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To help finance my studies, I have been offering tutoring services for other students throughout the past year. Business has been good and students have been grateful for the help I have given them.

Today, a student I tutored one year ago e-mailed me and asked me to write an online exam for them, saying that they would compensate me financially for this "service". I was quite frankly offended that they could think, that I would go along with such a scheme.

Obviously I will reject the offer, but how should I go about doing this and what additional steps should I take? Should I simply not respond, or should I follow my inclination to chastise the student for even making the suggestion? While they have yet to actually cheat, I am strongly considering contacting their professor to alert them to the situation; if I reject the offer, the student is likely to contact someone else with lower moral standards.

Below is the full e-mail I received with identifying information redacted:

"I don't know if you remember me, but you help me with [Course 1] during summer 2019. I am taking a [Course 2] deferral exam [on date] and due to the situation right now and the fact that I moved back home temporarily, I am not going to have enough time to study. The exam will be fully online and based on multiple-choice and short-answer questions. That said, I was wondering if you would ever consider taking the exam for me, I would never ask this if the exam will be in person, I am lacking time and I know is feasible because it is only. You will only need to login into my [student portal] and perform the exam. I will compensate you of course and I am open to the price. I left a copy of the textbook online and the final exam 2019 ( The professor said that it will be very similar). Please let me know if you decide to proceed with this or not."

Edit 1: Believe it or not, I have just received yet another request from a different student independently of the first one.

Edit 2: I gathered the evidence I had and reported both students to the university administration.

  • 1
    wasn't a similar question asked a while back? – Solar Mike Apr 8 at 19:39
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    Perhaps the second requester is just a friend of the first. Don't read too much into that. – Buffy Apr 8 at 22:42
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    >> I have just received another request ... Any chance someone is testing you? – mcalex Apr 9 at 8:58
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    Reply and say that would be fine if the relevant professor agrees, please send their contact info so you can follow up. – copper.hat Apr 10 at 5:24
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    A minor point - your name is sufficiently unique that I quickly identified the university you are studying at, what you are doing there, and I could probably quickly start identifying friends of yours on FB that are from the same university etc. It is too late to change, but I believe posts like this are best done anonymously. – Forgottenscience Apr 10 at 10:18
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If your institution has an honor code or similar description of the requirements for academic conduct, it may prescribe what you must do. The solicitation of a "ringer" to take the exam may itself be an offense. If there's a prescribed action, follow it.

If not, consider that an accusation of cheating by the professor necessarily creates an adversarial situation. If you do report this to the professor, please copy the department head, dean, chairman of the honor council. Copy at least one other person who can support the professor. Include a copy of the student's email with your report, and retain your own copy for a very long time.

Do not respond to the student. Chastisement will not do any good, and while the student is awaiting your reply, he or she isn't looking for someone else to take the exam.

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    This is the correct thing to do: follow the institution's code of conduct. – user7761803 Apr 9 at 9:09
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    The honor code may very likely have a clause stating that failure to report knowledge of a violation is itself a violation. – pjs Apr 10 at 16:56
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    @pjs Correct. The West Point Honor Code should be a model for all others: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do." It is the or tolerate part that requires reporting. Soliciting help to cheat would likely be an offense at West Point because "attempting" to lie, cheat, or steal is an offense. However, other institutions do things differently, which is why OP needs to read his own institutions regulations. – Bob Brown Apr 10 at 17:43
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    @smci As a former chair of an honor council, I assure you that there's at least one institution that would take the allegation seriously. Further, at least in the United States, many institutions consider email from a university account to have been electronically signed. (OP didn't tell us whether university email was involved.) As comments are not meant for discussion, I won't have anything further to say on this matter. – Bob Brown Apr 10 at 23:06
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    @smci The burden of proof will likely be on the person who owns the mail. If it had been hijacked, they will have to find a plausibility argument for that. Universities do not operate like courts. They can make decisions on weaker criteria than courts or decide not to pursue on stronger criteria than courts would let pass. Unis do not have the resources of a jurisdictive system, and some rare (fortunately, only few) students blatantly lie, building a whole card house of lies on top of each other, bringing the next one forward, when the last one is dismantled. – Captain Emacs Apr 11 at 12:25
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I won't argue against reporting the student as Bob Brown suggests. But also suggest that if you advertise your services in any way that you make it clear in your advertising that you won't aid students in any dishonest work and, if you feel strongly enough about it, that you will report requests. Even if you don't advertise you could tell each client that you will only perform ethical services.

That would head off future requests, I think.

But if you aren't willing to report this student at this time, I'd suggest that you let them know that you don't do such things and that you will report future requests.

The devil on my right shoulder is, of course, whispering in my ear suggesting that you fail the exam for the student, though the angel on my left is trying to suggest more sensible alternatives. Listen to the angel.

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    > "The devil on my right shoulder " Do not even start listening to him. By doing so you will leave a trail of you agreeing to unhonest action, receiving login credential and possibly getting paid. This will open you to blackmail and possible career problems. – Revolver_Ocelot Apr 9 at 9:36
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    @Revolver_Ocelot Agreed. The fact that the student cheats should not turn OP into a cheater. I recommend removing this part of the response, it might tempt some readers. I do agree with the idea of preempting such questions in the future by announcing that on your service site, including the reporting. Then, nobody will be able to complain when OP does that. – Captain Emacs Apr 9 at 10:11
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    In your advertisement of services you might also want to put a link to the institution's honor code, including --- if it exists --- a link to the part that requires you to report instances of attempted cheating. – Lee Mosher Apr 9 at 11:57
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    suggesting that you fail the exam for the student This is even more abhhorent than the original request. Why would you even suggest such a thing in a respected forum like this? It's so grossly irresponsible that it's not even funny as a joke. – J... Apr 9 at 15:23
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    I specifically point it out @J..., because others will think of it and I want to recommend against it. Devil... Get it? Jokes sometimes have a serious intent. I would expect people here to be sophisticated enough to grok that. But maybe I'm wrong and need to be bloody literal minded in all things. And you are clearly quoting out of context. Naughty Naughty – Buffy Apr 9 at 15:30
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There is typically an office which is in charge of enforcing academic integrity. For example, the Office of the Provost and Vice-president for Academic Affairs. Simply forward the email to them. There is nothing gained by responding to the student.

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    In response to (now-deleted) comments: As impressed as I am by the effort, I'm not convinced trying to track and broadcast personal information (even if using only publicly-available sources) is a good idea. – cag51 Apr 9 at 16:13
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Just refuse, and offer them help to practice/tutor. This leaves the bridge intact (instead of burned, blown up and then burned again) for a future cooperation while keeping you moral and professional. Probably gets the word of mouth around, and no other students will reach you with the same request.

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Ole, keep in mind that we all make mistakes at some point in our lives, the younger the more silly things one could end up doing..

I'd simply reply to the student saying that,

that's dishonest, unethical and that's counterproductive to him/her, if not now, maybe later.. independently of the situation we're passing through. And that you sincerely hope to think twice about it. And given that this is the first time saying such things, you won't report them. If they insist, report them to the professor.

In some places, the punishment for cheating or attempting to cheat are very severe. I don't know in which case they are, keep that in mind also.

Also, if reporting them, most likely their name wouldn't be the 'same' again, because professors tend to share their experiences with students, with other professors.

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