal" (and it never actually is), they'll choose to do what enriches themselves at the same time as working for their clients.

      In a fee-based environment, when the client is paying a fee for service, the wealth manager is more likely to align their interests with the client's. There is less incentive to do otherwise.

      So it isn't just a matter of not getting caught. It's also a matter of doing the right thing in the first place.

      •  A problem I am very familiar with (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Melanie in IA, kyril, foresterbob

        I worked in financial planning for years, and, like many companies, it was commission based, which is a direct incentive to put your own needs first.

        However .... it can be argued (although I wouldn't), that clients who are unwilling to pay for fee-based advice, and prefer to consult commission people because it is free at the point of delivery, are themselves contributing to the problem.

        It is an area that should be very tightly regulated because some folk need protecting from themselves, and some agents too easily fall prey to temptation.

        The financial services industry will always baulk at regulation, but it would actually benefit everyone ... well everyone who was trying to work honestly.

        I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
        but I fear we will remain Democrats.

        by twigg on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:26:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'll give you an example (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Melanie in IA, kyril, foresterbob

          You have a client who wants to contribute to a pension.

          Your choices are to offer an annual premium plan, or a monthly payment.

          The annual plan is rather more efficient and the commission is paid as a proportion of the premium. You will be paid a small amount, every year until the plan vests.

          The monthly plan has higher fees attached, so not quite so good (but still decent) for the client, but you are paid upfront on the assumption that the plan will run to retirement ... That is, the agent will get 75% of projected commission as a lump sum, next month.

          Which do you recommend?

          I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
          but I fear we will remain Democrats.

          by twigg on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:33:08 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I talk to the client about the relative (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            twigg, kyril

            benefits of both, the disadvantage of the higher fee structure on the monthly premium but recognize that may fit into their budgeting better, and leave them less chance of being underfunded at the end of the year. But they should get to choose how often they want to pay the premium, given that information.

            •  Well yes, of course you would (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Melanie in IA, kyril

              and in doing so you might get $50 a year commission for 20 years, or $750 up front, then $250 spread over 20 years.

              No agent should go into a consultation with that kind of pressure. The honest ones will do the right thing, and offer the options, but many won't.

              As you say, many clients will choose the monthly plan anyway.

              A good company would let you charge the client $200 for the consultation, then rebate all the commission back to the client, in the form of reduced charges and a more efficient plan.

              That way there is no pressure to sell anything specific, and the client is motivated to pay attention :)

              I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
              but I fear we will remain Democrats.

              by twigg on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 07:15:10 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  I use variable forms, so plagiarism is my bugaboo (4+ / 0-)

    I've had very evident cases of copying or otherwise cheating on exams, but it produces wrong answers--I have four different exam forms, and they are never adjacent to one another.  If I get one consistently like that, I confront the student, and inform them they can take a zero on the exam.  If they refuse, we go judicial.  None have refused, because their grades have ended up being in the failing range anyhow just based on the answers.

    Plagiarism is the big one I get, because we have papers.  I assemble the evidence, confront the student, and offer to let them take an F in the course.  If they refuse, we go to judicial.  That I HAVE done, and we've had students suspended (not expelled, unfortunately) for periods of up to one year.

    SafeAssign works quite well, but I've discovered that it doesn't crawl Wikipedia.  So I do check important entries for cribbed text.  They've come up with many little tactics, including character substitution (lowercase Greek omicrons) and flipping around the order of words.  But we've caught a lot of them, probably not all, but on average 3-5 per survey course of 100 students.

  •  There are smart cheats and dumb cheats. Smart (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, kyril, foresterbob

    cheats can go a very long way in life and some household names in certain industries I'm familiar with cheated their ways to huge companies and enormous personal fortunes.  That's the way the world turns.

    Those who forget the pasta are doomed to reheat it.

    by CarolinNJ on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 12:27:13 AM PDT

  •  Not personally, no, but.... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, kyril, foresterbob

    There's been a huge scandal in my area about some kids who were going and takng SATs for high school students. Those doing this were former students now in college... i believe some enrolled in prestigious colleges, too.

    Parents are on different levels of defense regarding their kids, and one father said, he's just a teenager and shouldn't be punished.  But these kids also come from a wealthy area, and had money to pay these college students thousands of dollars to scam the system?? Where did these kids get this money? And how could parents not know that thousands just simply get spent.... Where?

    Cheating is cheating. It seems the only way to learn a lesson is going back to beng tough.

    If they learn the lesson well, they will never do this again.

    My 2 bits on the matter!

    All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.The world is neither good or bad. It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other - Lama Anagorika Govinda

    by kishik on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 04:24:22 AM PDT

  •  Never cheated, never had to grade (5+ / 0-)

    So I can only relate one story with which I am personally familiar.  I had two roommates in college one year.  Andy had spent a fair amount of time not studying for this one class, but my other roommate Gary had already taken it.  This was a very large class with a dozen TAs.  Andy paid Gary to take the final, which he did.  Unfortunately for Andy, Gary turned in the final test to the 1 out of 12 TAs who knew who Andy really was.  Oops.

