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A Professor Thinks His Students Cheated, So He’s Suing Them

A professor at Chapman University in Orange, California, is going the extra length to find out if his students cheated after he discovered that his midterm and final exams from last year were uploaded to a popular website. 

Business Law Professor David Berkovitz filed a federal lawsuit against a group of his students, accusing them of copyright infringement, The New York Times reported. Berkovitz wants to make the website Course Hero to turn over the names of the students in his class who uploaded his past exams which also contained sample answers, his lawyer Mark Hankin said, according to The Times. 

“If successful, Professor Berkovitz plans to turn over the names to Chapman’s honor board, Mr. Hankin said,” the report states. “Because Chapman’s business school requires grading on a curve, Professor Berkovitz is worried that students who cheated may have unfairly caused their classmates who played by the rules to receive grades lower down on the curve.”

Berkovitz came across the uploads of his old exams online in January and surmised that the exams were uploaded and used by some of his students to cheat on this year’s exams. He was mainly concerned that the unnamed group of students he believes used the uploaded material to study for exams are “hurting their fellow classmates.” Hankin assured that Berkovitz is “certainly not in this for the money” and also said Berkovitz might not even pursue further legal action as long as he gets the names of the students he believes cheated through the website. 

“Course Hero, which is not named as a defendant in the suit, said it would comply with a subpoena, which Mr. Hankin said he expected to serve in the next day or two,” The Times reported. 

Sean Morris, Course Hero’s vice president of academics commented on the lawsuit, stating, “Our response is always in keeping with the law, so if they produce a subpoena, we will help them with their investigation.” Morris told The Times that Course Hero is a platform that helps students and teachers upload and share documents with each other “almost like a library.”

Course Hero allows free access for students to some documents, but to gain more access, users have to pay a $9.95 subscription fee. This isn’t the first time the website has been the center of debate. In 2009, a piece by Steve Kolowich for Inside Higher Ed asked if Course Hero was helping students steal others’ information and cheat. “Some professors and administrators … have chafed at the idea of a site that encourages students to take professors’ intellectual output, post it without permission, and then allow a company to sell access to it for profit,” Kolowich wrote, later adding, “For some, the question of whether such a site violates intellectual property protections is secondary; some officials have expressed concerns over whether Course Hero’s efforts to create a community of shared information might actually enable cheating.”

The website, however, claims it “does not tolerate copyright infringement, plagiarism, or cheating of any kind.” Course Hero told Berkovitz’s lawyer Hankin that the company would require a court subpoena to reveal the names of students uploading documents to its site. 

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