Yeshiva College Deans Ramp Up Efforts to Combat Cheating, Add Additional Proctors for Midterms
In a meeting between the Yeshiva College Deans and students on October 19th, it was announced that additional proctors will be added to various Yeshiva University undergraduate examinations beginning with ensuing midterms this Fall semester. In addition, classes will be moved to larger rooms for exams in order to create space between students who are taking exams and signs will be placed at the front of classrooms to encourage honesty.
Dr. Karen Bacon, Dean of Undergraduate Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said, “Our intentions are not to identify and punish [cheaters], but to stop cheating from happening,” suggesting that the additional proctors will preemptively discourage cheating. The new measures taken to upgrade academic integrity on campus stemmed from last year’s dialogue carried out between students, deans, and academic advisors. Students had discussed the issues they had witnessed and heard about regarding students cheating off each other during tests, as well as the morality of test banks. Solutions such as extra supervision and modified tests were suggested.
“It’s time to act,” asserted Associate Dean of Yeshiva College Dr. Fred Sugarman.
For now, two to four additional proctors will be added to the midterms of some of the largest YC classes, where midterms are just beginning. Classes in Biology, Psychology, Calculus, Economics, and parts of the YC Core will be receiving additional proctors to assist professors in monitoring the classrooms during the tests.
Many of the proctors will be semicha and kollel students, as part of an effort by the Dean’s Office to explicitly make the connection between ethical Jewish behavior and academic integrity. Some midterms will also be moved to larger rooms in order to provide more space to separate students taking tests.
Dean Sugarman made it clear that the steps to improve the academic integrity in YU would not stop simply with the addition of new proctors. The Dean’s Office plans to continue to upgrade and reinforce the system in place and to continue the active process of fostering integrity within the school. Another meeting will likely happen between students and administration near the end of the semester to perpetuate the initiative and evaluate its progress.
Dean Bacon, in coordination with faculty members, is preparing signs that will eventually be placed in the front of classrooms in order to foster an atmosphere of integrity among students. Signs will include a mix of Hebrew quotes from Jewish sources and English phrases intended to remind students that they carry a dual responsibility to act ethically from both an interpersonal and religious dimension.
Dean Sugarman said in the meeting, “The students here aren’t just good guys but excellent guys. But sometimes when there’s poison it spreads and affects the water.” The Dean’s Office is attempting to improve the academic integrity system within YU, and Dean Sugarman emphasizes students have the greatest ability to create an environment of integrity. Dean Jacobson said, “The initiative is coming from students.”
Over orientation for incoming students at the beginning of the academic year, a program was implemented in which students, rabbis, and faculty were placed in groups, given prompts with nuanced integrity related dilemmas , and discussed the prompts were discussed. The program was meant to begin a dialogue between the different components which make up the university and get participants thinking about what the word integrity implies. The Dean’s Office believes it will provide greater clarity for students and faculty when faced with difficult moral decisions. Said Dean Jacobson, “We feel really good about a program during orientation in which we distributed scenarios [to groups of students, professors, and rabbis] which did not have simple answers.”
While action is already being taken on this initiative in the form of extra proctors, signs, and moving test locations, students and administration continued to talk about ways to improve schoolwide integrity further. During the meeting, Editor-in-Chief of The Commentator Avi Strauss suggested, “There should be some avenue for students to volunteer information and to see results come from that information.” Discussion ensued regarding ways by which to encourage students to voice their concerns with regards to cheating. Pre-Health Advisor Lolita Woodhill posed the question, “How can we make students feel comfortable getting involved?”
Dean Sugarman said, “We are going to look at the existing [academic] integrity document”, which was last updated in 2013. The six page document, which can be found on the YU website, states the school’s policies towards cheating, plagiarizing, and other actions considered academically dishonest. As of now, no specifics have been given by the Deans as to how the document may be updated.