I am not happy to share this letter with you all but I must. I realize that for most of you, I am sending you unnecessary email, and I apologize for that. However, this is too important, and I need to get this email in the hands of the relevant students before it is too late.

A student writes:

     How to put this...

     Overall I have noticed that the student body of EE206 is not,
     precisely, keen on your no cheating policy.  Granted it did not
     make THAT much of a difference before as we were, overall working
     in study groups.

     However this, "sharing of ideas," has not stoped now that we
     are supposed to be working solo on these programming assignments.  
     Now, normally I would let this just brush over me and ignore the
     people of less than moral purity.  Today though I ran into a
     distinct issue.

     I was working on my programming assignment today, in my own little
     corner and with my left hand covering my prewritten work, when a
     few people starting grouping together outside EE302 and discussed
     what they had done wrong/right with their program.  I have exceptional
     hearing, and so I had a lot of difficulty blocking them out...but
     I managed.  Then we got into class, and they sat right in front of
     me.  During today's lecture, they continued their discussion and
     I heard a rather concise and efficient way to implement the program.

     So, when I tried working on the program again, I kept thinking
     about this other guy's idea on how to do it, noticing that mine
     was less apt than his.  This is a rather flustering situation, to
     know you are doing something less efficient than you have to.  But
     in order to keep ethical purety I cannot steal his idea.


     << name withheld to protect a student put in a very awkward position >>

Yes, I have several suggestions.

First, for you personally, implement the program your way. It may be less efficient, but it is yours. In this case there is no penalty for honesty since we are not looking for efficiency, only correctness.

Second, with respect to the problem sets, there is no such thing as cheating. I encourage collaboration. Problem sets are for sharing ideas and mastering the material. Programs, however, are for DEMONSTRATING that mastery, and so they are a very different matter, as spelled out in the Course Descriptor.

Third, the situation itself. I hope the students in question -- all of them, including the one who was sharing his great solution, come to me and request a ZERO on the assignment because they have violated the ethical behavior requirements of the course.

Each time I have taught EE 306, I have discovered approximately 50 students who cheated. Each received a harsh penalty and also established a file for himself/herself in the Dean of Students' office.

When I call a student in for cheating, he will have an excuse. ... if my past experiences are any indication of the future, Usually, it will involve something along the lines of "I did not know that was not allowed." Sometimes, it will include "We were allowed to work together on the problem sets. I assumed it was okay to also work together on the programs." I tend to be sympathetic on a lot of things. NOT on this.

If they go forward and turn in work that does not represent their own, AND they get caught, the penalty will be far worse than the 0 on the program. It is true that we do not catch all cheaters every time. However, getting away with it four times and getting caught once will result in a far greater penalty than taking 0 on all five programs. But that is beside the point. Engineering demands ethical behavior. Without that, we can not trust what an engineer says. The University demands ethical behavior. Without that, we cease to be a university.

Good luck with the program and the rest of the course.

Yale Patt