Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cheating Scandal at Duke Business School

By now you have probably heard about the Duke Fuqua School of Business scandal where 34 MBA students have been accused of cheating. The students at Duke had been working in study groups and one of the professors had noticed some consistencies in student homework assignment and take home exam submissions.

The May 10, 2007 Edition of North Carolina's The News & Observer by Jane Stancill and Eric Ferreri quotes Duke's Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace Director Gary Hull:

"This is an epidemic, it's not just Fuqua. It's been getting worse for the last 20 years."

"On Tuesday, May 8, Indiana University's dental school announced that it had expelled nine students and suspended 16 for sharing computer passwords to gain access to an exam before they took it; 21 others were reprimanded for knowing about the scheme but not reporting it".

"The week of April 30, 15 students were expelled and three resigned from the U.S. Air Force Academy after sharing test answers through social-networking Web sites".

Rutgers professor Don McCabe, a researcher on cheating, refers to what he calls the 20-60-20 rule that says 20% of students will always cheat, 60% are undecided and 20% will never cheat. The 60% in the middle are the one that have him concerned:

"It's the 60 percent in the middle that you're really fighting the battle over," he said, though he believes even his estimates are becoming out of date, with more people sliding out of the "never cheat" category".

Of course some students are always going to cheat and I'm sure the Duke students were aware of course policies and consequences. They are required to read and sign a copy of the school honor code as part of the application process and the honor code is displayed on the wall in each Fuqua classroom. Still some are asking - is there a possibility that, based on their background and experience, some students did not consider this to be cheating?

Business Week's Alison Damast wrote an interesting piece on April 30, 2007 titled Duke MBAs Fail Ethics Test. The article references past cheating scandals on other campuses along with Fuqua. Fuqua is an expensive business school running each student around $120K but the investment is typically worth it for grads coming out of the program. The average age of enrolled students is around 29 so the typical student has worked for 6-7 years before deciding to return to school.

Let's think about work - we hear so much about how important soft skills are for our students - employers are expecting graduates that can work in teams and communicate in different ways, sharing ideas and collaborating to complete their work. When was the last time you had an employer tell you they are looking for graduates who like to work completely alone, not interact, not share and not work in a team environment?

Now let's consider these Fuqua students - these are motivated highly successful people looking to move their career to the next level. They've been working for 6-7 years in teams, collaborating to maximize production, products, sales, etc, etc. They've decided to invest a couple of years and around $120K and want to maximize their academic experience. They get to Fuqua and what do they do? Some are saying they've brought their experience and work success and have applied it to the classroom.

No comments: