Hopkins to address cheating concerns Students complain others discussed exam during fire drill

May 11, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Five minutes after a three-hour mathematics final began Thursday morning, a fire alarm forced students at the Johns Hopkins University to stand outside for 15 minutes before they could return to finish the exam.

Less than 12 hours later, about two dozen of the 135 students who took the Calculus 3 final expressed concerns that some had taken copies of the exam outside and discussed some of the questions.

Today, Professor John M. Boardman will open a forum at 1 p.m. at Kreiger Hall to review students' concerns and consider potential options.

"I want to hear what they have to say before I make a decision," Boardman, a math professor at Hopkins since 1969, said yesterday. "This is somewhat shocking."

Dennis O'Shea, a Hopkins spokesman, said the office of Stuart Leslie, assistant dean for undergraduate studies at the school of arts and sciences, received four calls from students but none made specific allegations.

"If there was any evidence brought forward that a student cheated, that would be investigated," O'Shea said. "It has not reached that situation because we have not received any accusations."

The controversy began five minutes after the start of the 9 a.m. exam when fumes wafted from the basement of Remson Hall. The fire alarm sounded, and the building was evacuated.

Boardman said faculty and students were outside for about 15 minutes, then were allowed back inside. Because of the time lost, Boardman dropped one of the exam's 11 questions.

Later that afternoon, Boardman said several students told him they had seen others with the question sheet outside and talking about it in small groups. When Boardman found 20 e-mail messages from other students expressing similar concerns, he decided to organize today's forum.

Professor's options

"They felt that there was some widespread cheating," Boardman said. "They are not happy with the situation."

Calculus 3 involves multiple variables and vector analyses.

Boardman has three options: he can do nothing, reduce the weight given to the final, or order everyone to retake the exam -- an alternative the professor is likely to avoid.

Safety was main concern

"I think that's out of the question since nearly everyone has already gone home," said Boardman, adding that he is "leaning" toward the second option.

O'Shea said Boardman should not be blamed for the incident.

"The first reaction of the professor was student safety," O'Shea said. "He did not think to tell them to leave the tests in the room. There's nothing irregular about that."

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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