The intense time commitment and pressure of being both a student and an athlete may have led some Dartmouth College varsity athletes to cheat in their sports ethics class, student newspaper The Dartmouth reported when news of the scandal broke last semester.
More than 60 Dartmouth students were accused of cheating in a course called “Sports, Ethics, and Religion.” Students allegedly used wireless handheld clickers that were registered to absent students to make it seem like their missing peers were answering questions in class.
Attendance and participation make up 15% of a student’s grade in the course, The Dartmouth reported in November.
The local Valley News newspaper reports that Dartmouth has suspended “most” of the accused students for a semester.
After the cheating allegations first emerged, The Dartmouth spoke with several student-athletes who said they “hoped the incident would not reinforce negative stereotypes about student-athletes.” As one athlete told the student newspaper, “It’s foolish to not appreciate what student-athletes go through. Try balancing a 40-hour-a-week job with schoolwork. It’s a challenge.”
Other athletes also recognised the intense time pressure many of their peers face. “You get so overloaded that you just want to hibernate for a bit … That’s when cheating becomes a problem, because you’re no longer getting your work done,” another athlete told The Dartmouth.
In order to help their teammates, student-athletes will often pass around “layup lists” that track classes that are “less rigorous or time-consuming than others,” The Dartmouth reports.
While there are no numbers yet of how many student-athletes were implicated in the cheating, it seems likely that many were, based on the makeup of the course. Via The Dartmouth, here’s a good breakdown of which teams were most represented in the class:
Varsity athletes comprise just under 70 per cent of the 272-person class, including more than half of the football team, or 61 players, more than half of the men’s hockey team, or 16 players, and more than two-thirds of the men’s basketball team, or 12 players. The men’s soccer team has 10 players in the class, and the baseball, women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams each have nine. Athletes in the class represent 24 of Dartmouth’s 34 varsity teams, and about a quarter of Dartmouth students are varsity athletes.
Dartmouth religion professor Randall Balmer — who teaches “Sports, Ethics, and Religion” — has said the course was initially designed to help student athletes who may have trouble keeping up with the workload at the Ivy League college.
“I wanted to appeal to their interest, have a positive experience, allow them to succeed and build on that for their remainder of Dartmouth … Obviously it’s a great disappointment to me that many of the students, including many athletes, subverted the whole experience,” Balmer told The Dartmouth in November.
Other facts — such as the large course size and a perceived tolerance for previous cheating — may have also made Dartmouth students more inclined to take advantage of the system, The Dartmouth reports.
This case is similar to another Ivy League cheating scandal that took place at Harvard in 2012. In the spring semester that year, 125 students were accused of sharing notes on a take-home exam after the course’s professor noticed significant similarities in some answers.
Students were permitted to use any notes they wanted for the test, but were not allowed to discuss their answers with anyone else. According to The Boston Globe, the course — “Introduction to Congress” — was “widely reputed to be an easy class compatible with intense sports schedules.”
Perhaps unsurprising, the Harvard class was also popular with athletes. “As many as half of the 125 students now under scrutiny play varsity sports,” The Globe reported, based on a Harvard athlete.
As one implicated Harvard athlete told The Globe, “collaboration took place on team buses, where teammates would often discuss the course, pooling notes before and during the take-home exam period.” Although this student-athlete said that he didn’t share work during the take-home test, the class notes that got shared during the semester may have made his answers on the exam similar to other students’.
“A lot of athletes are implicated because we had to rely on each other’s notes. We were sharing notes before the exam even started,” he said. “There was no other way to keep up with the material given that we were travelling four out of five days of the season.”
We have reached out to Dartmouth for comment, and will update with any statement we receive.
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