Students in CHM 303: Organic Chemistry I — Biological Emphasis were startled to find out yesterday that some of their classmates may have cheated on Monday's midterm exam.
During yesterday's lecture, a teaching assistant told the class that two exams had gone missing during the early exam period, in which students who couldn't make the regular exam were permitted to sign out a test and work on it for two hours before turning it in.
Additionally, the TA said, a student attempted to erase his or her name from an exam turned in during the early period and then took the test again during the regular period.
Later in the day, lecturer William Chain emailed students in the class about the matter, explaining that one test went missing right after the early period began at 1 p.m., while the other disappeared between 4:45 and 5:30 p.m. "If you were in the exam at that time and observed anything that might assist us in determining the fate of the missing examinations, we urge you to come forward," he said in the email.
Chain said course administrators have determined which student attempted to take the exam twice, but asked that he or she voluntarily confess. "We have ascertained the identity of this student and urge that person to come forward now," his email to the class said.
Chain declined to comment further regarding the incidents. Chemistry professor Martin Semmelhack, the head instructor in the course, and chemistry department chair Robert Cava could not be reached for comment last night.
This isn't the first time cheating on exams has occurred in CHM 303. In fall 2003, tests were also stolen, prompting the course's professor at the time, Maitland Jones, to modify his exam policy so that students taking early or late exams had to give their tests directly to a professor or teaching assistant.
Though there are 272 students in the class, some students expressed disbelief that their classmates would attempt to gain an unfair advantage on the midterm. "I was pretty shocked that students would actually go to the lengths that they did," Paul Ginart '10 said.
In interviews, students in the class said there was no instructor in the room during the exam period, in accordance with Honor Code policy. "I believe one of the preceptors was nearby to answer questions, but otherwise it was fairly unsupervised," Ginart said.
Despite the possibility that multiple students may have cheated, members of the class said they didn't think the exam results would be invalidated. "I doubt they would make us take the test again," Sarah Silvergleid '10 said. "I guess I would be upset that people could do better and upset the curve, but it's probably not really a big deal."
The incident may be a big deal for the cheaters if they are caught, however. Penalties for an Honor Code violation can include a suspension ranging from one to three years for a first offense to expulsion for a second offense.
When a suspected Honor Code violation occurs, the Honor Committee "immediately conducts an investigation," according to "Rights, Rules, Responsibilities." The investigation is fully confidential, and all records of it are destroyed if the accused individual is acquitted.
Honor Committee chair Bennett Glassman '08 declined to comment on the specifics of the recent CHM 303 case, saying his committee must "hold a very high standard of confidentiality for everyone involved."
Because the penalties for Honor Code violations are so severe, some students expressed disbelief that their peers were willing to cheat. "I was pretty shocked that someone would do something so careless and risk their whole academic career ... just to do well on one exam," Silvergleid said.
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