The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

An arbitration panel yesterday ruled against a Wharton student who claimed in a lawsuit that the University denied him a fair hearing after an investigation found he had cheated on an exam. The three-attorney panel, which deliberated the case for less than five minutes after the day-long hearing came to a close, voted unanimously against Wharton junior Mark Wallace, panel chairperson Anthony DeLuca said last night. Wallace said he did not know if he would appeal the ruling to the U.S. District Court, adding he would consult with his attorney. He has 30 days to file an appeal. Wallace claimed that the wrong University judicial board heard the case and that he could not prepare for his hearing because the University did not make certain documents available to him. Wallace sought over $50,000 in punitive and compensatory damages, including "out-of-pocket" losses such as rent and loss of financial aid for a total of $10,870. He also claimed his judicial record has hampered his abilities to gain admission to law school. Associate General Counsel Neil Hamburg, who argued the case for the University, stressed throughout the hearing that the case was important as a test of the University's internal judicial system. "I'm delighted by the decision," he said last night. "It is a vindication of the University's right to discipline cheaters through its own processes." But Weldon Williams, the student's attorney in the case, said the ruling was a blow to student rights. "Students at the University better get serious about finding out what their rights are and what the procedures are," he said last night after hearing of the decision. "You're not going to get a fair hearing. Students have to know that the University is taking their rights away." Associate Legal Studies Professor Kenneth Shropshire, who served as Wallace's advisor during the hearing, ridiculed the University's judicial procedure as a "kangaroo court" which failed to uphold appropriate judicial standards. Williams argued during the hearing that the University had violated the University Policies and Procedures, dated September 1989, by trying the case in the University Hearing Board rather than the student-dominated Honor Court. But Hamburg pointed to an amendment in the September 5, 1989 issue of Almanac which abolished the Honor Court and directed cases previously heard by the Honor Court to the Hearing Board, thus superceding the policies manual. Williams conceded that the amendment existed, but maintained that it was not legally effective. He claimed that the September date of the policies manual implied that its guidelines were valid throughout the month, ending October 1. Based on this interpretation, he concluded that the amendment was in conflict with the policies manual and that the Honor Court was the proper venue. Hamburg dismissed Williams' argument as "hypertechnical" and irrelevant, noting that past court cases have maintained the University's system provides a fair hearing. Williams also said Wallace did not receive enough time to prepare for his hearing because University officials did not make a witness list and other documents available to him beforehand, as the University Policies and Procedures stipulates. Former Judicial Inquiry Officer Constance Goodman testified that it was the student's responsibility to pick up the documents from her office. But she said she did more than required when she had her secretary call to remind Wallace to pick them up several days beforehand. "I never had a student not pick up the list of witnesses and evidence," Goodman said. She added that she was "100 percent certain" the Board would have postponed the hearing if Wallace had requested extra time to prepare. Although Wallace's complaint dealt only with the fairness of the hearing, much of the testimony actually focused on whether he had cheated. Wallace and College senior Donald Hatter were found guilty of cheating on a Statistics 101 exam in 1989 after a classmate reported seeing them share information during the test. Wallace ultimately received a one-semester suspension while Hatter received a two-year probation. Both received notations on their transcripts which were to be removed after the end of the students' junior year. Statistics Professor Edward Lusk, who referred the cheating allegations to the JIO, used a chalkboard at yesterday's hearing to illustrate numerous identical errors in the two students' exams which he said demonstrated cheating had occurred. Wallace denied the cheating, claiming the similarities in their answers were only a result of studying together for the exam and using each others notes, which was permitted. But Lusk noted that when coupled with an eyewitness report, many of the errors -- including unusual phrasing which he had never seen before and weird use of mathematical notation -- convinced him that a "transfer of information" had occurred. "[One similarity] is unlikely, twice rare and three -- no way," Lusk said. After Lusk reviewed the exams, he brought them to Statistics Department chairperson David Hildebrand, who independently evaluated the similarities and also concluded cheating had occurred. Lusk also compared the blue-books of Wallace and Hatter to a random sample of ten other exams and determined that no one else had similar responses. There were approximately 100 students in the class, Lusk said. But Williams questioned the sample, since the exams were not necessarily chosen from students who had studied together, making it less likely the professor would find similarities to vindicate Wallace and Hatter. Goodman, who was questioned at the hearing for several hours, said she was pleased with the decision. "It was a clean case," Goodman said. "The student received due process. All phases of the investigation and hearing were handled fairly."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.