- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 5, 2001

One University of Virginia student has been expelled and 11 others are facing a similar fate in the wake of a cheating scandal that shook the Charlottesville campus more than two months ago.
Of the original 130 cases referred to the school's honor committee, 95 are still being investigated. Twenty-three of the 35 completed cases have been dismissed.
The scandal, one of the largest in the school's history, came to light after physics professor Louis Bloomfield designed a computer program to locate duplicated passages in the essays of students in his introductory physics class.
"He compiled a database over a five-semester period of his course and found 130 instances of plagiarism," said Thomas Hall, chairman of the school's honor committee.
"About half of the instances were people looking for background information from other students, and the other half were, we believe, blatant cheaters," Mr. Hall said.
The 11 students awaiting trial this fall will go through a process not unlike criminal prosecution, in which they will be judged by a panel of 12 randomly selected students.
Mr. Hall said the honor committee hopes to have all the cases investigated by October and the trials completed by December.
Though cheating carries disciplinary consequences at any university, the stakes are particularly high for students at the University of Virginia. The school's honor code has students sign pledges that they will not lie, cheat or steal.
Mr. Bloomfield's findings nearly toppled what most believed was a sound ethics foundation, but Mr. Hall says he still believed in the UVa. honor system.
"It is working, and if you compare rates of cheating to other large state institutions, we are on par or better," said Mr. Hall, a 21-year-old student.
"Here we have students trying to get other students to stop cheating; it is not adversarial between the faculty and the students," he said.
Tim Terpstra, George Washington University's director of academic integrity, believes that UVa.'s strict punishment also reduces instances of cheating.
"They only have one sanction expulsion and that as much as anything contributes to their success: the fear of automatic expulsion if you are caught," Mr. Terpstra said.
Andrea Goodwin, assistant director of academic integrity at the University of Maryland College Park, agreed.
"Their [honor code] is so much a part of their school's culture, and the students believe in it so heavily, that they have less of a problem with cheating. But the strict punishment definitely plays a factor," Mrs. Goodwin said.
The university's honor system has existed since 1842. Other institutions such as George Washington University and the University of Maryland have had academic integrity policies consisting of modified honor codes in place for 10 years.
Administrators say cheating is easier these days with the help of the Internet.
"I call it 'negligent plagiarism,'" Mr. Terpstra said. "With all of the papers being done these days using Internet sources in some cases all Internet sources it is very easy for students to go to a site and get a source but not have the presence of mind to cite the source because all they have is a Web address."
While Mr. Hall said cheating involving the Internet is on the rise, he found some reason for optimism.
"The only positive I see is that the teachers' technology to catch cheating is finally catching up with that of the students."

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