Cheating@MIT: Responsibilities for Reporting and Taking Disciplinary Action
Author(s): Jennifer C. Han
The materials presented here are the results of my research project, which stemmed from my experience that the rule against collaboration on homework is often violated.
I am a senior at a well-known educational institution. This term, I am the grader for a course called Probabilistic Systems. The grading is very straightforward. There are standard answers, and the grades are either + or -. Grades for the problem sets are only considered if the student's final grade, which consists of three exams, is borderline. Basically, the problem sets ensure that students follow in class and TAs can identify students who need extra help. As grades on problem sets may affect a student's final grade, students are not allowed to consult past bibles*. However, constructive collaboration is encouraged and TAs offer help with problem sets during office hours.
My sorority sisters J and K are taking this course. One day, after dinner, I go to the sorority house library to study. J and K are obviously copying answers from past problem sets - in fact, they don't deny the fact when I confront them. J says that copying is not a big deal since grades from problem sets are only counted in the case of borderline grades. K adds that the main reason for taking a class is to learn the material and to show the knowledge on exams - as long as they show their knowledge on the tests, it should not matter if they did not do the problem sets. Although I agree with some of their points, I feel that it is unfair because other students may not have access to past bibles. When I make this point, J retorts that EVERYONE copies, and she even knows specific people in the class who blatantly copy answers to problem sets. Although I feel what they are doing is wrong, I also realize that many other students are probably using bibles and problem sets are not a large part of their grade. Furthermore, reporting them would cause tension in the house. What should I do?
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- Should I report them? If so, who do I report to? The TA, Professor, Dean?
- Should I penalize them myself (such as giving them a '-' on that problem set?) What discretion do graders have when they find out someone is copying answers? Must they go to authorities and deal with the bureaucracy?
- Since J has informed me that she knows specific people who are also cheating, what are my ethical responsibilities in trying to find out who these "cheaters" are?
* At MIT students compile "bibles" which are collections of problem sets and examination questions and answers used as references for later students.
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Cite this page:
"Cheating@MIT: Responsibilities for Reporting and Taking Disciplinary Action"
Online Ethics Center for Engineering
National Academy of Engineering
Accessed: Saturday, May 18, 2013