Unintentional release of chemistry midterm raises questions regarding academic integrity

In an effort to improve the culture surrounding academic integrity, students were asked to sign an honor code, vowing that they received no “unauthorized assistance,” before taking their midterm exams. Despite this new policy, the midterm scores of all chemistry students were nullified after it was revealed that several students had acquired copies of the exam prior to the test. Due to this, a mandatory retake of the chemistry midterm examination was held on Dec. 19, four days after the original exam.

During a review session to prepare students for the upcoming exam, a copy of the chemistry exam was mistakenly uploaded on a shared Google Drive four days before the scheduled midterm. Despite the attempt to remove the test from the drive, the copy of the exam was instead transferred to the drive’s trash folder and remained available to anyone who had access to the folder. Upon investigation by the administration, it was concluded that some students attempted to retrieve the test from Google Drive’s trash folder and that some even illicitly distributed the test to other students.

“The administration’s problem is not with the students who happened to be on Google Drive when the test was uploaded,” said Jarrett Lambie, high school principal. “The problem is that some students went digging through the trash folder to find a copy of the exam. This is evidence that students were taking advantage of an unfortunate situation.”

Following the midterm exam, several students approached the administration to report the leak. In response, the administration sent out an email, notifying students of the breach of academic integrity and the mandatory retake of the midterm exam, scheduled on that Friday. The email expressed an apology for the “lapse in exam security” and that the first exam would not be scored as the exam results were neither “fair nor valid.”

“I would have expected that the students say something beforehand,” said Brian Mellon, chemistry teacher. “I think as many chemistry students as there are, it is unrealistic to think that nobody would use it knowing it was there. But still, I would have hoped that a student had notified me and the administration earlier.

As this was the first year SIS’s honor code was implemented, the leakage of the chemistry exam and students’ responses drew greater attention. Even though the chemistry exam led to an inconvenient situation for both teachers and students, it nevertheless exemplified that all new policies require trial and error. Many expressed hopes that this unintentional release will serve as stepping-stones for the SIS community to diligently adhere to the honor code and for more students to come forth and do the right thing in the future.

“I hope that at the very least, students will look at [the honor code] from a selfish perspective,” said Khadijah Mumtaz, chemistry teacher. “I hope they realize that if they don’t follow the code, then they will suffer [by having to do another assessment]. In the beginning, students will follow the honor code to avoid consequences. But eventually, I hope the adherence to the honor code becomes a part of the culture and students are not just doing it for self-interest.”