Stanford is investigating an 'unusually high number' of student cheating allegations

Stanford University is investigating “an unusually high number” of student cheating allegations during its winter quarter, Provost John Etchemendy announced in a letter to the school’s faculty this week.

In one large introductory course, as many as 20% of the students enrolled may have cheated, according to Etchemendy. Aside from notifying the accused students, Stanford is also investigating the “larger matter” of cheating, the provost writes.

This rise in allegations may be tied to students’ use of technology.

“With the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognise and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others,” Etchemendy writes in the letter, which Bloomberg reported on earlier Thursday.

Earlier this semester, another elite school — Dartmouth College — was rocked by a cheating scandal after dozens of students were suspended for cheating in a sports ethics class. The students reportedly used hand-held “clickers” to fake their attendance in the school’s largest course.

Here is Etchemendy’s full letter to the faculty, via Stanford’s website.

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to inform you of an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty reported to our Office of Community Standards at the end of winter quarter. Among a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 per cent of the students in one large introductory course.

While OCS investigates the larger matter and students are being notified, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of our role in helping students understand the seriousness of academic dishonesty. At the beginning of our students’ Stanford careers, they are introduced to the Honour Code and agree to abide by it. But with the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognise and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others. In violating academic integrity, they are cheating themselves of the very core of our mission — the process of learning and discovery — as well as risking severe consequences.

The faculty has a significant responsibility to provide guidance to our students and to articulate clearly our expectations for academic work. I thank you for all that you already do to foster a campus culture built on trust and integrity. I ask you to continue to reflect on ways to discuss the importance of academic integrity frankly and openly with our students. When collaboration in a class is encouraged, as I do in my classes, do we make certain that the parameters for collaboration are clear to the students? Do we provide guidance for the use of technology? And are students aware that we really will seek to identify and report concerns that may arise?

Dishonesty is corrosive in an academic community. Our Honour Code commits students and faculty to “work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work.” Thank you for your ongoing dedication and attention to assuring the best possible environment for learning.


John Etchemendy


We have reached out to Stanford University for further comment and will update with any statement we receive.

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