Cheating…some old stories never change

This story is a little old, but it probably (and unfortunately) will still be relevant for years to come.  Check it out and share your thoughts. (original post courtesy of Prof. Paul Hillier, University of Tampa) 

The story received international attention. A business professor at the University of Central Florida claimed that at least a third of his class had cheated on a midterm exam. Certainly not the first time a professor has accused students of cheating, but this instance included at least 200 seniors, who if caught would of course not graduate. Oh, and that the professor’s lecture to the students about cheating was posted to YouTube and then quickly became viral may have added to it being a subject of news reports across the globe.

In case you missed it, here are a couple news reports:

“Cheating Scandal Shakes UCF Business Class” by WESH Channel 2 News (Orlando);

“200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant” posted online by The Telegraph.

You also can view Professor Richard Quinn’s entire lecture to the class.

The story raises a number of ethical questions, including the most obvious about “cheating,” put in quotes to highlight that some people (most often students themselves) find the term subjective. How can we determine an ethics for cheating when the concept itself is debatable? Has the digital era complicated traditional notions of cheating? A number of students have taken issue with the fact that the midterm administered was made-up entirely of questions from a “test bank” provided by the publisher of their textbook, which included both the questions and answers.

A student, or some students, posted a YouTube response to the professor, which is also summarized in this news story:

“‘Cheating’ University of Central Florida Students Defend Themselves” posted on urlesque.com.  [broken link]

While there are indeed a great number of ethical questions tied to this story (and I encourage you to note and explore some in your comments!), I’m particularly interested in the ethical dimension related to the video itself; the Professor’s actions along with the students’ reactions. I ask you: was it ethical for the Professor to “post” the video accusing the students of cheating? Should this have been handled more “privately?” Are there any problems here? (What if I’m looking to hire a person and I notice a prospective employee took this very class? Might that influence my decision?)

I look forward to reading your comments!

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20 Responses to Cheating…some old stories never change

  1. Melissa Tantillo says:

    In this case of cheating at The University of Central Florida, there are a number of unethical aspects. The obvious unethical aspect being the cheating itself. Cheating is not only unethical but it affects those around you as well. In this case of cheating, students were affected to the point where they felt the need to notify the professor. As for the professor’s retaliation video, I do believe it was unethical as well. From the standpoint of the professor, I can understand his frustration and his intentions to get his voice heard but that was not the way to do it. This video can now be seen by the world, as it has. This professor should have addressed this issue in class. This professor also should have addressed those with the highest grades one on one to try to pinpoint which students actually cheated.

  2. Eric Schnetzer says:

    I definitely can see how the students validated the reasoning to make them think that cheating was okay. While in college, a lot of students experience a lack of time due to extracurricular activities, clubs, and out of school jobs. Because of this, the students’ way of cheating was a way to get more time to do what was more important to them.

    I also see how the Professor could be at fault for using a set of exam questions that weren’t his own. I personally find it difficult when a professor teaches directly from somebody else’s work (such as Pearson).

    I see that both sides of the story have their defenses, but in the end I believe cheating is wrong. But, I can agree that time is a precious thing in college. And a lot of students’ priorities may be out of whack.

  3. Emily Dorso says:

    While the actions of the students at the University of Central Florida are understandable, cheating on their midterm exam is unethical. The fact that the professor used test bank questions for the exam is frustrating, but it is not a justification for utilizing the answer bank for the midterm. It is the professor’s prerogative to conduct the class as he deems fit.

    In regards to the professor’s video, I believe it is dramatic, but definitely gets his point across. He specifically points out in his video that not the whole class was cheating, therefore alleviating the entire class’ guilt. While only approximately one-third of the class was cheating on the midterm, it was a serious issue that needed to be addressed to the class in its entirety, since its consequences affected each member of the course.

  4. jake kauffman says:

    In the Case of the UCF cheating scandal there are a number of unethical decisions being made. For one the cheating, students go to school to learn so if they cheat on their tests then they are cheating themselves out of an education. For teachers this should be a decision for the kids, If the kids wanna mess around and cheat and not get anything out of school then so be it. They will learn the hard way that they should of done it right. Another unethical decision would be from the teacher. He shouldn’t of blown up their spot via webcam. Personally I feel as if that is unprofessional. He is supposed to protect these kids, not physically but from the public.

  5. enma.pineda says:

    I personally think this whole situation was unethical.

    To begin with, I have always believed that professors should come up with their own test questions. When teaching from a book, it is easy to put in your own opinions, your own thoughts and experiences, and that may differ from what the author originally intended. The question bank is there for reference, to know what points were the most important in the eyes of the author. If you cannot even come up with your own questions based on what your class discussed, what are you really teaching? You are just regurgitating words from a text.

