Scandals are a financial blogger’s bread and butter. Just ask anyone (e.g., Francine, Jim, Sara, Caleb, JDA, Sam, Tracy). Some financial bloggers write because there are scandals, others are going to write and scandals are easy to write about.
Scandals abound in financial reporting, government regulation and auditing. Occasionally, collegiate scandals hit the news. If there was more money involved, collegiate scandals would be written about more often. Last week, a doozy of a collegiate cheating scandal (University of Central Florida—UCF) hit national news.
Underlying most scandals is an act of cheating. Depending on the rewards and risks, the cheating can be simple or sophisticated. Regardless, cheaters normally are vilified and cheatees are sanctified.
How much cheating takes place? There is no clear answer, as it depends on the circumstances. At some level, cheating is universal (meaning that everyone is a cheat). You are a cheat in at least some aspect of your life. There is a simple test that shows 99% of you to be a cheater.
Have you willfully exceeded the legal speed limit while driving your car?
Not a fair question? Well, yes it is.
There are two conditions that must be present for cheating to take place. First, there must be a rule. Second, someone must be tasked with obeying that rule. Merriam-Webster defines cheating as, “… to violate rules dishonestly …” (Can anyone violate a rule honestly?) Because those charged with obeying a given rule are not in all ways congruent with those who created the rule, it is reasonable to conclude that any rule can be not complied with.
Cheating takes place in college. Much of it revolves around tests. Cheating on tests is rampant. The reward is a higher test score, which could be needed to deal with peer pressure, raise the GPA for scholarship purposes, etc. The risks are small, as most professors don’t check for cheating and cheating is difficult to detect. As evidence, I’ll turn to my favorite source for popular culture–Youtube.
There are several videos on Youtube that can teach you how to cheat on a test. Some are tongue in cheek, some are serious. Two out of the many are:
Now, for the scandal at UCF. UCF is the country’s second largest brick and mortar university. Most courses are mass produced. How mass produced? The class in question has 600 students. The professor lectures all the time, and lectures are streamed over the campus network. The classroom for this class has a capacity of 200, but reportedly far fewer students attend.
Because of the large numbers of students, testing is severely restricted. Because tests that include essay questions or open-ended numerical problems would take too long to grade, testing is done using multiple choice formatted questions.
At UCF, business professor Richard Quinn uses tests that come from a publisher’s test bank. Here’s how it works. Usually a publisher has a data base of multiple choice questions for each chapter in a business text book. Instructors can select certain questions, or choose to have the data base software randomly select a certain number of questions. These are then formatted, and subsequently administered to students in a testing environment.
In the age of the Internet, it is easy to download a copy of a test bank from the Internet. I’ve seen prices vary from free to $150. It is common knowledge among professors that these test banks are out there and available.
At UCF, business professor Richard Quinn stated at the start of the course that all tests would be multiple choice and that he would write all his own questions. Subsequently, students in his course secured a digital copy of the test bank and openly shared it. For a test in mid October, the test bank contained approximately 200 relevant questions. Students did not know how many or which questions would appear on the test, so they studied all 200 questions. Some scores were high, and the professor called studying from the test bank to be cheating. Due to the large number of students involved, it made evening national news broadcasts. The professor became an admired celebrity because of his speech to the students in which he chewed them out for cheatingl.
The following video explains some of the issues involved:
This has become a hot topic of conversation among business professors, nationwide. It has provoked dozens of e-mails among the accounting professors at AECM. Here’s my take.
First, the professor is acting like a jerk. Second, the professor is largely at fault here by attempting to deceive students as to the source of his test questions. Third, the professor shirked his professional duty by relying on a test bank he had to have known was compromised. Quinn should have been writing his own tests because that’s what he gets paid for. He even uses power point slides provided by the publisher. Fourth, some 200 students acted rationally in securing a copy of the test bank to study from. That 400 others didn’t shows the prevalence of irrationality. If I was a student, I would have sought out a copy of the test bank and I’m honest. Fifth, multiple choice questions from publisher test banks are notorious for being poorly written and difficult for students to understand. This is a major reason for low test scores on multiple choice tests. Sixth, the professor’s punitive actions against all students (cheaters and non-cheaters) provide evidence of his high level of jerkiness. Seventh, news media professionals, as usual, didn’t adequately research the story and made material misstatements.
Predictably, the accounting professors at AECM support the professor.
I’ll have more to write on this issue. Have fun with it in the meantime.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht