Berkeley cheating allegations spike nearly 400 percent with online classes

UC Berkeley’s Center for Student Conduct, or CSC, stated that it has received more than 300 reports of alleged academic misconduct during the fall semester.

The report comes as Berkeley students have completed most of this year's classes online.

According to the University of California-Berkeley student newspaper, The Daily Cal, the university's Center for Student Conduct has seen a 400 percent increase of alleged academic misconduct compared with last year, amounting to more than 300 reports of misconduct as of early November.

[RELATED: Berkeley prof: ‘Law and order’ is a racist dog whistle]

The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Contact manual states that academic misconduct includes "cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, or facilitating academic dishonesty."

Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff told the newspaper that the increase in academic misconduct is occurring nationwide, and not just at UC-Berkeley.

He also said that the university has not revised its Code of Student Conduct for the fall semester while remote learning is in place, and stated that the Center for Student Conduct is making evaluations on allegations of academic misconduct on a case-by-case basis.

While the university hasn't changed its policies, some professors and instructors have.

Sabeeha Merchant, a plant and microbial biology professor, told the student newspaper that any form of academic misconduct in her class will result in a zero on the particular assignment and a one-letter drop in the student's final grade in the course.

“I don’t think students should be able to walk away from the misconduct, but it need not be an F in the class,” Merchant told the student newspaper. “I can imagine that the financial picture has changed for many students and perhaps this should be taken into account this year in terms of consequences that involve suspension.”

Megan Wang, a UC-Berkeley sophomore, told Campus Reform that students should not be able to get away with cheating just because they are learning remotely.

[RELATED: UC-Berkeley grants $1.5 million for anti-racist efforts]

“Overall [it] seems like students are demanding a lot from the professors because this ‘isn’t a normal semester,' Wang said, adding, "which is true, but I think it isn’t a normal semester for the professors either. This shouldn’t be an excuse for students to be able to get away with fraudulent acts." 

During the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Campus Reform reported on a study by the National College Testing Association, which found that students are more likely to cheat in unproctored environments. The same study found that the overwhelming majority of students in online classes -70 percent - had admitted to cheating. 

Meanwhile, Harvard University professors were being encouraged to "trust" their students not to cheat as the Ivy League school, like most colleges, transitioned to online learning.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ashleyecarnahan