Chapman University, CA: Professor files lawsuit to find students who posted exam questions online

According to Professor David Berkovitz’s lawyer, Marc Hankin, the students, who took the intermediate and final exams remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic during the spring semester 2021, have posted elements of the tests on Course Hero, a participatory website dedicated to course-specific study supplements.

Because the professor grades on a curve, Hankin said, Berkovitz believes that by posting exam-specific questions on Course Hero, “students may have inflated their grades, penalizing other students who didn’t cheat.” .

In an email to CNN on Friday, Chapman University spokeswoman Cerise Valenzuela Metzger said the institution was not involved in the lawsuit.

Metzger also explained the school’s policy on this, saying “unauthorized posting of exam questions would likely be a violation of our Academic Integrity Policy.”

“As per our policy, we encourage the professor to report the incident and the students involved to the Academic Integrity Committee for decision,” she said.

Metzger added that university policy allows professors to own copyright in their work, with some exceptions: “Faculty are free to pursue removal of their copyrighted content from sites Web sites such as Course Hero, however, we encourage faculty to use internal processes to work with student concerns,” Metzger said.

Aim to help students who haven’t cheated

After Berkovitz discovered material from his exam posted on Course Hero, he requested information from the website identifying the students, Hankin said, but Course Hero refused to provide the information without a subpoena, as stated in his privacy policy. Legal action is needed to obtain a subpoena, Hankin said in an interview with CNN, and he said he expects a subpoena to be issued no later than Monday.

With a paid account starting at $9.95 per month, students around the world can ask specific Course Hero questions with answers promised “in as little as 15 minutes,” according to the website.

“Course Hero does not tolerate copyright infringement of any kind and employs a range of preventative measures, investigations and enforcement policies,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

Ironically, the test items at the heart of the lawsuit involved a business law course, in which copyright infringement was a topic being studied, Hankin said.

Although the lawsuit includes claims for costs and damages, Berkovitz, who is also an attorney, said he was not seeking to financially punish the students, but wanted an end to the alleged cheating. “He wants to help students who haven’t cheated,” Hankin said, grateful at this point, “he doesn’t know how much harm, if any, has been done.”

Hankin added that professors from universities across the country have reached out to Berkovitz, praising him for taking steps to help curb cheating.

Once the students are identified, along with a timeline of when the questions were asked and the answers were retrieved, Berkovitz plans to forward the information to the university to handle any potential honor code violations, according to his attorney.

“If a question was asked during the exam period and a student received answers, that would be a clear indication of cheating,” Hankin said.

Specific to the hero of the course honor code states what users can and cannot use in their search for answers, and specifically discourages cheating.

“Course Hero never wants unauthorized content on our site and before students and teachers upload their content, they must agree to our Terms of Service and Academic Honor Code, which explicitly state that they cannot only upload content that they have the right to upload,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

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