A leader of tomorrow:
“This is college. Everyone cheats. Everyone cheats in life in general. I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn’t cheated on an exam. They’re making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if it were to teach us some kind of moral lesson.”That’s Konstantin Ravvin, a student at the University of Central Florida, commenting on a cheating scandal in professor Richard Quinn’s senior-level business-management course. Yes, the students involved — perhaps 200 of 600 — are seniors.
Konstantin Ravvin may be right about as if. The Orlando Sentinel reports that “Quinn brokered a deal with the business dean that would allow students to clear their records if they owned up to cheating before the rewritten exam started being administered this morning.” You read right: everyone gets to take the midterm again. That’ll teach ’em.
How might students get hold of an exam and its answer key? By breaking and entering? Sort of. If a comment at Inside Higher Ed is to be believed, students found the midterm and answer key online. Margaret Soltan draws the reasonable inference that the midterm was a canned exam, something supplied by a textbook publisher.
The University of Central Florida recently made the news for its efforts to stop cheating, which include surveillance cameras in “testing centers” and a ban on gum-chewing during exams.
[To readers visiting from this page:
From my perspective, one kind of cheating (if giving a pre-fab exam is cheating) doesn’t legitimize another. Two wrongs (if giving a pre-fab exam is wrong) don’t make a right. I’ve removed the final parenthetical sentence from the next-to-last paragraph — “(Everyone cheats!)” — so as to remove any confusion about whether I think cheating is ever acceptable. It is not, though cheating, like irony, abounds. I do think that Mr. Ravvin’s skepticism about moral lessons is reasonable: allowing a do-over here, because so many students cheated, seems to me to teach a very odd lesson about strength in numbers.]
Update, November 18, 2010: Details emerge in Inside Higher Ed:
What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test. . . .It turns out that Professor Quinn is on tape stating at the start of the semester that he creates the midterm and final examinations for the class. Thus the defense offered above — which seems a pretty feeble one.
[M]any have noted that the students’ initial intent was less troubling than their conduct once they realized they had an advance copy of the test. No one raised his or her hand during the test to acknowledge having had a copy of it, and the incident came to light only after Quinn statically analyzed the scores and saw that they ran a grade-and-a-half higher than in the past.
In my experience, academic misconduct has a simple explanation: the student doesn’t expect to be caught, an expectation stemming from cluelessness, hubris, or both.
Related reading and viewing
“This is college. Everyone cheats.” (The Cap Times)
UCF Students Busted for Cheating (ABC News)
[Thanks to Stefan Hagemann for pointing me to this story.]