A student (let's call them A) in my class that I just finished teaching asked me to write them a recommendation letter. I said yes, and the first deadline is Dec 15, as they often are (FYI, I'm writing this post on the very early morning of Dec 14).
Unfortunately for the student, as I was grading the final exam, I noticed that A and another student (call them B) seem to have exactly the same wrong answers (their wrong answer was pretty unusual, and in my class of 100, they were the only ones to have these wrong answers).
I've actually been suspicious of B for a while, as B kept coming up with the correct answers without actually being able to justify their steps, and in fact, their work was often wrong up until the final answer.
Upon comparing A and B's exam papers, A's solutions were more or less clear, and I'm sure that A worked it out themselves. B, on the other hand, has solutions that are more or less like A's solutions, but there are so many critical typos and mistakes in notation (showing that B has no idea what is going on in the course) that it should be impossible for B to arrive at the correct answer. I think the errors were introduced because B was sneakily trying to change some letters and such to a different letter, and changing a sentence structure here and there, etc.
So, I suspect that A is actually a decent student, but for whatever reason, A let B copy their answers for the exams in the course (there were 3, all 3 exams were strikingly similar).
I'm planning to submit this case for an investigation, but this takes a while, possibly longer than a semester. My questions are:
- Should I still write the recommendation letter? On one hand, if A turns out to be innocent (not possible in my heart, but innocent until proven guilty) then I'm screwing them over by declining to write a letter so close to the deadline. On the other hand, if A cheated, then since I was aware of this before writing this letter, I don't want to not mention it.
- How would you confront the student?