Prof denies misleading students amid accusations of ‘over 100 cases of cheating’ in MATH 100

An email to MATH 100 students is accusing over 100 students of cheating on a recent midterm.

A screenshot of the email made its rounds on Reddit Tuesday night.

“I am extremely disappointed to tell you that there were over 100 cases of cheating,” reads the email. “We are currently investigating these and, if confirmed, the students involved will receive a 0% for the course (not just the midterm) and I will recommend their expulsion from UBC.”

Dr. Mike Bennett, the course coordinator, said in an email to The Ubyssey that he was “not at liberty to discuss this situation publicly.”

“Students have a right to privacy and, in all cases, we work under the presumption of innocence, until we have irrefutable proof to the contrary,” he wrote.

MATH 100 is an introductory calculus course mainly taken by first-year students.

AMS VP Academic Georgia Yee said that the AMS does not condone the email accusations sent out and the negative mental impact it had on students in MATH 100.

According to Yee, the AMS has heard of the potential usage of a “Chegg trap” where a professor uploads a false answer to any homework-sharing site, then penalizes students for utilizing that false answer.

While Yee named the website Chegg, the company said the phenomenon does not apply to it because only those employed by Chegg can post answers on the site. A Chegg spokesperson said in an email that such a trap is impossible because instructors can’t upload false answers to the site — the company does not crowdsource answers.

The Daily Princetonian reported about similar allegations with another homework-answer site.

“If it is … an exam question that was designed to be insolvable on its own — I think it does further point to deliberately goading those students into it,” said Yee.

Bennett denied using a Chegg trap in an subsequent email to The Ubyssey.

“There was absolutely no entrapment involved. I would consider something like what you describe to be ethically questionable and, in any case, unnecessary,” he wrote.

Yee said that regardless of whether a question is solvable, posting answers to questions on Chegg is inherently “bad exam design,” adding that exams should be designed around learning goals, not to catch cheaters.

Are cheaters made or born?

According to Yee, three critical elements cause people to cheat: perceived pressure, perceived opportunity and rationalization, which she calls the fraud triangle. In this case, pressure could come from the need to get into a specialization or pass a course. Failing a course also often comes with the financial pressure of needing to retake it.

Yee believes that the best way to prevent cheating is to support student mental health because she said desperation and stress are usually the root causes of cheating.

“When approaching academic misconduct, I think it is really vital to be compassionate,” she said. The AMS said it will support UBC if it creates an office of academic integrity to reframe the discussion around proactive misconduct prevention.

Social media users have said students who cheated should come forward as they may receive a lesser punishment.

Yee said there is nothing in university policy around academic misconduct that guarantees students who come forward will receive a lesser punishment but the severity of punishment often depends on how far the incident is escalated.

According to the UBC Vancouver academic calendar, punishments for academic misconduct range from a letter of reprimand to expulsion, pending administrator investigation.

Yee recommended that students who cheated reach out to the AMS advocacy and ombuds offices, which are confidential services that help students navigate university bureaucracy when they are in conflict with the university.

UBC spokesperson Matthew Ramsey said that students have a responsibility to behave ethically.

“We expect our students to hold themselves to a high level of conduct because they're studying at one of the best universities in the world,” he said.

“They’re part of a community, and they have a responsibility to that community. So what we would say is don’t take the easy way out.”

This article was updated to reflect that the AMS would support UBC’s creation of an academic integrity office, not that it would create one itself.

This article was further updated to clarify Yee’s description of a “Chegg trap” with Chegg’s response and has been updated to remove “Chegg baiting” from the headline and body. “Chegg trap” was later removed from the headline because Chegg said the phenomenon was factually impossible.