The first class I taught at UB shocked me in a number of ways, not least of which was the size of the class or the amazing rudeness of some of the students. But I was most surprised by the flagrant plagiarism and cheating on exams. I was shocked because, in my naive mind, these students were juniors and seniors and should have already been tossed from the university if they had been doing this all along. I didn’t realize just how endemic cheating is to universities, and how much it is an expected part of the process. I’ve been a proponent of being tough on those who plagiarize, and enforcing some protections to try to minimize cheating.
When I insist on assigned seating for exams, no headphones, no hats (I caught two people with notes in the brims of their ballcaps that first semester), the students think I’m an ogre. During one class, my TAs and I watched as someone copied answers from his girlfriends exams. He looked down at me in the front of the class, looked me in the eye, and then went back to copying answers. In one exam, I had to write on the board “please stop cheating.”
Circuit City is selling, for three bucks, a UV pen with a small UV light on the back that you can use to mark your personal effects for identification by the police if they are stolen. It is not a surprise that a number of the comments note that this can be used to write on the skin and then revealed at opportune moments.
At some point, the spy v. spy effort to contain cheating seems to occupy far more time than it is worth, and you fear you are neglecting the students who really are there to learn. In many ways, the propensity for students to cheat on the exams is a symptom of an educational system that has failed. If we cannot teach our students the value of learning, rather than the value of the GPA, we really are not very good at our job.