Dartmouth Medical School Drops Online Cheating Cases Against Students

The Ivy League school said it was dismissing allegations that students had looked up online course materials during remote exams.

By Natasha Singer

Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine says it is dropping an online cheating investigation that led the school to erroneously accuse some students, allegations that prompted an outcry among faculty, alumni and technology experts.

In March, Dartmouth charged 17 students with cheating based on a review of certain online activity data on Canvas — a popular learning management system where professors post assignments and students submit their work — during remote exams. The school quickly dropped seven of the cases after at least two students argued that administrators had mistaken automated Canvas activity for human cheating.

Now Dartmouth is also dropping allegations against the remaining 10 students, some of whom faced expulsion, suspension, course failures and misconduct marks on their academic records that could have derailed their medical careers.

“I have decided to dismiss all the honor code charges,” Duane A. Compton, the dean of the medical school, said in an email to the Geisel community on Wednesday evening, adding that the students’ academic records would not be affected. “I have apologized to the students for what they have been through.”

Dartmouth’s decision to dismiss the charges followed a software review by The New York Times, which found that students’ devices could automatically generate Canvas activity data even when no one was using them. Dartmouth’s practices were condemned by some alumni along with some faculty at other medical schools.

A Dartmouth spokesman said the school could not comment further on the dropping of the charges for privacy reasons. The school’s agreements with the students who had been accused are not yet final, and the students did not immediately return requests for comment.

The cheating investigation turned the pastoral Ivy League campus into a national battleground over escalating school surveillance during the pandemic.

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