Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Big Trouble

  1. Feb 24, 2006 #1
    I really need some advice. Sorry if this is a bit long, but without knowing the whole story, it's kind of hard to understand where I'm sitting at the moment.

    In my circuit’s class, a large group of us gets together each day before class to discuses homework, the labs, and the lab questions. I'm pretty free with helping people and often let other people look at my work as an example or to help with an explanation. Monday morning, we were running out of time before class as I was trying to explain a proof to another student, so I just put a copy of my answer on his jump drive to use as a guide. HUGE MISTAKE!!!!

    In the circuits lab we work in teams of 4 on the labs. After each lab, each member of the team is supposed to answer one of 4 questions about the lab, type up a quick page about it and hand it in the following lab period. We are also supposed to understand and be able to answer oral questions about the other questions. I always do all 4 of the questions as if I was going to hand them in to be sure I fully understand them.

    Wednesday morning I got a request for help from one of my lab partners, she was having trouble with her problem, I sent her mine to use as a guide and thought nothing of it. ANOTHER HUGE MISTAKE!!!!

    Wednesday afternoon in lab, I was made aware that a student from another lab period, who I study with sometimes, took a derivation of mine and copied it term for term, step by step. This lab was handed in the 3rd week of lab and we just got it back Wednesday, 4 weeks later. This was spotted by whoever was grading the assignments and we both received a warning and received 0credit for the lab. Needless to say, this really pissed me off. I was basically told that I'm as guilty as the guy that cheated and that the last thing I want is to take this any further, like to the academic conduct committee. Despite being very upset about this, I decided to just let the matter drop and to change my methods when it comes to helping people.

    Friday morning, 2 days after finding out about the 0, I find out that not only did my lab partner hand in my example with her name on it, so did the guy that I was helping before class Monday morning. To make matters worse, that same question was the one that I had to answer an oral question about, rather then redoing the whole proof over again, I just grabbed the question I had done and showed it to the lab instructor, she said that was fine.

    So to sum up where we are at this point:

    2nd week of lab, 5 weeks ago, another student handed in a copy of my work as his own.

    Last Wednesday, I was informed of the infraction and given a 0 for that lab and a warning. My lab partner handed in my work as her own; I answered an oral question about the lab using that same work as my answer.

    Thursday, a different student that I study with hands in that same work as his own.

    Friday, I find out about my lab partner and my studymates transgressions.

    What the hell am I supposed to do now? I don't even know who to talk to about this, how can I cover my ass. I see know how naive I was, but it was certainly not my intention to facilitate cheating. Some things that I've thought of, email both my professors and lab instructors and try to make them aware of what's going on before they find out for themselves. Go to the dean and possibly the academic conduct committee before I'm dragged up there already considered guilty. Do I contact a lawyer? Is there a school department that represents students against charges of cheating? I'm in a total panic right now.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 24, 2006 #2
    Sounds like the engineering students at your school need to take an ethics class.

    Nothing you ever did was wrong. Allowing someone to use yout work as an aid, but not as a substitute for doing the assignment, is fine, especially if you were very clear about this, and if this was a team lab effort (well, this migtht NOT be the case depending on specific guidelines, but it seems like what you did is ok). The person you lended the assignment to should not have distributed it out to others before contacting you first. I would first talk to the people you gave the assignment to. Since this is beginning to seriously affect your grade now, I would contact your professor about it.

    Seems to me that you're blowing this out of proportion. I bet a short talk with a professor will clear it up.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2006
  4. Feb 24, 2006 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I'd try talking with the instructors and profs to see what they recommend. I'd also talk to the study group to make it clear that you didn't intend for your help to turn into plaigerism (sp?). And make it clear that from now on you will be careful not to give out copies of work. You can still help folks, but no copies of work will go anywhere. When you talk to the profs and instructors, let them know that you've told your study group and friends this.

    Also, if you can, get the people who handed in copies of your work to own up to it, and to let the instructors know that you had no knowledge that they were going to hand in a copy of your work. Maybe that can get your credit restored for the lab.
  5. Feb 24, 2006 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You have just started learning the hard lessons in life.

    My suggestion is to talk to your instructor first. If you find that it isn't clarified or resolved to your satisfaction, see if you can talk to someone in the Dean of Students office.

