I'm currently about to graduate from a US university with a MS as I didn't make it to the PhD program. For whatever reasons I was rejected even after performing quite well compared to other PhD students, I don't want to speculate. I had an idea that some of these students are cheating on the homework assignments by copying codes and solutions from previous year posted solutions. The professors are probably too lazy to do anything about it because even after I reported anonymously, nothing has changed. I had made peace with that, but in this semester, I noticed that they even have access to a drive on the network where the professor keeps the exams and solutions. I struggle to study for the mid-terms when I have so much of assignments to do, and these people get a head-start by just copying the assignments one day before the deadline. First of all, they have more time to prepare for exams or do other stuff, and secondly, they also have sample exams with solutions which the professor is probably repeating.

Instead of reporting that, I asked the professor if he'd provide sample exams to everyone. He got irritated and behaved quite badly even when I had genuine questions to ask during his office hours. After the mid-term, he screwed me in the exam and I noticed others fared much better than me. I have a feeling the professor knows and may be I inconvenienced him by reporting. I spend a lot of time worrying about this. In a month I'd be out of here and I want to have nothing to do with these people again.

What should I do? Given that I have been rejected at the PhD program, if I speak to any other professor, they might think I'm making this up. And I also can't believe that nobody knows about it and they have just kept exams, assignments, etc on a shared drive. I think they're ignoring the problem to not give the school a bad reputation and might just fail me if I speak up.

I don't know right now what exactly I should do. Except that I don't want to get hurt. Even if I report to higher-ups, I don't want to take names (not that they're my friends, but I only know a handful who are involved. Not sure if the entire class is cheating). I'm more paranoid about what the professors would do and if somehow they will pin this on me. It is easier to discredit me as a "disgruntled ex-student" than take action against PhD candidates.

Is keeping quiet and hoping to get out without any issues the best option?

  • You should add paragraph breaks to your post (a paragraph break is two newlines). Also, what is it that you want to accomplish? – HAEM Apr 12 '18 at 12:41
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    what is it that you want to accomplish? Honestly, I don't know right now. Except that I don't want to get hurt. Even if I report to higher-ups, I don't want to take names (not that they're my friends, but I only know a handful who are involved. Not sure if the entire class is cheating). I'm more paranoid about what the professors would do and if somehow they will pin this on me. – Name LeftBlank Apr 12 '18 at 12:47
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    You should add those goals to the question body, although if you don't know what you want to accomplish we can't very well advise you on how to accomplish it. – HAEM Apr 12 '18 at 12:50
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    What is your goal? To get to the PhD program? To see justice done? To improve the university system? To understand why this happens? (keep in mind that up to Masters, you can get accepted, but for PhD you are in many ways hired because you'll be doing work for someone... Sure, there are requirements, but these are only there to pass, to get a PhD you ll need an advisor, and he will in many ways be your employer as well as -if you are lucky- mentor, friend, etc.) – ntg Apr 12 '18 at 21:25
  • Nope, definitely not to get accepted to this program any longer. I hope there's justice, i.e. these cheaters shouldn't get better grades and look like geniuses just because they had access to the solutions.....I hate the Lance Armstrongs of the world. But for now, I want them to do something about it without me complaining. So that at least the final exam is fair for everyone. And then I'm out of here – Name LeftBlank Apr 12 '18 at 22:34

It sounds like you angry that the other students were "cheating" and got admitted to the PhD program while you were honest and were passed over. To add insult to injury, the professors seem not to care. Though you don't seem to have a clear goal in mind, I would suggest that it is to (a) achieve justice, and (b) not be handicapped in your final exams.

To the first goal, you should certainly report your experiences to the graduate director or another competent person. Even without proof, if they hear enough rumors, they will investigate, and things may be better in future years.

Without proof, they are unlikely to do much. There is so much reasonable doubt. In particular, are you sure that the other students are blindly copying solutions? At the graduate level, using solutions when you get stuck or to check your work may be appropriate (and student collaboration is encouraged)

Your claims about the exams are more worrying. Are you sure that the other students have exams? Are you sure that the professor knows this?

  • If the professor might not know, it is fair to tell him.
  • Without proof, the professor may not believe you (or may not care) -- as you say, he may just assume you are bitter and looking for someone to blame.
  • You can provide proof by naming names. But you seem not to want to do this, and I don't blame you -- this could open a whole can of worms (i.e., questions about your integrity for not having voiced your concerns sooner).
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  • a) About cheating on assignments, I'm sure they are completely copying the solutions. Some Business PhD students take classes with us and they're so bad, they won't be able to do simple differentiation/integration (not exaggerating). But they get 100/100 in assignments. It was on a team assignment, I got to know for the first time last semester when one of my team members showed me the previous year solution. I ignored him and submitted my solutions (though I included his name). I have proof of that on WhatsApp. – Name LeftBlank Apr 13 '18 at 0:54
  • However, for exams, I have only heard them speak. In one of the modules, there were at least 2 questions they had seen the solutions to - one girl said she forgot the solution to one of them and just wrote down whatever she remembered. Almost everyone of them who were discussing this could do the other question. As for the most recent mid-term, I have no proof or haven't heard any talk as they're probably more careful around me. But given the quality of these students, I suspect, they again had seen the solutions (not trying to sound arrogant, but if you saw the quality of some, you'd know) – Name LeftBlank Apr 13 '18 at 0:58
  • Like you said, if I go into specifics, I'm guilty of having not reported since last semester (though I did on an anonymous survey this semester). I had initially thought of requesting the professor to set questions completely different from previous years. But again, they might get curious. Besides the final exam, the other thing I worry about is, if they want to screw me, they might not let me graduate at all and I will have trouble even going back to the industry. – Name LeftBlank Apr 13 '18 at 1:03
  • I'm not sure if the professor knows about the exams being shared. This shared drive is only accessible to PhD students and faculty. So I don't know the exact location since I don't have access. But one should be able to suspect from the performance in the class and in the assignments and exams. There's one student who was pressing the "Ënter" button on her keyboard to run a MATLAB program she apparently wrote. Specially these Business PhDs make it very obvious. Although I know a few from our department also cheat. But they're smart enough to not leave a trace in their assignments probably. – Name LeftBlank Apr 13 '18 at 1:22
  • I appreciate the clarifications, but I don't really have anything to add to my answer. All you can do is let the graduate director or someone reasonable know, and consider letting the professor know about the grades being shared. Good luck! – cag51 Apr 13 '18 at 2:06

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