Sunday, October 01, 2006

On Cheating – More Afterthoughts

OK - this is my last post on this topic ... at least for near future.

I was reminded of the UofT cheating fiasco in 2001 where 25 to 30 first year law students (depending on the report) falsified their grades to get plum Bay Street jobs. After the news broke, the administration gave them a slap on the wrist and blamed a prof for misleading the students. Then, after media caught wind of the punishment, they were forced to come down harder on the students.

I worked with a UofT student over the summer. According to him, even after 5 years, incoming law students hear about this fiasco and learn all the gruesome details. This site has some of the articles. (I’m assuming these are accurate reproductions.) Here are the headlines:
  • The U of T Law School Scandal: It's More Common Than You May Think
  • U of T marks scandal: Are market pressures forcing students to lie?
  • Cheating spotlights law school's culture
The problems are not exclusive to UofT. In 2004, there was another scandal with the Bar Admissions Course involving 13 students in Ontario.
"Hey guys, here's the motion," said one e-mail.
"Mine looks just like everybody else's. think I should change it more?" read another.
"Make sure to make some cosmetic changes so that things do not seem too similar," yet another said.
I wonder if Ontario law schools reaction (or, for the most part, lack of reaction) was adequate to these scandals. For example, Western Law implemented a mandatory course on Legal Ethics and Professionalism for first-year students - but it is the only mandatory course of its nature in Ontario (a similar program exists at Dalhousie Law). First-year UofT students have mandatory legal ethics training as part of their skills program but it is only a small part of the course. At Queen's, most students graduate without taking a course on the subject. They will have a chance to grapple with some of the issues during the LSUC's Bar Admissions Course during the section on Professionalism.

Is the problem truly systemic? Frankly, I don't see a cheating culture at Queen's. Sure, the pressure is intense; law school is very competitive. In the Class of 08, for example, six students dropped out by the end of the first semester. But I hope that the supportive, friendly atmosphere within Queen's law school (students and faculty) is enough to keep students on the moral high road.


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