Professor Richard Quinn informs his Business Strategy class at the University of Central Florida that “forensic analysis” of the data gives him a good sense of who cheated on the midterm exam. (The link has video of the scolding.) Such a good sense that he can provide the administration with a list that he is “95% certain includes everyone who cheated on the exam.” (Quick: can you come up with such a list, even without seeing the data?) Unfortunately he can’t be as sure of the converse: that everyone on that list was a cheater.
So he is offering a deal to his students. They can individually confess to cheating, attend a 4 hour ethics course and receive amnesty, or they can take the risk that they will not be caught. What would you do?
- Professor Quinn’s speech reveals that the only evidence for cheating is an anonymous tip plus a suspicious grade distribution. Based only on this the only signal that you cheated was that your score was high. But it’s not credible to punish people just for having a high score.
- If Professor Quinn expects his gambit to work and for cheaters to turn themselves in, then he should believe that everyone who doesn’t turn himself in is innocent. So you should not turn yourself in.
- The biggest fear is that someone who you collaborated with turns himself in and he is induced to rat you out. Then as long as you are not sure who knows you were in on the scam you should turn yourself in.
- It’s surprising that this possibility was never mentioned in Professor Quinn’s rant because without it, his threat loses much of its force.
- The fact that he didn’t raise this possibility reveals that he is not so interested in rounding up every last cheater but simply to get a large enough number to confess. That way he can say that a lesson was learned. This suggests that you should confess only if you think that your confession will just push the total number of confessions over that threshold. Unlikely (unless everyone is thinking like you.)