Monday, September 7, 2009
No - I was not the one cheating, if that's the first thing that came to your mind.
Dartmouth College has an Academic Honor Principle (AHP), because of which professors are not supposed to proctor exams, and it is assumed that students will not cheat. At the beginning of each course, professors typically hand out a syllabus which includes any additions they would like to add to the honor code (i.e. their definition of what constitutes cheating). While noble in concept, this code was broken many times in my own experience.
For example, in my freshmen year, I was taking a mathematics courses (wherein the majority of students were taking this course as it is a required course for anyone wishing to study engineering or the hard sciences). The professor gave a two-part final exam, one part to take home, and one to be given normally in-class. The average grades on each, respectively, were around 95% and 75%. Now one might argue that this large difference does not mean anything by itself, as this could be indicative of a difference in difficulty, or because of the much greater time period available to complete the take-home examination.
However, the fact that clinches is was, the night before the take-home portion was due, I was walking through a very public area in order to grab a snack, when, lo and behold, to my surprise there were a large group of classmates from my math class collaborating on something. Again, this does not constitute evidence of any sort. What does serve as evidence though is that, one of them recognized me as being a member of the class, and asked if I'd like to join them in working on the exam together.
Now the part that surprised and shocked me was not that he was asking me to cheat on the exam, nor even that so many people were doing it, but rather, the fact that he assumed that he could openly ask me to cheat (barely even knowing me) and expect me to join in or, at the very least, not expose the group. What sort of thinking could possibly drive him to be so audacious in his proposal to me, except for the fact that his entire way of thinking was that every student cheats and its ok?
I kindly declined the offer and did not report the incident, as I felt it would violate some sense of personal honour. I no longer remember who was in that class, or who was working at that table, nor do I care. I did well in that course, and I hope everyone else did too, whether they cheated or not.