    Then there are the students: Cheating is cheating. I’m aware that today’s students are different then the generations before us. The generation before us didn’t have to grow up as quickly as we did- in my opinion. We have full time jobs, and attend school full time, as well. It does get tough, and as students we do try our best to be efficient with our time. I personally always study from the “tests” at the end of the chapters, to make sure I got the main points. Who is to say the student who stumbled upon the test bank wasn’t looking to do the same? Again, if the professor wouldn’t have used the test bank, students could have access to that freely and openly (as they in fact did in this situation) and could have used it as a reference, instead of using it as a copying tool.

    I think the professor should have gone about this privately. He acted too quickly, instead of thinking “how could this have happened?”

    Now, I am not defending the students, but I always think it is effective to find the root of the problem, and the students weren’t it.

  6. gina saccone says:

    I find this a very difficult situation to validate the ethical sense of. We all know that cheating is in no way tolerable, especially in a college environment, but the way the students defended themselves with the excuses that the bank was available to them online gives the idea that in fact they don’t believe they cheated.

    Many students feel that they lack time to study for certain classes, especially if they are less important to them. The way that the professor used a test that he did not even take the time to make on his own also shows that he is not giving all his attention to the class.

    I feel that the professor and students both went about this situation the wrong way, the problem in this situation was not only the students but also the teaching methods being held at the University.

  7. alana.kohn says:

    In this case it is very easy to play devil’s advocate. On the one hand everyone knows that cheating is wrong and unacceptable, especially in an academic setting. But on the other hand, the professor did not create the test himself and he had to know that the “test bank” was easily accessible to his students.

    The overall point is that cheating can only benefit you in the short run. Eventually it will catch up to you once you discover that you have not learned what you were supposed to. Everyone knows that cheating is wrong. When someone is debating whether to cheat or not, they aren’t debating whether it’s right or wrong. They are debating whether on not they can get away with it.

    In the case of UCF, the students who cheated not only hurt themselves but they also hurt their professor, who might have known that the “test bank” was available but decided to put his faith and confidence in his adult students. They also hurt their peers who did not cheat by making them have to take another test.

  8. Claire Handville says:

    Deciding if something is ethical or unethical is extremely difficult. That verdict varies depending on our personal experiences, and expectations of humanity. Personally, I do not believe it was unethical of the Professor to post a video accusing the students of cheating. To me, the word “unethical” means doing something illegal, dishonest, or morally unacceptable. I think this video going viral was a good way to bring attention to the problem of cheating. I have read in other comments that people believe this situation should have been handled privately, or that this video was dramatic. I have to disagree. The students who cheated CHOSE to do something unethical. They knew that if they got caught, there would be consequences. This video is a consequence. I also like that the lecture was in video form because you could hear the disappointment in the Professor’s voice. And I think that is what this video is about more than anything. Disappointment. College students are intelligent enough to identify cheating as unethical, but decided to do so anyway.

  9. Alex Lieberman says:

    I think the situation was unethical. Cheating should not be tolerated whatsoever. Students go to school to get an education and they are hurting themselves and can hurt other students around them if they are making poor decisions. I do understand why the teacher made the video for the students to learn the hard way as a consequence, but I personally think that the professor made an unethical decision and should have handled the situation differently. Making a web video go viral was not the right thing to do at all. I also think that the professor should have came up with his own test questions. Even though the students shouldn’t have found the answers and cheated on the test having the teacher come up with questions of his own could have prevented this whole thing from happening.

  10. Mark.Sugden says:

    Like many of my classmates have said before me, cheating is the most unethical idea in this situation. Even though university students struggle with other classes, jobs, extracurriculars while trying to maintain a social life, cheating is something that we are told and taught not to do since elementary school. You do not gain anything from cheating, which was something we discussed in class.

    I feel like Alana put it best when she said, “In the case of UCF, the students who cheated not only hurt themselves but they also hurt their professor, who might have known that the “test bank” was available, but decided to put his faith and confidence in his adult students. They also hurt their peers who did not cheat by making them have to take another test.”

    Many of my teachers in high school used these quizzes, and one even left the answers on his desk. The majority of the class decided to look and in return, the majority of the class passed the test. The teacher then decided to give the whole class a new test, even though some of the students did not look at the answers left on the desk. Even though it is partially unfair to punish those who did not look, it is the only fair way to make sure those who truly knew the material get the same grade, and the students who have cheated and not come forward to get the grade they deserve.

