Following revelations of cheating in exams, Quinton O’Reilly gets the reaction and opinion from this news
SU Education Officer, James Williamson
When asked about whether he heard of any exam cheating cases involving impersonation, Williamson stated that he hadn’t come across an actual case but was aware of the possibilities due to rumours that were spreading around different universities.
He referred to the new student card fine introduced during the Semester One examination this term as a major step in stopping such practices from occurring.
He admitted that he was only made aware of the rumours last semester when he inquired to university officials about the reasoning behind the student card fine. While he sympathised with those students who felt the measure unfairly punished those who genuinely forgot or lost their student card, he felt that the end result made it worthwhile.
“I know a lot of students had problems with the €50 fine but that was because of rumours going around the country and UCD that students were selling themselves, postgrads were coming back to do exams,” explained Williamson. “It was a rumour last year…there have been cases, there has been a worry that there’s been students who have been caught for impersonation in exams…[but] the numbers are very low and the students [who cheat] are caught straight away and are punished.”
While not having the figures at the time of print, Williamson revealed that there was a large drop in students forgetting their student card for exams and felt this subsequently led to a drop in cheating overall.
“In terms of impersonation, this €50 fine is to act as a deterrent, not to financially burden people,” he stated. “This is a preventative measure on UCD’s part to try and get rid of any possibility of students impersonating anyone to try and get rid of any notions that students can impersonate anyone.”
He also mentioned that for those who genuinely forgot or lost their student card before an exam, they could get another one printed down at the exam hall for the amount the card costs. Williamson said that the possibility of a student cheating would be more likely during the midterm exams, but stressed that the actual number of students found cheating is very low.
He said that the majority of cases that he would deal with would concern plagiarism but stated that the SU and the university “have a strict policy and we’re 100 per cent in favour of a fair means of assessment”.
When asked about his opinion on the student card fine introduced this semester, the invigilator supported it and said “it deters people, it’s unfortunate that it catches people who had bad luck and been mugged or lost their student card or forgot there was a €50 fine, but is it worth it to get people who are blatantly cheating? Probably yes, on balance.”
The invigilator who has been attending exams over the past three years stated that “the amount of cheating detected or that is going on, it’s very low.
“Cheating isn’t really the primary focus, we’re just there as Alan Hunter (the chief invigilator) always tells up, we are there to ensure the smooth running of the exams,” explained the invigilator. “So that’s kind of the primary focus, the cheating is it’s almost an aside because it rarely happens. We can see almost all the blatant forms of cheating, you rarely see them and we do spot checks for all the most subtle forms of cheating.”
He stated that the only real way for invigilators to detect any cheating that’s occurring is through walking up and down the aisles, but felt that if cheating did occur, “the chances are somebody will spot it”.
“The golden rule is that you never approach someone directly,” said the invigilator. “You always have to confirm with another invigilator who goes up the chain of command and Alan Hunter will arrive over and intimidate [the student in question] into admitting to what you’ve been doing.”
The invigilator explained that when instances of cheating do occur, the invigilators have little say in the student’s fate. He refers to a specific case in which this happened.
“There was one person who actually cheated by simply writing everything in formulas on his arm and pulled up his sleeve to read it during the exam which was about as blatant as you could get,” explained the invigilator. “He was lucky because what happened was you can’t approach him by yourself, you have to make sure with another invigilator, get your section head and then go to Dr Hunter who has responsibility.
“Basically everything is eventually Alan Hunter’s call. So by the time Alan Hunter had arrived, the guy had seen what was up and had legged it to the toilets and had scrubbed off nearly all the evidence. So he came back and rolled up his sleeve, and there’s nothing there. There was no doubt that he was up to something and his seat number was recorded, so it’s up to Alan Hunter what he does about that.”
When asked if the student in question was punished for cheating, the invigilator replied: “Well I don’t know, we wouldn’t hear because it would be something that would be done after the exam.”
Overall, the invigilator felt that the new protocol introduced has reduced the chances of success for those who cheat, saying: “I think that was the one big thing that no invigilator could simply catch and now that’s kind of cut out the one loophole.”
Student who paid to cheat exam
When asked about how he felt about paying someone to cheat in his exam, the student felt regret over his actions saying that it was “a bit stupid to do it” and that he regretted the “unnecessary risks” taken in cheating.
But despite the regret felt, the student didn’t feel it had much of an effect in the greater scheme of things, saying: “When your degree counts toward 24 modules, it doesn’t make a huge difference [to your overall GPA].”
The student, who has since left UCD, spoke of how nervous he was about getting caught the first time he enlisted a student to cheat for him. “Obviously the first time I was very apprehensive. I was trying to secure a good grade and you weigh up the pros and cons and try to figure out the likelihood of ever getting caught [but] on a practical level, it’s a very difficult thing.”
He referred to the new protocol introduced by the university to curb cheating as a step in the right direction and acknowledged that “UCD do make a conscious effort to prevent it…[and to be honest] the best deterrent is the risk.”
While he felt that the university has done well in tackling the problem, he believed it wasn’t a UCD-specific problem: “It happens in universities all around the world and it’s not a UCD problem, it’s a third-level problem.”
He claimed that such problems has “plagued education since the beginning of time” through plagiarism and the growing advent of essays written and bought online.
To date, the student has yet to be contacted by the university about his exams. While referring to the situation as a “foolish mistake”, the student felt that “in the general scheme of things, there’s very little they (the university) can do [to prove he cheated].”
If you could get someone to sit your exam for you and get away with it, would you?
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