Despite Efforts to Curb Cheating, Cheating Incident Disrupts YC Calculus Exam
On Friday, December 1, Dean Fred Sugarman, the Associate Dean of Operations and Student Affairs of Yeshiva College, emailed the students in Professor Wenxiong Chen’s Calculus I course that the previous day’s midterm examination would not be graded due to “students who acted inappropriately in terms of conduct in a testing environment.” He added, “These students have given the Dean’s Office and Dr. Chen reason to believe a new test needs to be administered.”
With 72 registered students, Professor Chen’s Calculus I course is one of the largest of all of Yeshiva University’s undergraduate courses for the fall 2017 semester.
This cheating scandal followed recent efforts by Yeshiva University deans, faculty, and students to crack down on cheating. It also occurred several weeks after a midterm exam was cancelled at Stern College because copies of the exam were stolen in advance of the test date.
Dean Sugarman specified in his email to the students that the retest “will be proctored.” He also expressed disappointment and wrote, “I believe the class should consider offering Dr. Chen an apology for behavior not becoming [of] a Yeshiva College student.”
Several students in the course, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that they knew in advance that the exam would take place in the Belfer 218 lecture hall, which can seat roughly 110 students. Already before the exam, students feared that some peers would hide notes under desks or in between seats. Even though the first midterm exam back in October was proctored, they knew that this second exam would not be. During the most recent exam, according to students in the course, Professor Chen mostly sat in front of the room, while students were seated without space in between desks. Phones were not taken away.
“We are fully committed to upholding the integrity and good name of Yeshiva College,” Dean Sugarman told The Commentator. “Administration and faculty are committed to having a school of honest scholarship and fair outcomes for all students. We need students to help ensure that all work is honestly done. Academic Integrity needs to start with our students.” Dean Sugarman declined to comment on the details of how the cheating was reported or on any other specifics about the incident. Professor Chen also declined to comment.
Several students speculated that the incident was reported by students who witnessed the cheating. Professor Chen later confirmed that this was the case.
“It’s important to keep in mind,” said one student in the course who spoke on condition of anonymity, “that while there may be allegations that a few students cheated, the vast majority of students remained upright and honest despite the temptation to cheat.” Several other students expressed frustration at the insinuation that they all needed to apologize for a crime committed by only a few. Many more were frustrated simply at the prospect of having to take another test after having put in legitimate effort.
On December 5, in Calculus I lecture, Professor Chen told his students that the retest would take place on Thursday, December 7 in a different room that would be announced shortly before the exam. He said that the material would be the same, but that the questions would be different. He then proceeded to teach class as normal.