“Caught in the act” update

Many business students see grade reductions as a result of widespread cheating

Article by: Megan Lewton and Grant Siddall | Torch Staff

Ferris recently uncovered three semesters worth of cheating in a business course after a professor found a way to track the origin of submitted assignments. 

While the specific course the cheating took place in is classified, however, Ferris College of Business dean David Nicol said that the course was a 100 level class that was not a prerequisite for many courses. 

The cheating that the university tracked covered the spring, summer and fall semesters of 2017 and multiple sections of the course, and found upwards of 80 students to be involved. 

According to Nicol, the program that was used to track the assignments was similar to turnitin.com, which is a popular plagiarism checker used by multiple professors at Ferris. Nicol said the program showed the original origin of the assignment and each time that it was submitted. Many students claimed that the reason for them submitting the same assignment was because they worked as a group on the assignment. 

“If it’s a study group, the caveat ought to be you can work to develop your awareness but then you have to do your own submission. You’re getting graded individually, you aren’t getting graded as a group. If it’s individually graded as a submission, do it yourself,” Nicol said. 

Nicol said that, moving forward, syllabi will be more explicit about the rules for submitting work so they can avoid any confusion. He also added that punishments for the cheating didn’t lead to anything more severe than grade reductions. 

“The faculty made the determination but I believe it was just a standard one or two grade drop across the board for all of those found to be [guilty]. It couldn’t just be dismissed and as I understand it, the process engaged by student conduct were with the intent to reinforce values, not to exercise severe punishment but on the other hand, not to enable,” Nicol said. 

The university’s official response to the incident does not address the specific allegations or the punishments that were issued. The original statement released in November stated that Ferris was looking into the issue and that appropriate action will take place when the review is completed. After multiple inquiries by the Torch into the issue, a new statement was released. 

“Ferris State University was made aware, during the fall 2017 semester, of allegations of student academic misconduct involving multiple sections of a course. That type of conduct goes against the core values of the institution. The Office of Student Conduct has worked with the faculty and appropriate action was taken. The university process is complete and there is nothing new to report,” the statement read. 

Ferris students had mixed reactions to the reported punishments that were handed down by student conduct. Some students, like Ferris applied speech communications junior Tristan Scribner, thought the disciplinary action taken against these students was appropriate. 

“I certainly hope we can trust them to make the appropriate decision on that because, hopefully, they’ve been at this job for who knows how many years and have experience and ideally, you’d want them to know what to do,” Scribner said. 

Others questioned why the students didn’t face expulsion, such as Ferris television and digital media production junior Carolann Grover. 

“The reason why I’m pretty sure they didn’t actually get expelled, in my personal opinion, is because we need that tuition that they’re providing. So if you expel 60 students, that’s a lot of money you’re losing. Plus, you just built a newer dorm hall, you produced a newer nap pod, you also introduced a newer snack shack type of thing, which costs a lot of money. You’re losing that money you’re getting from those students,” Grover said. 

Nicol said he doesn’t think that the amount of students played into the punishments at all, and that it was based on the severity of the actions and not the amount of people. 

“The punishment was a function of the perceived issues, not the number of students. If it had been five people, from what I’m aware of, I don’t think the actions taken would have been any different,” Nicol said.

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