Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Cheaters at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

This is disappointing, but because I have such cutting criticism about it when it happens here in Korea, I've got to blog about it when it's happening in my own country.

34 students at Duke's Fuqua Business School were caught cheating on a take-home exam when the professor saw similarities between their answers.

Good grief! I remember the take home exams I got in law school. First, they were a challenge but not impossible. Second, there was never a temptation on my part to cheat on it because it was so complex, Constitutional Law, that I'm sure my professor would have noticed if my work was similar to someone else's. Third, there is no guarantee the person you cheat off of knows it. So guess what? If their answers are wrong, then your answer will be wrong. I get that one all the time when I check my student's homework. I let it slide as enforcement here is different. Instead, when I see it I just write massively difficult exams.

Re these Fuqua students, how bloody stupid and patently un-friggin'-ethical. I just think if you make it that far in the education game the stakes are so much higher that you'd never risk it. Never!

The school has made its decision, but the students can appeal.

Nine of the students face expulsion, according to the ruling, which was distributed within the business school on Friday. Fifteen students were suspended for a year and given a failing grade in the course; nine were given a failing grade in the course, and one got a failing grade on the exam. Four students accused of cheating were exonerated.

The students are likely to appeal and are permitted to attend classes while awaiting decisions, which are expected over the next month.

New York Times: 34 Duke Business Students Face Discipline for Cheating

The bigger problem is the article I read says that the percentage of cheating in grad schools back home is said to be very high. This is from self reports, so you know people are lying too.
National surveys have suggested that cheating is widespread among graduate students. In a survey released last September by a Rutgers University professor, 56 percent of business graduate students admitted having cheated, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law school. More than 5,300 students at 54 universities were surveyed from 2002 to 2004.

“This is self-reported evidence of cheating, so it’s probably underestimated,” said Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers who oversaw the survey.

New York Times: 34 Duke Business Students Face Discipline for Cheating
Honestly, this irritates me because it cheapens the value of my degree and my effort. I hope they get this under control because, as it stands now, I'll be heading home for grad school, part II.

Speaking of tests, that exam I mistakenly started studying for a week ahead of time is tomorrow afternoon. I've got to get myself some dinner and then start drilling problems or I'll be in trouble tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

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  1. I don't think ethical comes into play much any more. I think we live in a society where "making it" is the most important thing.

  2. Yep.

    It permeates every social strata. That's why I think that book on cheating might be on point.

    The reviews I've read say it's paints a dark picture but in an era where over 50% of grad student admit to cheating, well, it might be painting the right picture.

    I mean why not cheat if the rewards are huge and the penalties are slim?

  3. I thought you might find it interesting to know that murmurs here at Fuqua are that almost all of the 34 convicted students were of Asian descent (China and S. Korea)....

  4. Well, I thought about that but Fuqua will always keep their identities secret. While a UCLA friend of mine graduated from there a few years ago, I don't know anyone there right now. I didn't want to speculate.

    It's a huge, huge problem here in Korea. I try to tell my students that while the system here isn't strict on it, back home a "I'm sorry" won't cut it if you're caught. You will get dismissed most likely and you'll be packing your bags to return home. I also stress that letting people cheat from you is also cheating.

    If some of the students are South Korean, I wouldn't be shocked. I just want to stay away from speculating about it because without proof then I'm just a hater ;-)

    However, thanks for the letting me know what the murmurs are (next time create an anonymous profile so you can be a mole...I've got tons of questions.) I know you're probably really from Duke because my blog notes a hit as well as a click over to comments from a Duke IP address around the same time as your comment.

  5. On couple of Chinese websites, the identities of the involved students have
    been found disclosed. Twenty two students' names and their corresponding
    penalties were listed in detail. This leaking, likely being done by a duke
    Chinese fellow, is believed to be against certain federal privacy-protection

    My question is -- is there any potential criminal liability on the leaker?
    Should the leaker be dig out, could those affected students file a group suit
    against him/her asking for compensation? In case the leaking was resulted
    directly or indirectly from the university's certain inadequacy in
    protecting students' records, can those students also sue the university?

  6. Too bad you didn't give the links :-(

    Well, I'm not a practicing attorney which is very different from what I am who is someone who merely graduated from law school.

    My advice? Consult an attorney who specializes in these issues.

  7. expatjane, thank you for your reply. The reason I didn't put any link there is because they are all Chinese websites (the report is identical though). Here are two major ones


    So far I haven't found similar material in any English media.

    I have absolutely no connection to this case, so I won't pursue any lawsuit whatsoever. But just of general curiosity, which I believe your general law school education would be enough to answer, would this kind of leaking make a crime for privacy infringement? I know education institutions are prohibited to release the records for wrongdoing students, but what if it's being done be individuals? Is there a case? Thanks again.

    --- A curious Chinese

  8. Thanks for the links. I ran it through Bablefish to read it in English and, outside of the names, it doesn't give much more info.

    Actually, it's a common misconception that people who went to law school are walking legal encyclopedias.

    We're not. What's more accurate is we've been trained to charge you crap loads of money to navigate legal encyclopedias and sources to make the arguments people need to win their cases.

    Honestly, I just don't know and it would have to look it up. That's why a lawyer who is paid would have the motivation to find it. However, I can give you a link to a site where you might find some general information on privacy laws in the States.

    Findlaw.com: http://injury.findlaw.com/defamation-libel-slander/

    My initial feeling is first you're going to have to figure out who leaked it. Then it's going to come down to that person's resources. Meaning they're not going to go to jail over it, so this would be in a civil court where people are looking for damages (money).

    I doubt the person who released the list has any money. The problem is in doing this, if they're a student and the folks at Duke find out who did it, they're subject to the honor code too. That person just might get kicked out for releasing this information.

    However, if there are any lawyers out there that know more, feel free to comment ;-)

  9. Hey Americans forget about your "federal privacy-protection law". We Chinese will punish them in our own way.

  10. Well, the key word there is "federal".

  11. I don't think they'll have a case. As far as I know, some of those kids protested publicly at Fuqua and handed out leaflets to other students. They themselves exposed their "privacy" to the general public. Fuqua has done nothing inappropriate.

    I find no provision in federal privacy law protecting this type of information.

  12. Thanks for giving some background on it. If they were out protesting, then their privacy is out of the window.

    Also, this would be an issue left to the state's civil court (meaning not the Feds), but passing out leaflets to protest means they weren't concerned about privacy earlier in the game.

  13. According to the Duke Chronicle, it looks as if an attorney is now involved alleging that there is something fishy about the fact that such an overwhelming number of the people charged with cheating were Asian.

  14. Thanks for the tip. It looks like he's just representing them in the Duke appeals process and it's not headed to court...yet.

    I found the article: http://media.www.dukechronicle.com/media/storage/paper884/news/2007/05/24/News/Questions.Raised.In.Fuqua.Case-2907472.shtml

    "There is something else going on here, something that needs to be explained before we go forward with this, because it doesn't look right," lawyer Robert Ekstrand, who filed appeals last week on behalf of 16 students, told The Raleigh News & Observer Tuesday.

    Yeah, okay and when the school gets their own witnesses to testify about the cultural context and how it differs from the US: Confucianism, guanxi (关系), the pressure when you get to that level to succeed or else and the general attitude here that cheating isn't THAT bad of a thing we'll see how Ekstrand's appeals go from there. If he takes it to court, honestly, the law suit might not be worth the pleading paper it's printed on.

    Thanks for the update.


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