    However, you need to keep in mind that unless the students who copied your work confess, this will be a he-said-she-said type of scenario. From the perpective of everyone else, there's no way to know who is telling the truth.

    All I can say is LEARN from this. You're lucky that no academic actions were taken against you... yet!

  6. Feb 24, 2006 #5
    Fortunately, 2 out of the 3 are willing to talk to whoever needs to be talked to and feel very bad that I got in trouble. I would feel a little better if they actually realized that cheating is bad, but you can't have everything.

    There are also 2 other people who are not involved in the cheating, but are usually there in the mornings when I'm trying to help people. They are also willing to defend me and know that I never intended for anyone to hand in my work as their own.

    I'm going to give myself a couple days to calm down and then I'll send an email to all 3 of the professors involved. Next week is spring break, so nothing much is going to be happening until march.

    Thanks for the advice guys.
  7. Feb 24, 2006 #6

    Wednesday night, after finding out about the initial incident, but still being unaware that my lab partner and study groupmate were going to be handing in identical copies of my work, I sent one of my professors an email.

    Today I was informed that I have been accused of cheating.
    I can not fully express how furious and upset I am over this
    situation. In an effort to aid a fellow student, I showed
    him my derivation of a problem. I used my work as an
    example as to how the problem could be solved. At no time
    did I encourage him to take my work and hand it in as his
    own and I certainly don’t condone it after the fact. I
    pride myself on following the rules and expect others to do
    so also. After speaking to (Lab instructor) in the lab, I was told
    that I’m as guilty as the student that copied my work and
    without my consent, handed it in as his own. If this is the
    case, I am going to need some clarification as to where the
    line is drawn on this issue so I can avoid it in the

    Am I allowed to help another student with his homework or
    lab question?

    Am I allowed to show him how I solved a problem and then
    encourage him to try and solve it himself?

    Am I allowed to point out errors in someone else’s work and
    try to show them how it should be done, possibly using my
    own work as an example?

    Thank you for your time.

    Tonight, I got this response

    Thank you for your email pointing out an important flaw in
    our grading policy. The answers to your three questions are
    yes, yes, and yes. We have accordingly revised our grading
    policy and you can rest assured that you can continue to help
    other students without being accused of cheating in the

    Obviously, he does not yet know about the other 2 incidents. My main goal in all of this is to clear my name, I do not want to be an object of suspicion for the next 2 years of college. To that end, I feel like I should inform him of the other 2 incidents that will doubtless be brought to his attention during spring break or shortly after. Does this sound like the right course? Should I just wait and see what happens with the other 2 students?

    I'm really just hoping to see an end to all of this, I had a hard time getting motivated about an assignment today because I couldn't get this out of my mind, and that's really not like me.
  8. Feb 24, 2006 #7
    Definately make the effort to clear your name with the professors that will be involved. This incident can really cause a blemish in your college career, the other 2 students are to be blamed. I hope you learned from this lesson.
  9. Feb 24, 2006 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I also want to point out that this is the VERY reason why, in the PF Homework forum, that we strongly discourage (maybe even warn) people from actually doing the work for the students or show the solution to their questions. By doing such a thing, it is a disservice to everyone involved because the student who is struggling will be tempted to simply copy off the solution, and the instructor will have the impression that this student already knows the material.

    So if your intention is the help, showing your solution is the worst thing you can possibly do. That isn't helping. It is spoon-feeding, and the student would never learn of what he/she did not know. If you do not have the time to help, then don't. Giving out your solution isn't a shortcut, as you can already see.

  10. Feb 24, 2006 #9
    Yes, I'm getting that now. I don't have a problem spending as much time as necessary to teach someone something, but I will no longer be used as an easy solution to a problem.
  11. Feb 24, 2006 #10
    If they just copied it without understanding it, couldn't they just be tested? The ones who fail are obviously guilty.

    But yeah, you could have been expelled for something like that. I also help people out a lot in my math and chemistry class. But I make sure nobody copies my work, because I could get in trouble, and they won't learn anything anyway. I've only given one friend of mine my homework this quarter, because I know he won't just copie everything, but at least try to understand it first. :wink:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook