Several Dartmouth Medical Students Accused of Cheating on Exams

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Several students at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, New Hampshire, are being investigated on accusations of cheating on closed-book exams taken remotely, according to a report from a New Hampshire newspaper, the Valley News, on Wednesday.

The report says the investigations started at earlier this year when a witness who was using Canvas, an online course management system, told Dartmouth administrators that some students appeared to be using the system at the same time exams were being given.

A report was forwarded to the Committee on Student Performance and Conduct (CSPC), which includes Geisel faculty, medical students, and a community member. The CSPC investigates possible violations of the school’s honor code and determines outcomes.

Geisel Dean Duane Compton said in a virtual town hall, held privately with students on Monday, that students found to have violated the school’s honor code may be required to retake the exams or face more serious sanctions.

“It depends on what the individual student was found responsible for,” Compton said on Monday.

“This is a circumstance that none of us thought we would be in,” Compton told the Valley News on Wednesday. “It’s not something we take lightly.”

The school has declined to give the number of students being investigated. Compton told the newspaper the school admits only 92 students a year and doesn’t want the affected students identified, though he said they were first- and second-year medical students.

The Valley News obtained a letter the committee sent to at least one of the affected students that threatened “suspension or separation” from the school. The name of the student was redacted.

For now at least, Geisel School of Medicine, the fourth-oldest medical school in the country, has begun electronic proctoring of exams, Compton said.

But, he said, “I still have faith in the honor code. Most of our students are actually doing things appropriately.”

Derik Hertel, director of communications, shared the medical school’s statement on the allegations with Medscape Medical News. The following are excerpts:

“The ongoing Honor Code review has been difficult for everyone in the Geisel community already experiencing an extremely challenging year. Recognizing that the process is not complete, there is a limit to the information we can disclose. Once the process is finished, and consistent with our policy guidelines, more detail can be shared.

“The extent of the potential infractions prompted the CSPC to conduct a review spanning the entire academic year. Past exam activity was included in the review to ensure fairness for all students, including those not suspected of violations but whose grades could be affected by any changes to scores of their peers.

“All students received the opportunity to present relevant information and statements to the CSPC, and in multiple instances, students admitted to the conduct in question.

“After final decisions are made and communicated, the appeal process is available to any students with concerns that meet the criteria for consideration. Of equal importance is that we refrain from sharing information regarded as personally identifying any student in accordance with FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] and out of respect for student right to privacy.”

The Valley News reported that the investigation was the subject of several posts on Instagram, and “affected students have shared anonymously how the experience has negatively affected their physical and mental health.”

The Valley News added, “Posts [on Instagram] suggest that some students say they felt pressured into admitting wrongdoing, while at least one student may have been exonerated after presenting technical data that indicated they didn’t access material improperly.”

The page mentioned has since been removed.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News and Nurse.com and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick

For more news, follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn

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