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Dartmouth professor alleges mass cheating

About 40 Dartmouth College students may be charged with cheating on a homework assignment in a computer science class taught by a visiting professor from North Carolina State University.

Rex Dwyer — who is teaching Dartmouth's computer science survey course, "The Concepts of Computing" — announced to his class last Thursday that he believed students copied answers from an online answer key and used information given to them by teaching assistants to complete the assignment.

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Some students, whose names have not been released to Dartmouth's Judiciary Affairs Officer, allegedly downloaded the answer key from the course's Webpage — on which Dwyer had forgotten to restore the security lock — and then copied the key, Dwyer said in an interview yesterday.

"I imagine that, with so many people involved, it was not all done by individual speculation," he said, adding that he became suspicious that students had cheated after being notified by an anonymous source Feb. 7, two days before the assignment was due.

Other students may be charged with cheating for not citing information received from the teaching assistants, Dwyer added.

"Dartmouth has a strict policy on citations, including any work that the student receives from a TA," Dwyer said. "If the student uses TA information, he is obliged to acknowledge that on his assignment."

Scot Drysdale, chair of the Dartmouth computer science department, told The Dartmouth yesterday that he does not agree with Dwyer on this accusation. "We disagree on that. The students who got that help [from TAs] were not in violation of any Honor Code policy," he said in an interview with Dartmouth's campus newspaper.

Dwyer said the incident has led him to alter his future plans. "I was supposed to research during the spring term, but Dartmouth is no longer a comfortable place for me and I would like to return home to North Carolina," he said, adding that he has temporarily postponed his office hours and is no longer teaching his second course.

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"The assignment was extra difficult," said Dartmouth freshman Michael Perry. "We really have not learned anything in class or from the readings, so it was really hard to know where to start. You really needed someone to go through it with you."

Princeton students are also encouraged to attend review sessions run by teaching assistants, according to James Percy '01, a TA in the computer science department. "Students are completely encouraged to get help and to use the resources available from the TAs," Percy said.

"How much help a TA gives depends on the student's understanding of the problem," he said. "But if it comes down to the TA sitting down and writing the code for him, then that is inappropriate. TAs can give suggestions, detect bugs or talk about the problem in general."

Dwyer's assignment was one of six homework assignments that make up three to five percent of a student's final grade in the course. The project was to complete a program that ran a memory game similar to "Concentration," Dwyer said.

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Dwyeris now going through all of the assignments and naming students who he thinks cheated on their homework. "That's the trick," Dwyer said. "I don't know how many students exactly cheated on the assignment. I have to search through them and compare their answers."

Accusations

When Dwyer makes his formal accusations, the case will be turned over to Dartmouth Judiciary Affairs Officer Marcia Kelly. She will then decide with the dean of the college if the case should be brought before the college disciplinary committee, which is made up of students, faculty and administrators.

"If a member of the faculty suspects that a student has cheated, that professor is obligated to report it to the department chair, who is then obligated to bring it to me. The professor cannot resolve the problem on his own with his class," Kelly said, adding that she expects to receive the case in the near future.

"The punishment could range from a warning, which is a slap on the wrist, to permanent separation from the school," Kelly said. "Cases involving the honor principle usually result in suspension of some length of time."

Princeton computer science chair Kenneth Steiglitz said he could not recall any recent incidents when University students violated the honor code on a homework assignment.

"When a professor gives an assignment, he explains what is allowed and what isn't," Steiglitz said. "Sometimes a professor will let students collaborate, other times students are not allowed to talk to anyone while completing a project. The rules are spelled out."

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