University of Maryland College Park students buried their heads in books last week for final exams, but some of them were reading "Cheating 101: The Benefits and Fundamentals of Earning the Easy 'A.' "
About 150 students bought the $7 book of academic larceny tips since fliers began circulating on campus last month, says 24-year-old author Michael Moore.
"You always hear stories about the parties at the University of Maryland. You put two and two together, and it looks like a good candidate," the Rutgers University junior journalism major said yesterday. "Right now, though, there are orders coming in from all over the place."
What "Cheating 101" has to sell are creative cheating techniques, such as hiding crib sheets inside the holes of ripped jeans and using feet the way hands are used to shift gears in a car to signal correct answers on multiple choice tests.
Mr. Moore, of West Chester, Pa., said he has sold 1,000 books so far at College Park, Rutgers and Ohio State University, and plans to distribute the book nationally early next year.
Steven Antkowiak, a Severna Park resident who serves as marketing and sales director for Mr. Moore's fledgling publishing company, said he's planning a selling blitz when the spring semester begins at College Park in January.
"I think we're going to be really successful at Maryland. It's a large party school," the 24-year-old said. Mr. Antkowiak and Mr. Moore met at St. Francis College in Loretto, Pa., about five years ago, and both say they've never cheated. Mr. Antkowiak graduated from St. Francis College, and Mr. Moore says he has a grade point average of about 3.4 at Rutgers.
"I think the book plays on the reality that everyone does cheat," Mr. Antkowiak said. "Half of our sales currently have been to people looking at new ways to cheat, and others have been people looking for reminders of their college days."
Mr. Antkowiak said he is working with College Park bar owners to develop promotional ideas -- including a contest that offers free drinks to the person who can write the smallest "cheat sheet."
One College Park bar owner said yesterday, however, he wouldn't take part in any such campaign that could smudge the image of his alma mater.
"I'm entirely opposed to this sort of thing," said John Brown, a 1973 College Park graduate who owns R.J.Bentley's Filling Station a few hundred yards from the campus.
Some campus administrators don't like the publicity Mr. Moore's book and his marketing strategy are bringing the university, which has fought hard for a top 10 national ranking.
"I think the university has come a long way in the past 10 years, and I was quite surprised to see that they were marketing the book to Maryland," said Gerald Miller, chairman of College Park's Campus Senate.
Mr. Miller, a chemistry professor, said an increase in the test scores of College Park's entering freshmen and a new system to punish academic dishonesty are evidence of the university's attempts to pull away from its party-school reputation.
Two years ago, officials introduced a policy of failing a student convicted of academic dishonesty and recording an "X" next to the grade to denote the penalty. Since the policy was implemented, the number of students turned in for academic dishonesty has doubled and tripled for certain types of cheating, officials said. This fall, 30 to 40 students were reported for all types of offenses, compared to five or six a year ago.
Despite the increase in cases, Mr. Miller said he thinks the new rules are discouraging cheating because students serve as judges and are quicker to realize they are the ones harmed most by academic dishonesty.