Why are innocent students punished for cheating they didn’t do?

The exam mess

Op-ed: Why punish innocent students for cheating?

Why are all students forced to retake an exam when only a small number of them cheated? If you can’t prove that someone cheated, you’re not allowed to punish them, argues Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) chair Marinus Jongman.
By Marinus Jongman
27 October om 16:33 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 22 November 2020
om 16:22 uur.
October 27 at 16:33 PM.
Last modified on November 22, 2020
at 16:22 PM.

Last week, it was announced that students allegedly cheating during several exams at the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB). UKrant wrote about this on Monday. Apparently, the answer for this ‘widespread’ cheating is to cancel all exams and move them to a random week in the next block.

As far as the GSb is concerned FEB is entirely wrong to do this. As a student who’s having trouble adjusting to education now being online, I’ll explain why.

First of all, the concept of punishing the many for the mistakes of the few is completely outdated. Good students who have been working hard since the start of the year are being punished because a few others allegedly cheated. If you can’t prove that someone cheated, you shouldn’t be allowed to punish them. In any other legal system, the rule is ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but here it’s simply been decided that everyone is culpable.

This would have been excessive under normal circumstances, but now it’s even worse. Many students struggle now that everything is online; never before have there been so many complaints of trouble focusing and a lack of motivation.

In any other legal system the rule is ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but here it’s simply been decided that everyone is culpable

Ask any study adviser: Studying right now is particularly difficult. First-years are having a particularly hard time, as they have nothing to compare it to. Not only did the pandemic have quite an impact on the last few months of their high school careers, but their introduction week and now their exams have also been disrupted. But the first one hundred days are really important for first-year students, as it helps them adjust to their new life.

Now, innocent and hard-working students are being punished for things they didn’t do. Faculties have had six months to figure out how to administer exams, and still everything is going awry.

Last Monday, a FEB exam was cancelled when several students had almost finished it, simply because a few others were denied entrance into the digital exam room because the maximum number of participants had been reached. The law faculty has also reported issues with the digital exam environment. Last week, they threatened to cancel all online exams after a few reports of cheating.

Students are also complaining about having to sit too many exams in a day. FEB minor students had to take three exams in a single day. Surely that’s unhealthy?

To be sure, these two faculties aren’t the only ones that are facing issues. There’s a bigger issue at play here. There is a distinct lack of leadership at the university, and this has become even more obvious during the corona crisis.

Every student, lecturer, faculty manager and programme coordinator is at their wits’ end. They just don’t know how to make everything work. Unfortunately, the students end up being the victims over and over again. The board of directors should have risen to the occasion and dealt with the situation.

Streamer: There is a distinct lack of leadership at the university, and this has become even more obvious during the corona crisis

So far, they haven’t. The face mask mandate wasn’t put in place until a week after the press conference about the new measures. Why? Because the board was taking a fall break. While other universities announced on Thursday, October 15 that face masks were mandatory, our board members didn’t make the announcement until five days later, after their break.

They currently find themselves leading a university where its first-year students no longer feel like they’re starting the best time of their lives. Rather, they can’t decide whether they simply dislike their programme or if it’s because of online education.

This crisis has shown that the university is losing its connections to its students. We’re getting all tangled up in rules and bureaucracy, bogged down in exam regulation subheadings. We’re constantly pointing fingers at each other to ward off being blamed and bond over our sense of desperation.

The university is a mess, students are on the verge of a breakdown, and all sense of vision is lost. I would like to appeal to the board of directors. Please, be the leaders you’re supposed to be. Take responsibility. Do something. It’s been seven months since the university closed down and it’s time to rise to the occasion. It’s now or never.

Marinus Jongman is chair of the Groninger Studentenbond (GSb)

Nederlands