Baruch College (part of the City University of New York) has fired an adjunct instructor for publicly exposing an alleged cheater in front of the class. It's an interesting issue, as reported by Dan Berrett, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Here's the situation, according to the piece:
The conflicting accounts center on Brian Moore, a part-time instructor in the department of marketing and international business, who was administering the exam three weeks ago when a student approached him.
Mr. Moore could not be reached by phone or e-mail on Monday, but according to an account of the incident that he gave to the New York Post, the student was asking for a hint because she "indicated that she didn't understand the difference between percentage and total volume."
He walked away. When the student tried to speak with a proctor who was also in the room, Mr. Moore walked over, ripped up her exam, and told her that her score on the test would be zero, which would be her lowest grade for the semester.
According to the newspaper, his comment was intended to "comfort" the student because the lowest grade would be dropped when her final grade was calculated.
A couple days later, he was fired.
Obviously this case is not binding in any way on any other schools or instructors. However, it raises a question: How exactly are cheaters to be sanctioned? It would appear, based on the information in the article, that the instructor in this instance could have found a less public way to enforce the rules, but sometimes this may not be practical. Students are fond of asking questions like, "What does this word mean?" during tests. To help them privately is to give them a personal advantage.
One technique is to announce before the exam that there will be no questions, then handle any "bad" items on the test when it is reviewed later. But some questions, such as on major essays, involve high stakes.