    Haven't seen or talked to either in decades.  But as many of us do, I occasionally think "whatever happened to..." and Google old friends.  Andy is an attorney now.  I noticed that he was suspended from practice for a while a few years ago, for fudging evidence in a case.  I guess old habits die hard.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 05:23:13 AM PDT

  •  Melanie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA

    take this post down.  Not a smart move. college students cheat but you have included enough information that people could identify you and possible the classes you are referring to.  Unless, you are using and different name and really teach in a different state- you might be finding yourself in the deans office answering for an honor policy infraction-Ferpa?

    •  Not worried about that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Yes I could be identified. The students could not be unless they identify themselves.

      Thanks for the concern.

    •  Not really. (3+ / 0-)

      At many universities, reports of cheating are part of a student's record like grades, and therefore must be treated according to the usual rules of confidentiality.   You can't say "person X cheated," any more than you can tell the class that "person X got a C-" or "person X bombed the midterm."

      On the other hand, it is not a violation of confidentiality if you simply say that one of your kids cheated, just like it isn't a violation of confidentiality to say that this year you gave out 2 Fs in a class of 30.  This is aggregate information and does not identify anyone.

      It doesn't matter if you give out enough information to that people can figure your identity or the course number, because the confidentiality policy is for the protection of student records and students' personally identifying information---neither of which is leaked by or deducible from this diary.

      Linking to a news article is journalism in the same sense that putting a Big Mac on a paper plate is cooking.

      by Caj on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 09:27:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't make it a bigger deal for you than it is (3+ / 0-)

    I graduated from a university, one of the leading scientific and medical institutions in the world, that had no honor code, and to my knowledge still doesn't.  Cheating happened, and it didn't happen because students were lazy, but because the culture of the institution fostered hyper-competitivity among students.  Students cheated because they needed the extra, minor edge it got them among their peers, and they got quite good at it -- learning to randomize errors in lab work, for example, so that professors wouldn't suspect, as in your example, that multiple students turned in the same work.  

    Cheating does help, and that's why people do it, and the skills to do it well will help them throughout their lives, as unfortunate as it sounds to say that.  It helps a lot for undergraduates who face competitive pressures to get into the best grad schools, or into med schools at all. But students aren't the only ones who cheat, regrettably --  professors do it in their research, and versions of cheating occur in the private sector and in government even much more frequently.  People make things up and fudge the facts because their jobs often depend on it, so students learning to cheat in college is neither the worst thing in the world, nor is it excusable.  It's just something that happens.

    If your college has an honor code, and the code provides for a second chance, I think it's obvious what you should do -- follow the protocol and give them zeros on the exam.  But don't get bent out of shape about it -- it's actually a pretty minor thing for a teacher to have to deal with and won't make that big of a difference in their lives or in yours, so I would advise not spending more energy than just the simple paperwork you need to do to follow your employer's protocol for it.

    •  You sound like my husband, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      who taught for 38 years, mostly in high school. (and that's a compliment.)

      Thanks for your perspective. I agree with you intellectually, and once I've have met with them, I'll be done with it. Plenty of other things to do!!


  •  Interesting story on cheating (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA

    the Navy used to administer the Enlisted Advancement Exams Navy-Wide on the same "day".  Sadly, some of the enlisted folks from the Philippines used the clock to their advantage, they'd get the exam questions from the folks who took it "earlier" the "same" day, and there was a huge scandal when it was finally confirmed (it had been suspected for quite some time, but I think an informant finally provided the mechanics to the Naval Investigative Service).

    Needless to say, the Navy fixed the problem, but it was endemic for probably at least a decade back in the 70's-80's.

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 10:56:42 AM PDT

  •  20 years ago, in college algebra (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA, Cassandra Waites

    I saw a student near me palming a crib sheet. I was pissed, but rather than tell him, I told the professor. Shame on me for that; I've learned since then.

    The professor said, "You know, this is serious, and he could be expelled for that." We stared at each other and that was that. I hope he fired a warning shot across the cheater's bow, though.

    Around the same time, I would help my husband correct papers in his high school foreign language class (I was also trained to teach that language). If I saw illogical duplication of errors, I piled up the papers with those errors and gave the lot of them an "F: cheating." At other times, depending on the grade weight of the assignment, we would chalk it up to "collaborative learning" in daily work. It all depended.

    And I remember in a freshman writing class in college, a woman 25 years my senior cribbed her entire short story from a Twilight Zone episode. She got an A. I told her I loved it, and that she was a flagrant plagiarist. She just snickered.

    All this pre-internet. I have no idea how teachers cope these days.

    Sometimes a .sig is just a .sig

    by rhubarb on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 12:48:19 PM PDT

  •  Logic says that one of the students was just wrong (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Melanie in IA

    and that the other two cheated off him/her. Don't punish the wrong student, just the cheaters. Now you only have to figure out which one wrote down the wrong answer first, and which two then cheated.

    Do not assume the middle one was wrong first and that the other two copied his/her answer. (That would be cheating.)

    Voting Republican is a luxury that very few Americans can afford.

    by Says Who on Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 06:45:28 PM PDT

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