Dartmouth: 64 Students Cheated

Thursday, January 08, 2015
Hanover — Dartmouth College has charged 64 students, many of them varsity athletes, with honor code violations following allegations of widespread cheating in a sports ethics class.

Department of Religion Chairman Randall Balmer, who in November accused some of his students of misrepresenting their class attendance, said that “with a few exceptions, most of the students were suspended for a term.”

The college’s head of judicial affairs, Leigh Remy, declined to comment, though spokeswoman Diana Lawrence confirmed the number of students facing possible sanctions.

Lawrence said that the college would not make detailed comments on the judicial proceedings until the appeals process ends in mid-January.

According to Balmer, in late October, students who failed to attend class passed off handheld devices known as “clickers” to classmates. Those students then used the gadgets to answer questions on the absent students’ behalf to make it appear as though they were present in class, Balmer said.

Though Balmer said that 43 students — less than the total number of students facing sanctions — handed off their clickers to their peers, some others confessed to him that they had helped their friends cheat.

The course in question was originally intended to help student-athletes, who sometimes had trouble with the coursework at Dartmouth, Balmer said. After a popular first run last year, the fall term’s class swelled to more than 280 students, and attendance and cheating became a problem.

Balmer left Columbia University to teach at Dartmouth in 2012. He also contributes regular essays to the Valley News’ Perspectives section.

In the Dec. 7 Valley News piece “Whatever Happened to Honor at College?”, Balmer argued that the college’s 53-year-old academic honor principle was out of touch with the mores of current-day society, where he said personal advancement outranks abstract moral principles.

“The whole affair is sad and regrettable,” he wrote. “Dozens of students will very likely have a stain on their college transcripts. A level of trust between professor and student, so necessary for effective teaching and learning, has been broken. Dartmouth’s reputation as a first-class educational institution (which it is) has taken a hit, at least in the short term.”

He said that he had first sought to resolve the matter outside of the college judicial process, but that academic regulations forced him to report the students.

Dartmouth’s student handbook outlines the potential sanctions a student faces for honor code violations.

“Given the fundamental nature of the Academic Honor Principle in an academic community, students should expect to be suspended if they engage in acts of academic dishonesty,” it says. “Any student who submits work which is not his or her own, or commits other acts of academic dishonesty, violates the purposes of the College and is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including suspension or separation.”

Additionally, faculty members “may reserve the right to fail the student for the exercise, the course, or both.”

Balmer said in an email Wednesday night that “after many sleepless nights,” he had decided to drop the marks of the accused students by a full letter grade, rather than fail them.

Dartmouth runs on 10-week terms, and as part of the “D-Plan” schedule, students may be away from campus during the year for internships, foreign study programs or other reasons. The college judicial affairs website says that suspended students may not participate in any of Dartmouth’s academic or extracurricular activities, nor may they obtain course credits elsewhere during their punishment.

A spokesman for the athletic department could not be reached for comment Wednesday on whether sports players could see additional sanctions from their coaches.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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