    Although some students say that the video and the whole test the professor gave due to it being a ‘test bank question quiz’ was unethical, I feel like he had the right to do so. The video serves as a lesson and as a teaching tool to scare future students out of cheating. The video was also proven to work, seeing as 200 students came forward to admit they cheated.

    Like Claire mentioned, I do not believe that the professor was in the wrong for making a video accusing the students of cheating he had the data to back it up. The professor also worked out a deal with the Dean of the school and worked out a punishment.

    According to The Telegraph article, ‘200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant’ by Alastair Good, “The deal is you can either wait it out and hope that we don’t identify you, or you can identify yourself to your lab instructor and you can complete the rest of the course and the grade you get in the course is the grade you earned in the course. Prof Quinn also added a requirement for those who came forward complete a four hour course in ethics. In return there would be no permanent record of the cheating,”

    It seems like a totally fair punishment for those who have cheated and come forward. Professors leave their trust in us to come into exams knowing the material and to not cheat on it. If there are harsh rules against cheating, I feel like it will happen less. However, unless there are camera directly watching us (like UCF has) someone will always find a way to cheat because it it so accessible (phones, water bottles, professors not watching closely). Professors should be able to have trust in us, but it is hard for them knowing the creative ways people come up with to cheat now.

  11. elizabeth blount says:

    I find both parties to have acted unethically, the professor and the students. Cheating on the exam was wrong. I can understand the students’ displeasure with the professor’s dishonesty on his exam prep methods. However, the students should have gone to their school if they were displeased with the Professor’s methods of creating an exam. Two wrongs don’t make a right. I didn’t see an explanation for how the students secured the exam questions from the publisher either, so that may have been unethical as well. I find the professor’s public shaming of the students to be unethical as well, and believe it could have been handled privately.

  12. paul.teresi says:

    As a current college student, I can see the rationale for cheating. However, every student has different ideals and defintions when it comes to cheating. For me, I believe cheating is simply not being dishonest or lacking integrity in your work, and it is my own morals and beliefs that prevent from partaking in it. My favorite part of the article was the question “How can we determine an ethics for cheating when the concept itself is debatable?”

    Obviously I was not in this teacher’s class so I don’t know his definition/personal policy on cheating or the emphasis he placed on cheating but I do believe that he was just in his actions. This article has made me ponder though and question my own professors and their policies with cheating. Especially with last week being syllabus week, I realized that none of my teachers really went into detail with their policies. Like the article pointed out, the definition of cheating is debatable, and with changes in technology, I think it is important for teachers to talk about what is cheating in their classes and that can help preventing a situation like this one.

  13. Kinane Palamittam says:

    Cheating is as we all know…WRONG. I believe that with the case of UCF students cheating on their midterm and being called up on it was a terrible thing to happen not just to the professor and his students but the institute as well. I believe cheating takes place everywhere in today’s society. As a college student I have seen my fair share of cheating and believe that it cannot be stopped or reprimanded most of the time (unless in this case it is fairly obvious).

    However people can have and see an other side to this situation as well. Many college students go through a lot during their time at college and most of time feel either too overwhelmed and stressed with balancing their classes and work. They try to find the easy way out to most of their exams and quizzes and if having the answers to a midterm would get you that so desired “A,” I feel what the professor does not know won’t hurt him.

    In conclusion I believe that the right and ethical thing for the professor to do was to indeed cancel the grades of all his students and not count them as he found out that most of his students cheated. I also feel that posting the video of him telling his students about how he caught them online was very thought provoking and sent the right message that if caught, cheating can many terrible consequences. And finally, I feel that when you are in college having fun, going out on the weekends and relaxing with your friends is part of the experience, but you should realize you are an adult and be more responsible. Resorting to cheating on a midterm rather than actually studying for it properly the night before will not get you too far ahead in life

  14. Christina Scheblein says:

    Our Generation is Cheating Themselves

    Firstly, the professor showed great mercy allowing the students who cheated to stay on track for graduation by making them take a four hour ethics course which in return, there would be virtually no record of the cheating.

    The professor did a good job handling the situation and was more then gracious by giving the students options on how to handle their situation.

    Personally, I think that any form of cheating is unacceptable and should have a zero tolerance policy. Anyone who seriously considers cheating should think long and hard as to why they chose to pursue higher learning in the first place. Cheating makes us lose faith in ourselves and others. As young scholars we should be bright eyed and bushy-tailed to learn, but instead when we cut corners we only add to the stereotypes of being a lazy generation who only looks for the easy way out.

  15. jaclyn lepage says:

    Looking at the situation as a whole, including the teachers video as well as the students cheating, it is overall unethical. I do believe it is hard to establish what is unethical and ethical based on a person’s views and values, but when it comes to cheating there is no question. When you cheat you are not only cheating yourself, but you are causing frustration and upset for your peers who took the time to actually study. In all areas of life from relationships to test-taking, cheating is wrong. It is unethical and I do agree that the students who do get caught shouldn’t be able graduate from cheating on the midterm. It wasn’t just a silly quiz the professor gave, this was a more serious test. I understand that it was too easy to look at the answer bank that the teacher got the answers from, but it’s still not a reason to cheat. The professor should have thought of a different way to organize the test given it was a more serious test. I do understand the professor’s anger towards the students.

    However, the professor completely handled the situation wrong by the way he spoke to them and how it ended up on video. I think it’s great that the video went viral to show future students and regular cheaters how serious the situation is, but it could have been handled differently. The teacher should have addressed the problem by simply saying, “Even if one of you cheats and gets caught, you all have to take the test over. If you studied the way you should, you shouldn’t have a problem re-taking the test.” Then he should have issued the test and that would be the end of it. I understand the students frustration that it isn’t there fault if someone else cheats, but if one person cheats you can never tell how many others did as well.

  16. nicole mcgrory says:

    In this situation, I can understand both the students side of the cheating, as well as the Professor’s, but the entire situation was unethical. After seeing the students explain how they didn’t see this as cheating, but saw it as available information to the public, I can see where they can convince others that it is an easier way for them to study. Being given all the answers, and then sending them to other students is completely unethical, but after watching the video they had made, it is clear that the Professor explained how he writes the tests and how they are his questions.

    With the Professor’s side, I agree that what the students did was wrong and cheating is disrespectful for the Professor, who is taking his time and effort to teach these students. What the Professor did that was unethical was copy the test questions straight from the publisher, after informing his students that the questions were all written by him. Both sides were unethical, but it is easy for them to twist their sides of the story to make them seem correct.

  17. emily chun says:

    Cheating is never ethical in any situation, however, as a student I understand where the UCF students were coming from. Since the professor used questions from a test bank provided by the publisher of the book, I feel that many students wouldn’t see this as cheating. The whole cheating situation was still very wrong and I believe that the professor was very gracious with the options he provided. Still, I think that he handled the whole cheating situation in a very unprofessional and unethical manner. He may have been able to have more students confess about the cheating through posting a video but this is a serious matter that should be handled in private with the school, professor, and students.

  18. jenna podesla says:

    I believe the only people being unethical in this situation were the students that cheated. Although I personally think the professor should have used his own test questions, I wouldn’t consider it unethical for him not to and it certainly does not justify cheating. I understand that it was probably easier for him to use and grade a test that was already made up, considering he has 400 students.

    I think that the students were unethical because cheating is unacceptable. Simply because its not fair to not only themselves, but the professor and the students that did study for the test. Although students can have busy schedules, I don’t anything can justify cheating. I think that it makes more sense if they used the test bank as a reference to study with, since it was available, instead of copying it and using it during the test.

    Lastly, although the professor didn’t need to call the students out on their mistake so publicly, I don’t think it was unethical of him to do so. Clearly, if more than half the class cheated, it’s a pretty big deal. Since not only a few students but a significant amount cheated, I think he publicly announced it so they could understand how serious cheating is. Its not like he called them out name by name.

  19. Gabriela Ortiz says:

    I will be honest. Although I am against cheating because when we cheat, we’re missing out on a learning experience and we’re only are harming ourselves, this is one of those rare, unseen situations where it is very hard to point fingers and say “yeah, the students cheated” or “it was the professors fault.” According to the students claims, Professor Quinn stated at the beginning of the semester that he created his own exams but the test in which all the students cheated was from the same publisher as the book. Wasn’t it then professor the one who promoted an unethical environment since the beginning of the semester? He lied to his students and now he is upset because his students lied back at him. I think the students saw an opportunity and seized it, it was a case of bad means with good intentions.

  20. Steve says:

    So much armchair moralizing about so called ethics here that the real strategic business lesson gets lost in the smoke and mirrors.

    The teacher, as captured on video during the first session, misled the class and materially misrepresented his level of involvement in the product he was providing – to his paying customer – at the outset of the course by bragging that he composed and “wrote” the questions for the course exams – even suggesting some of the questions he writes even he might not be able to answer.

    He did no such thing – he merely cribbed questions from the publically available pool of questions from the publisher of the text them called them cheaters for availing themselves of the same resource they already underwrote by buying the course text.

    The students, as any good business customer, whether at UCF or at Trump U, should have sued the teacher and the University for breaching an implied warranty- in the amount of tuition they paid for the course.

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