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A person accused of any wrongdoing should have the right to see the proofs of such a wrongdoing. Then, a student accused of cheating because having presented the same answer, work or file as any other student, should be allowed to see the answer, work or file of that other student.

On the other hand, students have the right to privacy, so their answer, work or files shouldn't be shown to other students, and this right conflicts with the former.

Then the question is: When two students are accused of cheating and the only proof is that they gave works or answers that we can be sure that are copied, how does the school balance the right of each student to see the proof (the other student's exam or work) and their right of privacy?

I'm not asking for advice for a particular instance of that problem, because until now all I've only had close calls - the students already knew what they had done or found out by themselves and no student actually requested to see the proof of cheating - but I'm interested on how such a request should be dealt with.

Additionally, in a specific case, I would escalate the issue to the Dean to be given specific instructions, but I'm still interested in the general answer.

If location matters, I'm under Spanish legislation.

And just to keep the question focused, we can assume that we can be sure that the answer is actually the same because of cheating - like when two students or teams turn on very similar Access files with each table created at the same exact time (to the second) that the equivalent table in other team's file.

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In my experience, it would be unusual to allow privacy issues to inhibit communication of relevant evidence in these cases. When dealing with alleged academic infractions, due process is extremely important and so the usual thing would just be to make all relevant evidence available to all the students accused of cheating. Since it is an allegation of collusion between these students, typically the students would all be called in together and their answers would not even be anonymised --- you would just allow all students in the group to see all the answers of the other students in the group so that they have the same information on the matter as the academic admininstering it.

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  • This is a great answer because it shows the fairness of the academic institutions and the discipline process. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 0:20
  • The difficulty here is that, if any allegations are found not to hold, then others with no active part in the scheme will have become aware of the false allegations; this could impact the reputation of students who has been found not guilty of the allegations. In other words any process must also preserve the identity of the alleged cheater should the allegations be found not to hold. Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 0:59
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    @ZeroTheHero: It is great that you're cognisant of those kinds of dangers. In cases of alleged collusion, it is typically the case that the entire group is either found to have colluded or not. I haven't yet seen one where some parties are found to have colluded and others not, though I suppose it might be possible in rare cases. Irrespective of this, my understanding of the usual practice in these matters is that students involved in an academic misconduct matter are still under an obligation of confidentiality with respect to other students.
    – Ben
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 5:26
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    @Job_September_2020: I'm glad you like the answer. Unfortunately, many universities have done a terrible job with due process protections in their complaint processes (as evidenced by the high number of lawsuits that succeed against them). Hopefully practices improve over time as they uffer damages against them.
    – Ben
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 5:29
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    @Ben ok thanks. The site is very interesting and indeed covers lots of topics. Commented Jan 10, 2023 at 1:42
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It’s not that hard. If A is accused of cheating by copying from B, it’s usually pretty easy to anonymize the copy or specific answer produced by B. This can be done for instance by rewriting B’s answers (so B's handwriting is not apparent) or typing/typesetting B’s answers. In other words, there is no need for A to see the actual physical copy or writing done by B.

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When two students are accused of cheating and the only proof is that they gave works or answers that we can be sure that are copied, how does the school balance the right of each student to see the proof (the other student's exam or work) and their right of privacy?

I am in the US. So, I will provide you with the answer based on some events happening in some colleges in the US.

The first event is a true story at a US college as follow: a professor called a group of 4 students in her office, and told them that other students accused these 4 students of cheating during an exam. The 4 accused student protested immediately, and after 1 hour of meeting and discussion, the professor dropped the accusation as if it never happened. The point is that, in that case, at that US college, all the accused students were allowed to meet at the same time with the professor and with themselves to defend themselves.


So, I would think that when a school accuses 2 students of copying each other's answer, and proceed to bring both students to the discipline committee, the school must announce to both students the name of the other student, and show both students the 2 answers and how similar or identical the answers are. This way, both students will know exactly all the details, and can plan the appeal process sufficiently if they want to.


Furthermore, you can read a recent story in the US about 2 identical twins who were medical students. They were accused of cheating by the medical school. These students sued the school for defamation and won $1.5 million USD. Here is the link:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/identical-twin-sisters-accused-of-cheating-win-1-5-million-test-scores/

So, accusing students of academic dishonesty is a serious matter. If a school accuses students of cheating, they must show all the evidences and the people involved so that the students can defend themselves. (I think that, in this case, the school did provide the students with all the names of the accused and other evidences during the discipline process, which is a fine).

If that medical school had hidden the identity of 1 twin from the other, how can both students successfully file a lawsuit on behalf of both students and present a clear and logical case to the jury in the civil court ? (They can't just tell that civil court "I was accused of cheating with the UKNOWN student. So here is my case...")

For more info about this case, here is the link to PLAINTIFFS’ PRE-TRIAL BRIEF: https://docviewer.charlestoncounty.org/Home/Index

Note: The students did not sue the school because the of unfair discipline process as the students appealed the case to the school and the school already overturned the initial judgement where they accused the students of academic dishonesty. Instead, the students sued as they alleged that someone from the school leaked the info about the case to the press, which is the ground for their defamation lawsuit.

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    certainly NOT. Confidentiality rules absolutely prevent the naming of students involved in the alleged scheme (at least in all schools I know). An instructor would never states “I think your teaching with A” but will simply allege the student has plagiarized their answer, without naming anyone. Student A need not be named or even involved (and indeed may not be aware of the cheating). Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 3:21
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    @ZeroTheHero, Read this link about 2 twins who are medical students. They were accused of cheating by the medical school. The students sued the school and won 1.5 million USD. Here is the link: cbsnews.com/news/… Commented Jan 8, 2023 at 5:03
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – cag51
    Commented Jan 9, 2023 at 1:03

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