A large number of UC Berkeley students were caught cheating on assignments these past two weeks in a coding class which may be the largest cheating scandal in the University’s prestigious history.
The Fall 2013 CS 61C coding class, titled “Great Ideas in Computer Architecture (Machine Structures)” was one of the many classes in colleges across the globe that, at the beginning of the semester, went over a strident anti-cheating policy. Course instructor Randy Katz, who received his PHD in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 1980, set the course policy the first day of class, then threatened that the penalties for anyone caught cheating would be severe, including a zero on the assignment, possible failure from the course, and a written record to the university documenting said cheating.
This foreshadowing came to pass this past Friday, when Katz posted an announcement on the classroom forum informing students that the similarity checking software had flagged an immense number of projects from the current and last semester as having suspicious likenesses to one another, and that he and the classroom assistants had individually gone through the assignments and found “clear and irrefutable evidence of copied projects.” He offered to allow the cheating UC Berkeley students to step forward and confess to the scandal before more serious penalties would be levied in the coding class.
On Monday, Katz made another post stating that the chance for confession was ended, and that although a number of students had taken advantage of the opportunity, there were still many who had not, and those who had not used the opening to strike goodwill would be more severely punished.
Those who confessed were marked off for double the amount of points their project was worth, and those who declined to do so received an email from Katz saying they needed to meet with him individually. Various Berkeley students reported seeing a long line of students still waiting this afternoon outside of the professor’s office.
The penalty for students who did not turn themselves in was failure in the class and a written report to the university. Students who already have a previous warning on file for cheating will be expelled from Berkeley.
An individual who wished to remain anonymous admitted to being one of the students who cheated and confessed to Katz before the deadline expired. He didn’t wish to speak about his individual cheating, but mentioned that there was a “culture of cheating” in the class and that “the TAs absolutely turned a blind eye to code sharing in the classroom.”
UC Berkeley alumni, several whom have taken the specific CS 61C class, expressed distaste for protests such as these from the flagged similarities group, one stating, “Color me almost completely unsympathetic.”
This is not the first time in recent history a cheating scandal has rocked UC Berkeley in a coding class. Last August, the college’s paper The Daily Cal reported on students in the UC’s Computer Science 70 class who took extra time at the end of the exam and continued to compare answers.
By Marisa Corley