Just like all of life, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the college experience as well. College students across the country made the switch from mostly in-person classes and exams to virtual learning and online test-taking. Not surprisingly, online testing presents a challenge to university academic integrity and honor codes. Recently, a professor accused more than 200 students in an upper-level North Carolina State University statistics course of cheating and academic integrity violations.
Cheating at NC State
The controversy arose when the class moved to distance learning and the final exam to an online platform called Moodle. Professor Tyler Johnson's rules for the final exam prohibited posting exam questions elsewhere, using homework help websites, or coordinating with others to obtain the answers. According to students, an earlier conflicting email from Johnson indicated that exams would be “open to whatever resources you need.”
Students took Johnson's email at face value and posted exam questions to the tutoring site Chegg for help with answers. The professor obtained a list of accounts that accessed his test questions and charged all involved students with cheating and academic integrity violations. He recommended sanctions of zero for the exam, completion of an academic integrity module, and academic integrity probation. As Johnson pointed out, “any student accessing the solutions may have derived a significant advantage over other students, which further emphasizes the importance of fair sanctions for those found responsible.”
Students placed on academic integrity probation will remain on probation throughout their college careers. Students on academic integrity probation may find it difficult to gain admittance to graduate and professional programs such as medical or law school. The probation can also limit students' ability to obtain financial aid or campus employment.
Student Disciplinary Charges and Due Process
As the NC State disciplinary hearings have shown, it can be challenging to ensure that accused students face a fair and unbiased tribunal. NS State's official newspaper, The Technician, reported that several students expressed concern about bias in the Office of Student Conduct during the disciplinary proceedings that have taken place so far. Sarah Sisk, a third-year animal science student, noted, “they keep telling us that it's not a court of law and it's not innocent until proven guilty. It's basically guilty until you're proven innocent and that even if there's a shadow of a doubt that you are guilty of cheating, then they're going to sentence you to the sanctions provided.”
Another accused student, zoology major Rebekah Wright noted, “It kind of seems like the hearing officer took Tyler's side more seriously than mine,” Wright said. “He didn't really say anything rude or anything, but it seemed like he was agreeing with Tyler more than me and not really listening to what I was saying.”
Holding Academic Institutions Accountable
If you or your child are facing academic integrity or other misconduct charges, you need an attorney experienced in student disciplinary proceedings and litigation. The Lento Law Firm can help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has handled hundreds of academic integrity and other student disciplinary cases from investigations to hearings at schools across the country. Call the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.