34 Duke Business Students Face Discipline for Cheating
Thirty-four first-year business graduate students at Duke University cheated on a take-home final exam, a judicial board has found, in what officials called the most widespread cheating episode in the business school’s history.
The final was an open-book test in a required course in March, with students told to take the exam on their own. But many students collaborated, in violation of the school’s honor code, according to a ruling last week by the judicial board of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke.
School officials declined to identify the course, the professor or the students, citing confidentiality in judicial board matters. But they indicated that the professor had noticed similarities in the answers by the students, who are candidates for a master’s in business administration.
Nine of the students face expulsion, according to the ruling, which was distributed within the business school on Friday. Fifteen students were suspended for a year and given a failing grade in the course; nine were given a failing grade in the course, and one got a failing grade on the exam. Four students accused of cheating were exonerated.
The students are likely to appeal and are permitted to attend classes while awaiting decisions, which are expected over the next month.
In general, fewer than 10 students a year at the business school are found guilty of cheating, and some years no accusations are brought to the judicial board, said Michael Hemmerich, associate dean for marketing and communications at the business school.
National surveys have suggested that cheating is widespread among graduate students. In a survey released last September by a Rutgers University professor, 56 percent of business graduate students admitted having cheated, compared with 54 percent in engineering, 48 percent in education and 45 percent in law school. More than 5,300 students at 54 universities were surveyed from 2002 to 2004.
“This is self-reported evidence of cheating, so it’s probably underestimated,” said Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers who oversaw the survey.
“I would say at many business schools it is a part of the culture,” Dr. McCabe said. “You want to talk rationalizations? I could give you thousands of them: everybody else does it, it’s the teachers’ fault, you have to do it to get ahead.”
Many of the country’s leading business schools, including Duke’s, have been emphasizing honesty and ethical conduct, introducing new courses in business ethics and creating tough honor codes. Dr. McCabe said, however, that administrators at many of those schools did not appreciate the extent of cheating.
At Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, an accusation surfaced in December that some students had cheated on an open-book, take-home exam in a course on journalistic ethics.
Officials said then that the matter would be referred to the journalism school’s disciplinary committee. Barbara Fasciani, a spokeswoman for the school, said yesterday that she could not comment on the outcome of the case, because disciplinary committee matters were confidential.
The exam was designed to be completed in 90 minutes, but students could gain access to the test by computer any time during a 30-hour period. At least one student who had taken the exam reportedly offered to tell at least one other student who had not yet taken it what the essay questions were.
“I can be fairly sure that the test will not be administered in the same way next year,” Ms. Fasciani said.
At Ohio University, officials have been investigating for many months a cheating scandal that began with an accusation that more than 20 mechanical engineering students had plagiarized parts of their master’s theses, some as long as 20 years ago.
More than 200 master’s theses and Ph.D. dissertations have now been examined, university officials said. So far, the university has revoked the master’s degree of a former student for plagiarism, and a committee has recommended that five students be dismissed and 12 others be ordered to rewrite their theses. More cases will be heard this spring.