False Cheating Allegations at NC State

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This past semester over 200 students were accused of cheating in Statistics 311 which was under the direction of Tyler Johnson. This class was held as a hybrid class in multiple sections with a variety of grad student teaching assistants, until the issue of the coronavirus pandemic lead to the decision of finishing the semester online and at home. The high number of students who have been accused is due to the fact that the honor code provided by Tyler Johnson before our exams was not outlined in a clear manner which lead to the miscommunication and misinterpretation of the honor code. To get a perspective on how widespread this misinterpretation was, last year (2018-2019) the student conduct office had 246 cases, which are cases from fall and spring semester combined, and our class alone had over 200 which was stated by Bradley Davis, the associate director of student conduct. Our group of students have come together and acknowledged this and have been following normal protocol in this situation to present our point and try to get our side heard. The honor code provided on the exam was as follows "I have not and will not collaborate with any other students or other individuals on this exam. The work represented is my own, and I will only use my notes and other course materials to help complete this exam. I recognize that otherwise I will fail the course and be subject to a report of an academic integrity violation, jeopardizing my academic career." However before the exam the honor code provided was "You are allowed to use your own notes from the course and any course materials on Moodle on the exam. Any free response questions on the exam should be written in your own words, even if you are using materials from the course to help frame your response. Posting questions from the exam elsewhere (such as homework help websites) will result in a 0 on the final exam and an academic integrity violation with the university. Coordinating with other students, or individuals outside the course, on the exam in any way will result in a 0 on the final exam and an academic integrity violation with the university." Tyler Johnson also provided us with this information before our exam about what is allowed to be used, "[the exam]... will be open to whatever resources you need."

We as students have been accused of using Chegg.com during the exam period, and while the instructor, Tyler Johnson, believes that was cheating, the only reason we accessed it was because of the information he provided to us before the exams. We did not, and would never, purposefully cheat as we misinterpreted the guidelines of the honor code due to how it was worded and the other information that was provided to us prior to the exam. 

We would also like to acknowledge that we are currently in a worldwide pandemic that has affect many families across North Carolina. There have been students in our class who  have lost grandparents, parents, and other family members due to this situation as well as have family members who work on the front lines helping others while being at risk themselves. Tyler Johnson has shown no regard to the personal stresses we are enduring and have endured throughout the semester. We as students to not feel valued and have felt displaced as a result. The school provided faculty and staff with multiple resources and suggestions on how to help students adjust to not only the stresses of the pandemic but also the major change of switching to online classes and being at home with no access to many of the resources we had on campus. Some of those provided resources included ways to adjust exams to prevent cheating as well as the temptation to cheat. While our situation was based on a misinterpretation, if the strategies outlined by the school were used, many, if not all students would not be in this situation. Some of those resources stated that adding a time limit (in mins/hours) to the exam would be very helpful and our exam was held over multiple days allowing us to leave and come back whenever we wanted during the exam period. Other strategies that were provided included "...randomizing questions, and using question sets so each student receives a unique test..." Once again those strategies were not used. NC State's Disability Resource Office provided this statement to faculty “Converting to an online format may change what accommodations are needed and how they are implemented. Not all students with disabilities and chronic medical conditions are connected with the DRO, and there may be students whose needs only become apparent with this transition to a new learning environment” (Links for all information will be included at the end of the petition statement)

The suggested sanctions provided by Tyler Johnson include receiving a 0 on the exams in question as well as the completion of an academic integrity module through moodle. Any student found to be in violation will also include being placed on academic integrity probation. If students on probation are ever found in violation again they will get suspended for a minimum of 1 semester. This probation record is information that grad schools require to be provided to them.  Many of the students involved in this have future endeavors of attending grad school, med school, vet school and other things to further their education, it would be a shame to have them held back due to a miscommunication that happened during a pandemic after a drastic change in class structure. Please consider signing and commenting your reason for support to help us fight our case. 

This petition is not meant for any disrespect only to gather support for our side of the argument so we can bring more power to the side of the students as we are all very passionate about this situation and care a lot about our future.

Thank you, the Students of ST 311

Below are the links to some of the information that was included in our petition statement