Students "Forced to Withdraw" from Harvard for Cheating
Plus, Chegg news and notes. Plus, some really, really bad writing on exam security. Plus, International Quick Bites.
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Harvard Kicks Out 27 for Cheating
Cheating is not an isolated problem; it exists at all levels of education and among students of every background.
On that point, the Harvard Crimson, the school’s student paper, had a story this week about a recent new high in students (27) “forced to withdraw” for academic misconduct. The article says:
The Honor Council heard a total of 138 academic integrity cases during the school year. The 2020-2021 school year marked the highest number of cases and withdrawals since the Honor Council came into effect in 2015.
Other noteworthy numbers from Harvard include that about 71% of referred cases of misconduct resulted in a finding of responsibility - 99 of 138. A strong majority of cases - 88 of 138 - involved freshmen. “Plagiarism and exam cheating” were the most commonly cited offenses - 60 cases (43%) involved exam cheating specifically. Further:
An additional 56 students were put on probation, a notice from the College that future violations may lead to more serious consequences. Another 10 students were admonished, a warning that falls short of probation.
I have no idea whether 138 cases and 27 forced withdraws is the right number at Harvard. But the upward trend line feels right.
Moreover, good for Harvard for modeling good policy in disclosing its misconduct numbers and for holding students accountable. Few things do more to deter misconduct than acknowledging that cheating happens and showing that consequences exist.
Chegg News, Notes
There are a few smaller news items on everyone’s favorite cheating profiteer - Chegg. Here they are:
There’s an early December deadline for information related to Chegg cheating in the pending investor class action case (see Issue 163). If you’ve dealt with Chegg cheating in your class or institution, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Chegg Board Member, University President sells shares. And yes, in what should really be a major scandal, they are the same person. Paul LeBlanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University and Board Member at Chegg has reportedly unloaded some $361,000 of Chegg stock - about half his shares. I have no idea what it means.
Chegg announced a partnership with the leading relaxation and mindfulness app, Calm. People who sign up and pay for Chegg’s answers-on-demand service, get Calm for free. It’s part of the company’s marketing push to capitalize on what it says are today’s uniquely stressed students. “We know that students today feel overwhelmed, stressed out, and anxious,” Chegg said in the announcement. College is hard. Cheating is easy. Pay for the answers. Relax.
More Very Bad Research and Writing on Integrity
There is some good, quality research on academic integrity. It exists. And I probably don’t share it or write about it often enough.
But unfortunately, there’s some real garbage out there too - stuff that gets published and written about and repeated. And I have no idea how this is allowed to happen.
Here, from August, are two examples by Sioux McKenna of Rhodes University in South Africa. This absurd piece was somehow published in The Conversation and is unfortunately based on this even more absurd piece by her that someone allowed to be published over at Taylor & Francis Online.
I had them in a forthcoming Special Edition of The Cheat Sheet that I have been pecking at. But I decided to narrow its focus and so will share the McKenna stuff here, now.
At its simplest, she just repeats the junk we’ve heard a hundred times. Remote exam proctoring is racist. It invades privacy. The data is unsafe. Cheating is not a problem, preventing cheating is the real danger.
Specifically, McKenna would prefer we turn off proctoring and have the cheating. Though, in fairness, she says that simply turning off remote proctoring does not go far enough.
In her pieces, she’s actually writing about “neoliberalism” and trying to use remote exam proctoring as its proxy, or a “symptom.” But whatever point the author thinks she’s making about neoliberalism, when gets to test security and proctoring, she instead makes it clear she knows very little about it.
To start, she says “the most popular” proctoring providers are:
Proctoria, Respondus and Proctor U
And so it’s difficult to take her critiques seriously when she gets two of the three company names wrong. Proctoria is not a thing. At least I’ve never heard of it and Google has no idea what it is either.
At first, I thought this was just a typo – a slip of the keyboard between o and a. But nope, it’s “proctoria” in both of her articles - the one in The Conversation and the “research” over at Taylor & Francis. That no editor at either outlet caught it is embarrassing. That it remains uncorrected months later, even by the author, tells me they don’t really care whether it’s right.
As mentioned, she repeats the claims that proctoring tools invade privacy, that they’re racist and ableist, adding:
Anyone with a body shape that does not meet the program’s expectations can find themselves flagged as suspicious.
Excuse me, what? Body shape? Just no.
The artificial intelligence that compares the face on the student card to the person in front of the computer camera is far more likely to flag a suspicion if that student is black than if they are white.
That’s not how that works.
Many American universities have now opted out of proctoring software in response to protests by academics and students.
They have? That’s news to me. Which ones? Do tell.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll stop there with her shorter piece - the one in The Conversation. But it’s the longer piece that gets genuinely bonkers. The first half is about neoliberalism, which I will skip over.
In the long version, there are way more errors. She sources the 2021 story by The New Yorker, for example - the story I awarded the “Worst Piece of Academic Integrity Coverage for 2021” (see this Issue). She cites articles in “The Verge” and in “Slate” and other nonsense. She cites Shea Swauger who has compared remote test proctoring - I am not kidding - to Eugenics, forced sterilization, Nazis, data violence, gender identity and intentional institutional racism and who literally wrote an article titled: “Cheating Doesn’t Matter.”
I share all this to remind that bad “research” on academic integrity is out there, in print, fully available to be lazily cited and sourced and repeated by others. And also to remind that some people in this space are not just anti-proctoring, they are actually pro-cheating.
International Quick Bites
Researchers in Morocco are moving to hold workshops and training for students, researchers and professors after a survey there found plagiarism to be “widespread.”
A long, anti-system rant in The Spectator (AUS) says the Australian education sector is ‘just a sham’ and a place “with plagiarism and cheating rife. Alongside sector-wide contract cheating, there are now common examples of students who’ve faked their way through their entire degree.”
A professor in India has written an article for Education Times in which he says AI and ML can “reduce instances of cheating in exams.”
In Zimbabwe, authorities reported that “more than 100” students were arrested for allegedly sharing a math exam.
Class Note: There will be no Cheat Sheet this Thursday as it’s Thanksgiving in the U.S.