Dozens of students at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire may face disciplinary action for cheating in a sports ethics course, according to the Valley News.
The undergraduate course, “Sports, Ethics, and Religion” was a popular course for athletes at the elite Ivy League school and had nearly 300 students enrolled for the fall term. In the course, students were given hand-held “clickers” they could use to respond to in-class questions.
Professor Randall Balmer noticed there were substantially fewer students attending class than there were answers being submitted via the clickers, indicating that students were cutting class and having classmates submit answers for them to conceal their absence. By taking detailed attendance for one class period, he was able to catch students who were cutting class, while others came forward to confess that they had helped their friends cheat.
Most of the students involved will be suspended for a term, Balmer told the Valley News. Despite the significant ethical failure involved, however, the professor says he decided not to fail the cheating students, instead dropping their final grades by one letter. He says the scandal reflects the general decline of honor as a value in modern society.
“How can we expect students to comport themselves honorably if honor ranks well below such regnant “values” as success, affluence and power?” Balmer wrote in a Valley News column in December, when it was first announced at Dartmouth that students were under investigation. “Given the opportunity, and with little chance of discovery, what student these days wouldn’t trade the nebulous notion of honor for worldly or economic advantage?”
Cheating scandals are hardly unprecedented in competitive Ivy League environments. In 2012, 125 Harvard students were implicated in a cheating scandal involving take-home exams, which led to about half having to withdraw from the college for a year.
Cheating is also a recurring problem with student athletes, with both coaches and players finding it tempting to seek shortcuts that make it easier to handle both a courseload and a tough practice schedule. Recently, the University of North Carolina landed in hot water after it was revealed that many classes in its African-American studies department were bogus courses that never met and were easily passed.