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Officials continue investigation into cheating incidents

STANFORD -- Stanford University's Judicial Affairs Office has made little progress in determining which students, if any, may have cheated on their winter quarter final exams in geophysics and philosophy.

Students in March anonymously alerted instructors to possible Honor Code violations in Geophysics 04 ("Natural Hazards and Man") and Philosophy 5B, a "Cultures, Ideas and Values" course.

In each course, it was alleged that some students who took the regularly scheduled final examination had received information about the questions from students who took the exam early. In the geophysics course, 13 of 173 students took the exam early; in the philosophy course, 17 of 187 did so.

Judicial Affairs officer Sally Cole and her assistant have since met or spoken with about 40 students who were in the courses. "We've heard a lot of concern, anger directed at the dishonest students, a few consistent but imprecise rumors, but little in the way of useful information," she said.

"The instructors and I are continuing to lean on these students with all the moral pressure that we can exert, but so far there have been no tangible results."

Students from the courses, returning from spring break, were informed of the situation in letters sent March 25 by Cole, geophysics Chairman Mark Zoback and philosophy Professor John Perry.

Geophysics students were given three options: they could retake the exam, take their midterm exam grade as their final grade, or accept a "pass" for the class.

The Philosophy Department initially took more of a wait-and-see approach to see if the culprits could be identified, then decided April 12 to go ahead and count the final exams anyway.

Under Stanford's Honor Code, which dates from 1921, students collectively accept responsibility for their honesty, and faculty do not take extraordinary measures to detect student dishonesty. Most Honor Code violations result in a one-quarter suspension from the university and loss of credit in the course.

Cole said that even if the dishonest students cannot be identified, the incident has "at least raised awareness about the Honor Code" and encouraged students "to discuss issues of fairness and honesty that tend not to get attention in the usual course of events."

She added that "many faculty are rethinking their views about early examinations and the conditions under which they should be given. Two committees will be examining the need for policy guidance in this area. So, on the whole, we're getting some good educational mileage out of a couple of sad events."



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