The Commentator

Volume 67, Issue 12
May 18, 2003
Iyar 5763





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Volume 67, Issue 12

Town Hall Meeting on Cheating
Another Attempt to Stem the Tide
by Michael Rosman

Yeshiva tried something new last week in its continuing effort to limit the pervasive cheating that has been plaguing the Wilf Campus.  On May 5, a town hall meeting entitled “Cheating by a Yeshiva Student: A Contradiction in Terms?” was moderated by Assistant Professor of Psychology David Rettinger, who advertised the night’s goal as the need “to bring to the table the major issues regarding the topic of academic integrity.”

Approximately 25 students and 15 professors gathered in Weissberg Commons for the event, which, along with Rettinger, was organized by the faculty members on the Committee of Academic Integrity, including Professors Barbara Blatner, Lauren Fitzgerald, Gillian Steinberg, Elias Grivoyannis, and Shalom Carmy.

Rettinger announced that in the fall he will publish the results of a detailed poll he administered on academic integrity, and that he expects that when the poll’s findings are announced, “we will need a bigger room” to hold future anti-cheating meetings.

Although reluctant to specify all of his findings, Rettinger did mention that “50 to 75 percent of students violate any form of cheating as stated in Yeshiva College’s booklet on the policy of academic integrity, and 30 to 50 percent of students cheat strictly on tests, including plagiarism.”

The informal session covered a slew of topics. Of particular interest was the supposed lack of concern about cheating on the part of teachers.  Several students expressed their contempt with the faculty’s lack of seriousness when it comes to making up new tests, properly administering exams, or even learning the names of their students. 

“When teachers spend the entire class reading off their notes and then go and give the same exam five years in a row, it really takes away from the overall learning experience,” remarked YC sophomore Eytan Fox. “Is it any surprise that cheating ensues?”

Another student in attendance laid the blame on teacher who reuse their tests year after year, “Teachers should be giving exams that require some original and critical thinking,” he said. “Exams [that] require hours of memorizing ‘mesorah’ cannot guarantee a perfect score, [so students decide to cheat].”

Professor Joan Haahr asked the students what they felt about Yeshiva instituting an honor system like those in place at other schools.  Princeton University, for example, has a system that allows students to self-administer their own exams and to turn themselves in if they cheat.  Punishment for those who are caught cheating is determined by a committee run by students. But the students in attendance laughed at Princeton’s honor code, which seems implausible for Yeshiva. “At another school, students aren’t afraid to punish their guilty classmates,” said YC junior Alex “Alexander” Chester. “But here everybody knows everybody, and unfortunately, if someone told on someone else, the one who reported would be more ostracized by our community than the one who cheated.”

Focusing on the special conditions at Yeshiva that foster cheating was the purpose of the meeting, and most thought it was a success. Rettinger hopes that the evening was just the first installment of what will become a regular assembly to discuss issues regarding academic integrity. Rettinger was “very pleased” with the student turnout, noting, “It showed care on the side of the students.  We can only succeed in eradicating this problem if the students cooperate.”  


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