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The New York Times reported yesterday on the rampant cheating among college students and the Big Brother policies that some schools have instituted to combat it:

No gum is allowed during an exam: chewing could disguise a student’s speaking into a hands-free cellphone to an accomplice outside.

The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desk tops so that anyone trying to photograph the screen—using, say, a pen with a hidden camera, in order to help a friend who will take the test later—is easy to spot.

Scratch paper is allowed—but it is stamped with the date and must be turned in later.

When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student’s real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence.

This seemed a little draconian to me until I read further down in the piece that “in surveys of 14,000 undergraduates over the last four years, an average of 61 percent admitted to cheating on assignments and exams.” And that’s only the students who admit to cheating! This picture is quite the opposite of my own college experience—which was just a few years ago. At Thomas Aquinas College, we took our exams entirely unmonitored and were allowed to leave the classroom for a breath of fresh air or a smoke break. Perhaps I was oblivious to it, but I don’t think that many students took advantage of this honor system to cheat—unless you consider a nicotine boost an unfair advantage. Small, young schools like TAC do have an advantage here though; they have no brand name recognition so the students they attract are, by and large, there for the sake of the education, not just the diploma.

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