Dartmouth drops charges against med students accused of cheating

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An Ivy League school has shut down its investigation of medical students after accusing them of cheating on online exams.

The dean of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine apologized in an email to the school community to the 17 students accused of cheating in March.

“I have apologized to the students for what they have been through and I believe the best course of action is to dismiss the charges,” Geisel Dean Duane Compton wrote in the email sent Wednesday.

Dartmouth accused the 17 students of cheating earlier this year based on a review of some of their online activity on Canvas – a learning management system widely used by universities.

The school claimed that during a closed-book exam conducted online, the students had access to other web-based course materials at the same time.

But opposition came from students and alumni, as well as from the wider academic community, who claimed that the data used by Dartmouth was misinterpreted and did not show that the students had cheated.

The dean of Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine has apologized in an email to the school community to the 17 students accused of cheating in March

The dean of Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine has apologized in an email to the school community to the 17 students accused of cheating in March

Canvas allows professors to post resources and assignments for their students, who in turn can submit their work online and remotely through the system.

The school soon dropped cases against seven of the students after at least two alleged that administrators mistook automated Canvas activity for human fraud.

Now Dartmouth has dropped the charges against the remaining ten students, who previously faced expulsion, suspension, course failures and misconduct against their academic records that could have ended their medical careers.

The school has now offered 10 of the students who were sanctioned in April the opportunity to appeal the decision.

The decision to drop the charges came after a months-long investigation that initially resulted in a Geisel committee recommending that three students be expelled from the country and others be given less sentences.

The students argued that the medical school misinterpreted the data on their use of Canvas, which the university used to track students’ activities without their knowledge.

Geisel Dean Duane Compton (pictured) apologized in an email to the medical students on Wednesday for the false charges of cheating that allowed them to be suspended

Geisel Dean Duane Compton (pictured) apologized in an email to the medical students on Wednesday for the false charges of cheating that allowed them to be suspended

This was unusual, as Canvas was not designed as a forensic tool, according to the New York Times, whose own review found that the student’s Canvas activity could automatically generate data even when it was not being used.

With the clash that turned the Ivy League school into a battleground over increasing surveillance of schools and students during the Covid pandemic, Dartmouth’s practices were condemned by some of the school’s alumni, along with some of the faculty and other medical officers. students – sparking protests on campus.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) wrote: “It was a trial in which Dartmouth appeared to have seriously misunderstood or deliberately ignored the very complicated data it used as the basis for his accusations against the students. .’

Dartmouth’s use of Canvas raised questions, technology experts said, and while some students could have cheated, it would be challenging for school boards to tell the difference between cheating and non-fraud.

That was because of the kind of snapshots of Canvas data Dartmouth used, according to the New York Times.

Some of the accused students said Dartmouth had limited their ability to defend themselves as they were given a 48-hour time limit to respond to the allegations.

A screenshot of a Canvas dashboard.  Students have been denied access to the remote learning platform for cheating during exams, and have now been cleared of the charges

A screenshot of a Canvas dashboard. Students have been denied access to the remote learning platform for cheating during exams, and have now been cleared of the charges

They were also not given full access to the datalogs for their exams, were advised to plead guilty despite maintaining their innocence, and in some cases were given only two minutes to argue their case in online hearings, according to six of the students. and The Times, after reviewing documents.

But in an April interview, Dr. Compton argued that the school’s use of identifying potential cheating was fair and valid, arguing that administrators had already provided the students with the evidence on which the allegations were based.

He also denied the claim that those who said they had not cheated were encouraged to plead guilty.

With the clash that turned the Ivy League school into a battlefield over the increasing surveillance of schools and students during the Covid pandemic, Dartmouth's practices were condemned by some of the school's alumni, along with some of the faculty and other medical officers. students - leading to protests on campus

With the clash that turned the Ivy League school into a battlefield over the increasing surveillance of schools and students during the Covid pandemic, Dartmouth’s practices were condemned by some of the school’s alumni, along with some of the faculty and other medical officers. students – leading to protests on campus

But in his email from Wednesday, he took on a less combative tone.

“As we look to the future, we need to ensure fairness in our honor code review process, especially in an academic environment with more distance learning,” the dean wrote. “We will learn from this and we will do better.”

In the statement from FIRE, Foundation Program Officer Alex Morey said the school needed to put in place policies to protect the rights of its students.

Dartmouth’s new commitment to ‘restore confidence’ among the students it has wrongly accused in this case should begin by promising a fair trial to all prospective students who may face a similar allegation of misconduct. said Morey.

“When it comes to trust, a fair trial offers it: giving everyone involved the confidence that when a school achieves a result in an investigation into misconduct, it is a fair result.”

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