I’ve received a few questions about yesterday’s email from the chair of the Math Department, so I hope I can clarify a few things for everyone.

  1. The email was sent to the whole class.
  2. The investigation she referred to was about an academic integrity violation we found out about on Test #3a. If you did not commit a violation on Test #3a, then you do not need to worry about this investigation.
  3. The investigation is completely separate from Test #2 and the appointments some people have scheduled with me to talk about Test #2.
  4. Test #3b is still on for tomorrow – Wednesday 12pm to Friday 12pm this week; our Test #3 interviews are still on for next week.

Some of you are probably wondering what is going on. The fact is that there has been widespread cheating in this class (even when we were meeting in person). Usually these matters can be dealt with privately, so you might never know that your classmates got caught cheating, but this is not a usual semester and have been required to have more of these conversations publicly.

I know that this whole thing is incredibly stressful for all of you and I want to remind you that I can be extremely flexible about everything except for:

  1. the final exam,
  2. academic integrity.

Just let me know what you need.

While I understand the temptation to reach for just a little outside help when you’re as stressed as you are and it’s as easy as it is, I also want to remind you that committing violations can have lasting consequences for you. For example, there will be instances in your future —not just for academic things, but for jobs you’re applying for as well—where you will have to produce your transcript or ask a professor for a letter of recommendation. This will be difficult with a violation on your record. You don’t want what feels like a little thing now to follow you around for years and I don’t want that for you either.

CUNY has done something really amazing for students caught in this situation this semester by extending the deadline to withdraw from a class until May 14. I’ve already had conversations with some students for whom this class is an extra source of stress and they just want to be done with it. This is completely understandable and not something you should feel bad about. If this is where you are, then getting this course off your plate is the responsible way to handle it. Committing academic violations is not. I want you to make the decision that’s best for you.

Finally, the chair’s email mentioned the app/website Symbolab and why we don’t recommend students use it (or anything like it) at all. It’s definitely a violation to present Symbolab’s work as your own, even if you’re just copying your previous notes. But there’s another problem even with using it as you study. Symbolab is really incredible at finding answers. Really impressive. But, as the chair mentioned, if often solves problems in weird and roundabout ways. It uses techniques that are inappropriate for the problem and refuses to use the appropriate (and easier) ones. Even using Symbolab (or anything like it) to study can give you false confidence that you actually know what’s going on.

The reason that matters for this class is that the learning outcomes on the official course outline (which is linked from the OpenLab site and which we discussed on the first day of class) does not include “find answers.” The learning outcomes list the techniques that you are to use and apply in this class. I am held accountable by the department and the college for assessing whether these learning outcomes have been met, and what I have to go on is what you write down.  It’s obvious if you’re using Symbolab’s approach because it’s often an inappropriate approach, even if you’re not just copying from Symbolab directly onto your paper. I don’t want to tell you you can’t use Symbolab (or anything like it) ever, but it’s very risky and you should know the risks.

Your tests are already open book. What I would do if I were taking tests like yours is open up several tabs on my browser with the relevant chapters of the textbook before starting the test. If you haven’t actually read them (though you should; there’s good stuff in there!) scroll through them for a few minutes so you know where the definitions are, where the formulas are, and what kinds of examples there are. You can refer to these in your written work. As usual, show aaaaaaallll your work.

I hope this helps to clear things up.