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MIT to Discuss Integrity, Cheating

By Charu Chaudhry
Staff Reporter

An MIT colloquium, "Success and/or Honesty: In Here, Out There," will be held Wednesday, October 21 in Kresge Auditorium to address the issue of cheating at MIT and in the workplace. The colloquium expands on the work of a series of forums on academic honesty held by the Undergraduate Association Council in February.

Institute Professor of Economics Robert M. Solow will moderate discussion from a panel of educators, businessmen, and students. Following the plenary session, the audience will break into small discussion groups to be led by teams of faculty and teaching assistants.

Nelson Y.-S. Kiang, chair of the Committee on Discipline, started the effort to emphasize academic honesty at MIT in response to the largest single incidence of cheating in MIT history. In that incidence, the COD heard 78 cases of cheating in the spring 1990 class of Computers and Engineering Problem Solving (1.00).

In the September issue of the MIT Faculty Newsletter, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt criticized MIT's current attitude toward cheating. "We remark with concern a perceived increase in cheating. We lament the collapse of honesty among our youth, and wonder aloud how probity can survive the corrosive influence of our society's deplorable values," he wrote.

Merritt continued, "We should address in the most concrete terms such questions as these: Can we find ways consistent with maintaining high standards of academic rigor to reduce a sense of relentless pressure and overload which drives our students to cheat? Can we make crystal clear to students in our classes precisely which kinds of collaborative teaming are permissible (and even laudable) on homework, and which ones are not?"

Panelist Arun R. Patel '93 said, "I don't know whether cheating is rampant, but I know that it does happen, because people have told me either that they've done it or that they know of people who have done it. Since I know only a small population of all MIT students, I wouldn't be able to judge how much of a problem cheating is."

"All that I hope will come of the colloquium is that people become more aware of the need for integrity in personal conduct. I would like to say that people will come out of it wanting an honor code, but that will probably not happen. From the colloquium, all we can ask for really is to make people aware of the fact that honesty and integrity are crucial in life, and if they are not things people think about, they should be."

Colloquium panelists will include Shirley A. Jackson PhD '73 of AT&T Bell Laboratories, President of the Massachusetts Bar Association Margaret Marshall, Rutgers University Professor Donald L. McCabe, Ken Olsen '50 of Digital Equipment Corporation, Professor of Physics Robert P. Redwine, Kelly M. Sullivan '93, David G. Steel G, Associate Provost Sheila Widnall '60, and Patel.