By: Yossi Zimilover  | 

Syms Administration Increases Efforts to Combat Cheating

Joining the push for increased academic integrity on campus, the Sy Syms School of Business administration has recently taken new steps to combat the issue of students cheating within the school. Interim Dean Michael Strauss stated that additional proctors have been added to administer final exams, posters that promote academic integrity will be hung up in classrooms, and room assignments will now be announced the morning of exams, instead of on the previous day. The move was taken in response  to an incident in which students placed post-it notes with information on them in the classroom the day before the test in order to cheat, described Strauss.

The Syms administration has also instructed the faculty not to reuse finals from semester to semester, or assign take-home exams. Instead, professors have been told to create numerous versions of multiple choice tests so students cannot easily copy from their neighbors. Additionally, the faculty has been told not use test-banks, which are documents provided to professors from textbook authors that contain thousands of potential questions that can be used to create tests, “because unfortunately students can go online and get test-banks,” Strauss remarked.

Strauss said that from his first days at Syms, he has been “laser focused” on trying to eliminate cheating, especially during finals and midterms. He explained that it is not a new phenomenon and the problem has been bothering him for many years. “As soon as I came here, I heard that there was some cheating going on,” he stated. "There is as much cheating going on here [at Syms] as in any other school, less so with the women, but the cheating is not only [at] Sy Syms, it’s all over,” he added. Strauss claimed that cheating is not prevalent but recognized that that there is certainly a perception that it is occurring, and remarked that “perception is reality.”

When discussing the consequences for getting caught cheating, Strauss said that although a zero-tolerance policy, meaning expulsion, exists at several other universities, he does not feel that such a policy is necessary because he has been hearing “less and less” regarding cheating incidents and believes that the issue is not prevalent. When detailing the current policy, he said that those caught cheating will instead receive a failing grade in the course. “We want to give our students an opportunity, [but] we can't let it just slide, so they do have to fail the course.” He clarified that this policy is extended to those caught plagiarizing, and explained that repeat offenders will be forced to take a leave of absence for that semester. Strauss believes that these policies are sufficient and hopes he will never have to enact a zero-tolerance policy, “but if we have to, we will,” he remarked.

Liz OuYang was also hired as the Finals Exam Director of Syms, a position in which her total responsibility is to handle finals, in an attempt to minimize cheating. According to Strauss, her responsibilities include interviewing and assigning proctors and creating a set of guidelines which include a prohibition on cellphone use during tests, and a requirement that students to sit in alternating chairs in the classrooms. These guidelines have been implemented for midterms as well.

OuYang explained that she was hired to the be Final Exams Director of Yeshiva College (YC) over 10 years ago, and approximately two years ago, she was appointed to the same position at Sy Syms on the Wilf campus.“It helps to have an outsider be the Exam Director, [because] it brings more objectivity and credibility to the process.” OuYang stated. “I am an attorney and adjunct [professor] at area schools so I understand the needs of teachers, students, and need for rules to have an orderly exam process,” she added.

She described how she has transferred parts of YC’s exam protocol to Syms, including “checkered seating where multiple exams are being given, securing outside proctors, [allowing] no bathroom breaks, and uniform standards for approving deferrals.”

At the Student-Deans Forum on Academic Integrity in Spring 2017, Dr. Moses Pava, former Dean of Syms, predicted that in five years there would be cameras in the back of classrooms to prevent cheating and to catch offenders. When asked for an update, Strauss said that the Syms administration discussed the technology with YU facilities services, but noted that it is a major expense and not much progress has been made in the area. “If we need cameras to convince students not to cheat then I think we're in a bad place," he remarked.

Dean Strauss emphasized that while the administration was doing everything in its power to prevent cheating, “the bottom line is, students themselves need to feel that they shouldn't be cheating.” He noted that one of the pillars of the Sy Syms School of Business is ethics and that students should hold themselves to a strong ethical standard, especially at Yeshiva University.

This message was reiterated in an email that was sent to the Syms student body regarding academic integrity on November 2nd, which concluded with the following message. “Once students enter the corporate world, opportunities to advance due to unethical and/or illegal means will, of course, present themselves. The consequences of being caught in such cases can be life altering to the individual and can generate a traumatizing Chillul Hashem. Students should therefore utilize their years at the Sy Syms School of Business and Yeshiva University as a time to strengthen their ethical behavior in preparation for successful careers.”