Dartmouth medical school drops all cheating sanctions against students
“We will learn from this and we will do better,” he wrote.
The cheating allegations, levied this spring against a group of about 10 first- and second-year students, engulfed the small, close-knit campus. They stemmed from questions raised by administrators about whether students accessed course materials while taking online exams this year. Exams were held remotely this year due to the pandemic.
The cheating controversy comes amid a particularly difficult time at Dartmouth. On the undergraduate campus, three first-year students have died by suicide this year and the campus is grappling with questions over whether its mental health services adequately meet the needs of its students.
Many of the accused Dartmouth medical students maintained that they did not cheat and said the school simply did not understand the inner workings of the course software program the school uses. Students said the program that stores their course materials routinely pings their computers and smartphones and such pings do not indicate cheating.
The medical school’s accusations came under fire from internet and student privacy watchdog groups, who said they were ill-informed and a violation of privacy.
Students also said they were pressured by administrators to admit to cheating and not given adequate time to defend themselves. The administration said it was performing its due diligence and had an obligation to investigate any allegations of the school’s honor code.
The punishments imposed by a disciplinary committee in April ranged from course failures to remedial exams to suspensions and three expulsions, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation.
Students were waiting for the school to form a committee that would hear their appeals when they were caught off-guard this week by invitations from Compton to meet with him individually. In those meetings, the person said, Compton informed students that the charges were dropped.
One accused student on Thursday described feeling a wave of relief.
“The weight of these last three months is finally lifted. I feel like I finally start living my life again. It’s going to take a long time to heal, but I’m so thankful I can finally start to put this behind me and just focus on learning medicine again,” the student said in a texted statement.
In his email, Compton said the academic transcripts of the students will not include any reference to these proceedings.
“I appreciate the concern expressed by many in the community for the welfare of the involved students and the complicated nature of these cases. This has been an incredibly difficult period for everyone, especially for the students, and I appreciate the support that many in our community have provided to them,” he wrote.
He also announced a series of policy changes and improvements based on feedback from the student body, including a review of a proposal for open-book exams and a return to in-person testing.
“The measures outlined above and our commitment to improvement are the necessary first steps toward rebuilding the trust we recognize has been lost among some students during this process,” he wrote.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which had criticized the school for the accusations, applauded the move Thursday but said it will continue to monitor Dartmouth’s policies.
“Dartmouth’s fresh commitment to ‘rebuilding trust’ among the students it unfairly accused in this case should start with promising a fair process to all future students who may find themselves facing a similar misconduct allegation,” said the organization’s program officer, Alex Morey, in a statement.
A spokesman from the college said the institution will not comment further, out of respect for the privacy of students.