Book by Rutgers student tells how to cheat Satirical text on "easy" way to good grades sells 1,000 copies in a week.

December 26, 1991|By New York Times

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Fall semester finals are over and Michael Moore, a 24-year-old junior at Rutgers University, is proud to say he did not cheat on a single one. That is more than he will say for most college students.

Moore, a journalism major from West Chester, Pa., is so convinced that most students cheat that he wrote a book to prove it. Culling cheating methods from teachers and students at Rutgers and at several other campuses, he put them together and, using his computer, wrote and published "Cheating 101: The Benefits and Fundamentals of Earning the Easy 'A.' "

"The research was really easy," he said. "It didn't take much to get enough material to write a book."

The preppy Moore, who wears Izod V-neck sweaters and large, square glasses, said he got the idea for "Cheating 101" by watching fellow students in his physical geography course flagrantly pass notes and whisper answers back and forth during a mid-term exam in October. A month later, right after Thanksgiving, the book went on the market.

Selling the 86-page book for $6 through mail-order ads in student newspapers at Rutgers, the University of Maryland (because a friend goes there) and Ohio State University (because "it's huge"), Moore said he sold out of his first 1,000 copies in one week. He plans to sell the book to a major distributor by spring semester.

"The response has been awesome," he said. "Students like it because most of them cheat."

But one student, whom he quotes in the book's preface, left a message on his answering machine criticizing him for contributing to the "mediocrity of American society."

Most bookstores in and around the university have refused to carry the book. And Rutgers officials, while impressed with Moore's enterprise and entrepreneurship, expressed outrage at the book's content.

"He has a First Amendment right to free expression," said Tony Atwater, the chairman of the Department of Journalism and Mass Media at Rutgers-New Brunswick. "But there are ways of dealing with improprieties on college tests without crossing the line to advocacy."

To Moore, who calls the book a satire, professors are upset because the book points out their shortcomings. "I've converted the failures of administrators, professors and the entire university system into words," he said.

Students tend to agree. Miles Seligman, a junior and editorial page editor of a Rutgers student newspaper, the Targum, agreed that cheating was pervasive "on very mild levels."

"Maybe sharing answers in large lecture-hall kinds of settings," he said. "And there's always rumors about fraternity files."

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