Dartmouth students accused of cheating in ethics class

'Honor no longer is something that has a lot of resonance in society' says professor

As many as 64 Dartmouth College students face suspension or other discipline over allegations of cheating in a fall semester ethics class.

The college says students in the course falsified their attendance and participation records by abusing hand-held "clicker" devices often used in class. Some students gave their devices to others to answer in-class questions—so that it would look they were sitting in class on days when they were, in fact, absent.

Randall Balmer, the professor teaching "Sports, Ethics & Religion," says he was alerted to the cheating when he noticed more people were providing answers to in-class questions than were attending. He called the discovery "very sad and regrettable on many levels," adding "a level of trust that is so necessary for students and teachers has been betrayed."

Disciplinary action

Currently, 64 students face or have faced formal hearings to determine if they have violated the school's honor code. Diana Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the college, says "the academic honor principle is a foundational element of a Dartmouth education… we treat all academic honor code violations as major misconduct." She declined to say specifically what punishment the accused students could expect.

Separately, Balmer chose to lower the grades of students he suspected of cheating by one letter. He notes many of those accused have "expressed abject apology" and few have complained.

"I think honor no longer is something that has a lot of resonance in society, and I suppose in some ways it’s not surprising that students would want to trade the nebulous notion of honor with what they perceive as some sort of advantage in professional advancement," Balmer says (Rocheleau, Boston Globe, 1/8; AP/ABC News, 1/8).

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