By: David J. Kay  | 

From the Archives (November 28, 1990; Volume 55 Issue 5) — New Proctor to Crack Down on Cheating

Editor’s Note: With Deans at both Yeshiva College and Sy Syms School of Business instituting new reforms to testing protocols and initiatives to combat cheating and reaffirm YU’s commitment to academic integrity, The Commentator has decided to reprint the following article from close to 30 years ago, from a different wave of student discontent with academic integrity and a university push to enhance it.

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Dr. Robert Moss, Professor of Biology, has recently been appointed by YC Dean Rosenfeld as the new Director of Examinations. Moss replaces Mrs. Dobkin, the former head proctor and organic chemistry laboratory instructor who retired at the end of last year.

Moss has immediate plans to reduce the amount of cheating during final examinations through a series of new examination rules. As before, no books or coats will be permitted in examination rooms, and additionally no books or calculator watches will be allowed in. Any exam which permits the use of extra materials beyond a paper and pen will be administered in a separate room, with its own proctor. Students must sign in before and after their exam, and must have their I.D. with them to be shown on request. Moreover, students will not be permitted to re-enter the examination room if they leave before sixty minutes into the exam. Note that this includes trips to the bathroom: After an hour, students may leave for the bathroom only if accompanied by a proctor.

These new regulations come as a response to allegations of widespread cheating during final exams. Most students in the school can attest to having witnessed, or at least gained knowledge of, specific instances of infractions of the examination rules. Many students are said to enter an exam room with answers written on crib sheets or even on their hands. It is the intention of the new proctoring rules to both intimidate students from cheating, and to increase the frequency at which violators are detected.

These problems of cheating and poor proctoring are not new issues. They have been annually discussed in the Yeshiva College & Sy Syms School of Business Uptown Senate for several years. The Senate is a forum consisting of administration, faculty, and students who discuss academic issues relevant to the two undergraduate campuses. Last spring the Senate passed a motion recommending “that faculty take their proctoring seriously.” However, during the final exams that followed, poor proctoring continued to be a problem. According to Dean Rosenfeld, “Many faculty members don’t take proctoring seriously and do not approach it diligently.” Many teachers do not proctor their own exams, a practice that Moss intends to change. “Faculty will be encouraged to live up to their obligations,” resolves Moss, “and aggressively proctor during exams.” Dean Rosenfeld adds that the problem is compounded because “I have not been able to get outside proctors to help,” partially due to the lack of available graduate students on campus.

The problem of cheating is additionally exacerbated because of a degree of leniency on the part of faculty members in levying punishments on apprehended offenders. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells of a retest he took for a midterm he missed. Being left alone in the room, he looked up all the answers in his textbook. It was not until he was finishing the last twenty point question that he was caught. The teacher gave him a zero for that question; he received an 80% on the exam.

Moss himself relates the frustration he underwent after having caught two students redhanded using crib notes on a final exam last year. While he lobbied for maximum punishment, the professor administering the exam decided to be lenient. Both students received lower grades, but neither failed the exam.

This leniency extends beyond faculty to include students themselves. Last year the Senate passed a motion reaffirming that “It is the students’ moral responsibility to report all cheating to the Dean.” In August, YC published a document on “Upholding Academic Integrity,” specifically dealing with the “Definitions of and Consequences for Cheating and Plagiarism.” Pioneered by Professor of English Dr. William Lee and the Senate, it had been in the works for the past four years. This document, already distributed to every undergraduate student by the Dean’s office, explicitly states on the second page:

“If you witness or have other evidence that a fellow student is cheating during an exam, you are morally responsible for immediately contacting a proctor. If you know of specific evidence that a student is guilty of plagiarism or cheating of any kind, you are morally responsible for contacting the professor, if possible, and in any case your Dean.”

While Rosenfeld does expel about on student per year for cheating, and gives many more F’s, he only sees about one student a year coming to inform him about another student. Rosenfeld admitted to the Senate that he has convicted offenders on “the flimsiest circumstantial evidence.” He looks into every instance of cheating brought to his attention, but since he “cannot force people to bring me cases,” the numbers remain low.

Moss is quick to indicate that the root of the problem with cheating at YC, however, is the general attitude of the student body. While “the majority of students elsewhere do not appreciate it when others cheat,” explains Moss, “the majority of students here have come to accept it.”

While Moss is technically the Director of Final Examinations for the entire undergraduate uptown campus, these new regulations will apply to Yeshiva College exams only. The Sy Syms School of Business will continue to administer their own exams, being comfortable with their status quo of diligent proctoring. Since it is a smaller school, SSSB has the luxury of having few enough classes not to require one large examination room. Furthermore, all SSSB faculty are required to proctor their own exams, or at the very least to find a replacement to cover for them.

In addition to final exams, however, Moss wants to include plagiarism in his jurisdiction as well. Moreover, he has heard of cheating that occurs during national standardized tests administered at YU, and next semester will request jurisdiction over the MCAT, currently handled by the Admissions department.

Moss anticipates serious opposition from faculty who have no desire to proctor their own exams and who have not done so for years. He admits that he “will make a few enemies in the faculty, but will get the job done.” Additionally, Moss will be putting full effort into “lobbying for maximum punishment in all documented cases of plagiarism and cheating.”

When Moss first started teaching at YC three years ago, he was “shocked at the amount of cheating going on” as compared to the five universities he taught at previously. Moss was especially outraged that such academic dishonesty was occurring at a Yeshiva, where students spend half of their day studying traditional morals and principles. Moss had “expected YU to be a religious and ethical place,” and saw the amount of cheating going on as a direct contradiction of those values.

By enforcing rigorous proctoring rules, Moss hopes that he will “not only cut out cheating, but also raise ethical awareness in both students and faculty.”