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UBC students to retake online exam because of possible cheating

Last Updated Mar 3, 2021 at 7:54 am PDT

FILE - UBC Campus in Vancouver. (Miranda Fatur, CityNews Vancouver)

Some UBC Sauder School of Business students told they'll have to retake an online midterm over cheating concerns

Students say they're being unfairly punished during an already-difficult time

UBC says academic integrity is fundamental to its core mission

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Some students at UBC’s Sauder School of Business are crying foul after being told they’ll have to take their midterm exam a second time because a significant number of their classmates may have cheated.

The exam was administered online due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

An e-mail from a senior associate dean to students in the Managerial Accounting course says potential violations of academic integrity range from “collaboration between and among students” to “the use of online resources such as Chegg.com.”

While collaboration was explicitly forbidden, the email acknowledges that online resources were somewhat allowed.

“There has been great diversity of opinion as to what is permitted in an open-book exam, and what ‘googling anything’ means,” says the e-mail. “The intent of the open book format of the exam was to allow you to look up terms and perhaps even to reference procedures […] open book format, for this course or any other, does not permit you to search for the answer to specific questions.”

To provide the benefit of the doubt to students — given the “potential ambiguity” in the instructions — while not rewarding those who cheated, the e-mail says the exam is being re-administered.

Students who say they didn’t cheat and spent hours studying are feeling slighted by the attempt to uphold academic integrity.

“For those that cheated right now, this is nothing more than a slap on the wrist and for those that didn’t cheat, this is really an extreme punishment,” one affected student told NEWS 1130.

“It’s understandable but it seems more like a punishment for all students in the course, even if you studied and completed the exam fairly,” the student added.

They said while it is important to uphold academic integrity and the reputation of the Sauder School of Business, having students retake the exam adds to the workload and stress many are already feeling during an unusual school year because of the pandemic.

The student added the situation highlights a larger problem with learning from home.

“There’s been a lack of general guidance for how exams should be structured from professor to professor,” they explained. “Post-secondary institutions and their faculties — at least in the faculty basis perhaps — should have some sort of a guideline for how exams should be administered that the professors can follow.”

Another student told NEWS 1130 re-administering the exam is disrespectful of their time.

“I studied for probably 10+ hours for this midterm, including attending review sessions and sacrificed other classes to ensure I do good in this midterm,” they said in a message.

“I didn’t cheat, but I did end up getting a good mark (90+). Having to retake a most likely harder midterm due to no fault of my own is blatantly disrespectful of my time, as I have many other midterms to take in March,” the second student added.

In a statement to NEWS 1130, UBC says academic integrity is fundamental to its core mission and that the university holds its students to a high-level of conduct.

“We are aware of allegations of academic misconduct among some students at the UBC Sauder School of Business. In order to ensure a fair outcome for all, we have determined that a re-examination is necessary for the students in this class,” said the statement from Dr. Kin Lo, Senior Associate Dean, Students at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

“While we are empathetic that this does carry a burden for students during an already busy time of year, this re-examination will add clarity for all students on how to properly complete the new exam and will ensure a level playing field to assess students. Moving forward, UBC Sauder professors are encouraged and reminded to provide clear instructions and rules prior to commencing any examination process,” added Lo.