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I am from a reputed university in India and despite informing the department professors and higher authorities of the rampant cheating in the online exams, they haven't taken any steps to curb it (they use Google Meet/Zoom proctoring which is basically useless because students can still text and make excuses). They don't even reply to the emails that raise these concerns. They made no effort to change their examination mode for the online semester - by increasing the weightage of take-home/research assignment components in the syllabus.

This has taken a toll on the mental health of students like me who did not use unfair means but are now suffering because the university follows relative grading and the skyrocketing averages of the exams have made it next to impossible for us to get grades proportional to our efforts.

What should a student do in such a situation? Should he/she start cheating too?

Edit: Switching the institute is not possible because this is India — students have to go through a gruesome procedure to get admitted into these reputed institutes in the first place. Secondly, the jobs and higher education somewhat depend on the grades of the student so this unfair disadvantage for 2 semesters straight without cheating would be hell for any honest person.

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    @Allure unfortunately, switching the educational institute is not an option.
    – 34 43
    Dec 22 '20 at 4:44
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    @Allure some answers there are specifically focused on France and its education system, so the answers might differ for an Indian system Dec 22 '20 at 4:44
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    To summarize: You cannot leave, you cannot complain, and you don't want to cheat. With those constraints there seems to be nothing you can do. So the solution is to find ways around those constraints. E.g. if the normal ways of complaining don't work, find another way (maybe media?), or if you can't leave within India, leave India, etc. Dec 22 '20 at 9:33
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    @Mods an Indian perspective is not covered in the linked answers.
    – 34 43
    Dec 23 '20 at 5:08
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    If the key difference between this and the other questions is the country, I suggest editing this post to make the country more prominent. That will also put it back into a voting queue to consider reopening (if that doesn't work, the next step would be to post on meta).
    – cag51
    Dec 23 '20 at 17:47
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Given the comments, you have eliminated the two most obvious responses: Exit (leave for somewhere better) and Voice (complain to the administration for improvements). There may still be more available to you than you think. A good resource is Exit, Voice and Loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman.

Because marking is relative, you are dealing with a tragedy of the commons problem. The total available high marks are made scarce because your professor has a particular mean and distribution in mind. There are more people who want high marks than are marks available. If everyone cheats, all the allotted marks are worthless as a measure of coding or other talent. Everyone has an incentive to cheat because not cheating does not prevent the cheaters from being rewarded.

In a commons problem, you will not be able to resolve the ethics on your own. The problem is social-structural, therefore the solution also needs to be social-structural. Your options are as follows:

  • Brainstorm ways to associate a cost with cheating. For example, you could launch a honeypot for an assignment with an answer that is wrong in a specified way. Then you can take the students to task for stealing your intellectual property.

  • Work with administrators via the institutions available to you (Student unions, associations, political movements etc.) to punish cheaters more harshly.

  • Establish a network of students who recognize the same problem and seek to establish norms across your colleagues against cheating. For example, raise some money to establish an award for merit for students who succeed while following the rules. Elinor Ostrom, the nobel economist, is the expert on this kind of solution. I would read her work, but summaries of her ideas do exist.

The ethics of cheating, even where you are disadvantaged are pretty straight-forward. Contributing to the cheating makes for a worse society from utilitarian (everyone loses from coders who do not know how to solve problems), deontological (a world where everyone cheats on everything is not a world I would want to live in) and a virtue (people will not improve if they always cheat) ethics perspective.

Assuming that your institution is indeed not interested in fixing this problem, it is corrupt. The World Bank has a list of actions to deal with corrupt institutions. There may be something there to help you.

Beyond that, you should know that blowing the whistle on an issue almost never benefits the whistleblower. Take a look at where your favorite whistleblower is now, and you will see I am correct. You will need to evaluate for yourself the degree to which you can fight this problem. I do recommend fighting from the inside first, assuming that everyone is interested in resolving this problem. You should go all the way to the top, explaining your understanding of the problem as succinctly as possible. You should also offer to be part of the solution as much as possible.

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    This answer is so far removed from reality it must have come from an academic. Dec 22 '20 at 22:57
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    "you may be the first hired in important companies for your willingness to resolve problems peacefully and intelligently" that part is probably the most unrealistic. Companies only care about your performance in the selection exam and the interviews. Which, I might add, requires a ton of preparation in and of itself. Something that OP will struggle with if they can't easy off some tension of their college exams. Dec 23 '20 at 0:03
  • If your solution to a problem is to use someone else's answer, then you are a dime a dozen and will not pass the college exam. Employers already know that Stack Overflow exists and have tests of their own. They also could care less about your overall mark in undergrad. Dec 23 '20 at 14:31
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The student should do what ever is needed to be successful. Inability to adapt means you're kind of useless. Companies don't care if you cheated or not, they care if you can be successful. If cheating is the most productive use of your time then cheat.

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    I kinda agree with this answer. It is not really ideal to be very strict with ones' ideals... If you feel excessively guilty about cheating then you need to talk to yourself about it and allow some flexibility to yourself, if not cheating on the entire paper; you can maybe see the answers to tough questions.. or maybe just refer to the formulas instead of memorizing them... that way you can ease off some burden off your sholders. Dec 22 '20 at 23:55

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