Details emerge about cheating incident in computer science course

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Details emerged Saturday regarding a cheating incident that occurred in a lower-division computer science course last semester, prompting discussion on the administrative issues that led to the incident and the consequences for the perpetrators.

The investigation, which is still ongoing, began after several students came forward to report that some students had continued working and shared answers on the spring final for Computer Science 70 after the exam had ended. Recent discussion regarding the incident by was sparked by a post on social news website Reddit on Saturday.

According to students and members of the teaching staff, the crowdedness and logistical difficulties of Haas Pavilion, where the exam took place, made it easier for students to cheat. Although the staff members were aware that the Math 54 class would be taking an exam at the same time, they expected the room to be able to accommodate the 1,000 students taking their exams.

However, the crowdedness forced GSIs to check identification after the exam, causing exam collection to take 15 to 20 minutes. CS 70 students also sat in the back, making it difficult to hear any announcements from the room’s single sound system.

“The Haas Pavilion was so echoey — no one could actually hear,” said Dhruv Garg, a campus junior majoring in electrical engineering and computer sciences. “(When the professor said time was up), it wasn’t clear whether her instructions were targeted towards just her class or everybody.”

According to GSI Chenyu Zhao, witnesses brought the cheating incidents to the attention of the teaching staff after the exam. Within an hour, the professor posted on the class’s forum, notifying the class of the incident and urging the class to take responsibility.

“The cheaters are going to be hurting the grades of all the honest students in the class,” Professor Sahai wrote. “They deserve no mercy or loyalty after doing such a despicable act to their fellow students.”

The electrical engineering and computer sciences department’s academic dishonesty policies recommend that cheaters be failed for the corresponding courses and that students be expelled after a repeat offense. According to the Center for Student Conduct, if students fail to resolve the incident with their professor, they will receive an alleged violation letter to either accept their sanctions or go to a hearing.

Ultimately, less than 2 percent of the class was found to be guilty. For those who confessed before grades were turned in, grades were readjusted to remove points possibly gained on an extra question. Those who still have not confessed, according to Sahai, will at least fail the class, and the university will decide the subsequent punishment. The investigation is ongoing.

Students said that the cheaters had no justification for their actions, given the professor’s helpfulness and fairness throughout the semester.

“The professor and GSIs threw homework parties, which were very helpful,” said Alex Danilychev, a campus sophomore and computer science major. “We also had extra credit opportunities throughout the semester. I could’ve easily gotten three times the extra credit I got if I wanted to.”

The students had a range of responses, varying from surprise to anger, compelling them to report anything suspicious they witnessed. According to the professor, more than 20 people came forward with reports.

“There was a positive side in that the discussion that happened afterwards generated a shared sense that something was wrong and not acceptable,” Sahai said.

Contact Mary Zhou at [email protected]