Controversy over academic honesty suspicions in sociology class
SOC 46A — Intro to Social Research, a sociology class taught by professor David Orzechowicz, has recently experienced turmoil due to allegations of multiple students in the class cheating by using Quizlet, an online site which allows students to study for tests using pre-made flashcards with answers, to answer questions on online exams. Answers to Orzechowicz’s quizzes were posted on Quizlet.
A third-year communication major currently enrolled in SOC 46 explained the way that the class is structured.
“Basically, we take our quizzes every Monday night or Wednesday night of the week,” the student said. “Every class we have a team reading quiz, which is basically pulled from the quiz the night before. As a team, we go through that and explain the question that everybody missed. Then, we usually lecture and then we usually do team assignments that are 10 points.”
The student commented on what occurred after she took her own quiz a few weeks ago.
“I took my quiz after my midterm on Monday night,” the student said. “The next morning, I got an email from him and it was a mass email that said ‘I have concerns that you have been involved in academic dishonesty.’ We really didn’t know what we did. We went to class, and the environment was really tense and everyone was really freaked out. He was like ‘If you got the mass email, you guys are pulled from your teams, I’m really disappointed by the 30 percent of students who engaged in academic dishonesty.’ At this point, I don’t really know what is going to happen.”
The student described how Orzechowicz told the students who received the email to come to his office hours to discuss future actions. According to her, Orzechowicz changed some of the quiz questions by switching the wording and students who “picked the answer that was the correct answer last year” were sent the email.
At Orzechowicz’s office hours, she explained the way that she used Quizlet when taking her quizzes.
“When I went to his office hours, I told him I used [Quizlet] to check my answers,” she said. “He said, ‘Well, that’s considered academic dishonesty and if I could believe that all of you were checking your answers on it then it would be okay, but some of you did it within six seconds.’ And I was just like, ‘Well I’m not one of those people, I obviously checked my answers, I took a long time taking my quiz.’”
The student also discussed what happened during the class that took place directly after Orzechowicz’s office hours.
“He put us back into our teams but we all missed out on 20 points,” she said. “We had a 10-point penalty from our quizzes and the day that he took us out of the teams, we missed out on teamwork which is also 10 points.”
When asked whether Orzechowicz’s actions were justified, the student said the situation could have been handled better.
“If someone’s taking the quiz within six seconds, that means they’re not learning the material and that’s a bigger form of academic dishonesty where you should have concerns,” she said. “If people are taking it for 15 to 40 minutes, then they’re using Quizlet to check their answers. It’s different. [Also] everybody’s midterm grade was really low — mine was not low, but everybody else’s was low. That’s another factor. Why wouldn’t you look at people’s midterm grade? If they don’t know the material and they’re using Quizlet just to cheat, then their grade wouldn’t reflect that.”
Due to this situation, the student noticed changes in the class environment.
“The environment of the class is shattered,” she said. “I feel like we’re walking on thin ice — I feel like I have to cite everything, I feel very paranoid. The trust is really broken. I actually really like the class and I like Dr. O as a professor and a lecturer. It just makes you paranoid and scared — it’s not really a good learning environment.”
The California Aggie reached out to Campus Judicial Board Advisor Shawn Knight for a response on this matter. Knight responded with information on university policy toward academic dishonesty.
“University policy dictates that a student cannot use outside resources to complete a quiz or exam, regardless of format (in person, take home, etc) without explicit permission form the instructor,” Knight said via email. “Whether or not it is Quizzlet [sic] or any other website, a student cannot look up answers to their quizzes or exams unless an instructor has provided explicit permission to do so.”
An anonymous mass email was sent by a student in the class to what appears to be all the other students in the SOC 46A class. The email was forwarded to The California Aggie. The author of the anonymous email expressed concerns about the treatment of the students accused of cheating.
“While I personally have no problem with Dr. O modifying the quiz questions upon suspicion that students in the class had access to quiz answers from previous years, his choice to address the class and accuse one third of students of academic dishonesty and to immediately exclude them from further participation was disturbing and disruptive for a number of reasons,” the email stated. “It created a classroom environment that was not conducive to learning [and] it was difficult to focus on the material.”
The author of the email stated they were not one of the students who used the Quizlet nor were they punished in any way, but they state that how the situation was handled was “inappropriate and damaging to the class as a whole.”
“In light of this, I’d like to suggest some strategies to address this situation,” the email stated. “My intent isn’t to get Dr. O in trouble, but I want to ensure that this doesn’t continue to impact our class and that other students in the future don’t experience this again.”
The student who spoke with The California Aggie, however, said she disagrees with the author of this email.
“I don’t really know what everyone else in the class is going to do, but speaking for the 30 percent, I don’t think we are going to do anything,” she said. “He has that discretion as a teacher to take points away from us so it’s not really in our best interest to do anything about it.”
Orzechowicz did not respond to requests for comment.
Written by: Sabrina Habchi — firstname.lastname@example.org