Monday, May 14, 2007

Cheating at Columbia

Cheating stories are practically becoming a weekly feature. What with the locals (Shi Huang cheating in AP Biology at Kent Roosevelt HS) and the nationals (Duke’s MBA program), and now more from Columbia.

Only now, it’s the professors acting as facilitators, by giving out key information on the contents of the exam. Unsurprisingly, this information made the rounds pretty quickly, so lots of students are implicated:

“The professor - identified by students as Wen Jin - told dozens of students in her Literature Humanities section which passages from the books they'd studied throughout the year would be included in last Friday's exam, members of the class told The Post.

The information instantly spread across the campus when ‘study guides’ containing the teacher's sneak peak at the exam topics were e-mailed and left in dorms, caf├ęs and at a football game, students said.

‘It spread like wildfire,’ said 18-year-old Jessica Nevitt, who knew about the ‘guide,’ but decided to take the test without using it.”

The real victims of of all of this are the students. The first group – the cheaters – get an easy out. My guess is that they can’t be easily identified, but Columbia is already given up on disciplining them. The second group – those who didn’t cheat – see the grading curve wrecked by the cheaters who had an unfair advantage. The larger set of Columbia students see the value of their degrees begin to erode as the school’s reputation is tarnished by both cheating scandals and brownshirt thuggery.

Columbia’s response, that students can take the grade based on the coursework without the exam, or re-take the exam, doesn’t help much either. If you were a cheater, you get another shot. If you didn’t cheat, but needed a good exam grade to bring up your course grade, you have to prep all over again, and hope that the new exam isn’t worse than the first one.

And now the Post is reporting that the cheaters are outraged at the prospect of not directly benefiting from their cheating. Next they’ll be taking a page out of Shi Huang’s parent’s playbook and get lawyered up.

Just to add fuel to the fire, Columbia’s journalism school was hit with a cheating scandal only last December. The exam topic? Ethics.

Just goes to show that by the time people hit college and graduate school, it’s too late to start teaching basic right from wrong.