Here’s to hoping the rumors aren’t true

Dear readers, we wish we were lying. We were intending to take today lightly, give everyone some space to breathe, give you fun things to watch and read, maybe talk about puppies coming to campus (more on that in a later post). Instead, however, we’ve been informed that this fine university possibly has another widespread cheating scandal on our hands.

On leaving the Lit Hum final today, many students were informed that the ID section of the test may be completely invalidated. Apparently, one professor provided the page numbers of the passages to his/her class, who then spread it to a huge amount of people in other classes. The page numbers for the ID were accurate to the test.

We’ve reached out to various adminstrators and faculty, and have been hearing that an email may be sent to the first-year class shortly. Updates, as always, as we get them. Stay strong.

Update, 4:35: Steven Castellano, the man behind P/D/F policy and the honor code, has emailed us with an explanation, breaking down the last 16 hours or so:

Update, 5:19 pm: Gareth Williams, Lit Hum Chair, just sent an email to Lit Hum students confirming the leak; the email is below the jump.

Update, 5:40 pm: We have information on how the exam is drafted; check down below after the jump.

Update, 6:10 pm: Reaction from former Lit Hum Chair Christia Mercer; look–you guessed it–after the jump


“In the name of transparency, I wanted to let you know that there page numbers for the Lit Hum id’s were going around last night …  Essentially, a first year student came to me with a list of page numbers for the passage ID’s that a friend’s teacher disseminated and asked me what to do because he had apparently read about the honor code (thanks to you, I guess).  At the time, I was not able to identify the teacher, though I tried for awhile last night before deciding that it was possibly all a hoax, and more importantly, that I was not the school police officer for academic integrity.

At the time, it did seem quite unlikely that the page numbers going around represented actual ID’s from the final and likely resulted from a misunderstanding on behalf of the students spreading it around.  After all, while 10% of the small sampling of students that I heard from had the same page numbers and believed they would be on the test, many had a wide-variety of review guides from all different teachers with all kinds of different potential ID questions.   In any case, I emailed Gareth Williams the email below as a precaution before the exam, and I just found out from my initial source that all the ID questions did indeed match the page numbers in the email.  My initial contact did also say that most professors already know about it, but I have yet to hear back from Prof. Williams.”

And the email sent to Williams:

“I do not know if this is a false report or not, but a student came forward to me to let me know that students are disseminating page numbers for the Lit Hum quote identifications after a certain professor gave his or her class “approximate page numbers”  for sections to look at for the quote ID’s.  This might be a hoax, but I don’t want a repeat of 2007, especially with the existing cheating scandal.

The numbers were as follows … ”

[Link added by Bwog]

Update, 5:19 pm: Email from Gareth Williams:

Dear Students,

This morning we learned that a Literature Humanities instructor disclosed to students the approximate location of the passages on the ID section of the final exam. This information was circulated to other students at Orgo Night last night. As a result, the ID section (section A) of the Lit Hum exam was compromised.

On behalf of my colleagues, I want to stress how very disappointed I am by this development, as we take careful measures to ensure that no information about the exam is revealed to students before they take it. Because section A of the exam — and only section A — was compromised, I am writing to let you know that only sections B and C of the exam will be included in the calculation of your grade on the exam.

It is very unfortunate that the majority of you, who had no advance information or inclination to gain an unfair advantage, will be affected by this development; however, we have no other choice at this time but to take pragmatic measures to ensure the integrity of the grading. We intend to do everything possible to make sure that this does not happen again.

Gareth Williams
Violin Family Professor of Classics
and Chair of Literature Humanities

Update, 5:40 pm: A faculty member on the Lit Hum staff has informed us on how the final is drafted, making it abundantly clear that culpability lies with the professor.  Due to the 2007 leaking scandal, present Lit Hum instructors are not allowed to take the draft exam (on which they vote on proposed questions) out of the conference room where it is discussed.  An instructor signs out a draft exam, which is given a number, and then has to sign the exam back in to vote on the questions.  Every draft exam is counted for and not left with the teacher.  So essentially, in order for the instructor to have the passage ID pages to give to students, he/she would have had to really taken effort to write down the chosen passages during the discussion and voting process, or some such.  It is explicitly against the rules of the Lit Hum Chair to provide this information to students.

Update, 6:10 pm: Bwog reached out to Former Chair of Lit Hum, Christia Mercer, to see her reaction to the leak:

“The first and main offender is the instructor who broke the clear guidelines provided by the Lit Hum Chair. Once the instructor did so, it’s not too surprising that the students in the class shared that information with friends. The students who hoped to use that info were cheating, but it seems important to me that this didn’t begin with the students.”

Bwog right now via Shutterstock