Dartmouth medical school accused 17 students of cheating after the Ivy League school secretly monitored their online activity – then had them defend themselves over Zoom.
The Geisel School of Medicine claimed the students accessed the online course platform Canvas while taking virtual exams, giving themselves an unauthorized open book test.
But the prestigious New Hampshire school is now dealing with claims the probe was flawed.
Students at the school held an on-campus protest and some of the accused cheaters came forward to claim they were advised to admit the charges to get a lesser penalty.
“What has happened to me in the last month, despite not cheating, has resulted in one of the most terrifying, isolating experiences of my life,” first-year student Sirey Zhang told The New York Times.
The cheating probe was launched in January when a faculty member observed students accessing the online learning platform Canvas while taking exams, the school said in a statement sent to The Post on Monday.
The New Hampshire school went back to look at online activity for the entire school year, Dartmouth’s statement said. Students were taking tests virtually amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Past exam activity was included to ensure fairness for all students, including those not suspected of violations but whose grades could be affected by any changes to scores of their peers,” the statement said.
Some groups accused the New Hampshire college of potentially misreading the data. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a joint letter to the college saying students may have been logged in on cellphones or other computers and not actually cheating.
“Dartmouth has likely turned false positives into accusations of academic misconduct, taking enforcement action against innocent students based on faulty technical evidence,” the groups said in the March letter, which was supplied to The Post.
But by using data page views and not from Canvas logs, the school said it was already able to determine a majority of the cases weren’t deliberate and didn’t violate the school’s Honor Policy.
Some 17 students were still charged with potential violations of the code and had to attend hearings in March with the school’s Committee on Student Performance and Student Conduct.
Seven had the accusations against them dismissed, the school said. On April 16, the remaining 10 were notified of the recommended sanctions against them, according to the school.
Three have been expelled and others face suspension and other discipline, according to a petition signed by 160 students obtained by the Valley News.
Some of the students admitted to the accusations because they were advised by the Office of Student Affairs that students who do so receive less severe penalties, the letter stated.
“Students felt that they were choosing between admitting guilt and their future as a physician,” the letter said.
“Confused and vulnerable, many students accepted the advice from Student Affairs leadership and apologized for the alleged infractions,” it went on. “These are not valid admissions of guilt and should be disregarded.”
The letter said accused students had shared their experiences of “suicidal ideation, panic attacks, and inability to eat or sleep” through a now-deleted Instagram account.
Students protested outside the dean’s office last month over Dartmouth’s handling of the cheating probe, the News reported.
The students can now appeal if there is information that wasn’t available when the initial decision was made or if there is evidence the school’s committee didn’t properly follow its own guidelines.
If an appeal is found valid, an appeal committee has four weeks to schedule another hearing.
“We are working to make sure that any relevant concerns are addressed in a fair and timely manner,” the college’s statement said.