Students wary of class group chats after anthropology chat accused of cheating

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Photo Credit: Ella Williams | Daily Texan Staff

After about 70 University students were recommended for failure or expulsion when information about an exam was posted in a class GroupMe last week, students say they are leaving GroupMes out of caution.

Anthropology professor John Kappelman sent an email Sept. 20 to the students in his Introduction to Biological Anthropology class informing them that any student in the class group chat would be facing disciplinary action. Since the email has been posted on social media, psychology sophomore Sarah Low said students she know are wary of using their class group chats.

“My reaction, just because I’m a really cautious person: I just left all my class GroupMes,” Low said.

In the email, Kappelman said students who previously left the group chat or changed their names would still face punishment because he was able to see the chat’s history. According to Kappelman’s syllabus, students are not allowed to discuss exams or lab assignments through any medium.

“Any student found cheating … will receive an automatic F in the course, and their case will be directed to the appropriate University authorities for additional sanctions that may include dismissal from the University,” the syllabus said.

 

Kappelman declined to comment.

Mechanical engineering senior Ahmet Selimoglu said about 50 students left a group chat for his American Literature course after the email was posted online.

“They were afraid the University was going to crack down on group chats,” Selimoglu said. “When people leave, it makes everyone worse off. These groups are to help students work together and discuss.”

Selimoglu said he had permission from his professor to form the group chat and posted explicit rules about sharing information in the chat after seeing the anthropology email.

“(My professor) was delighted to hear we were discussing outside of class,” Selimoglu said.

Low said the punishment for the students is unfair.

“They’re literally talking about the contents that were probably assigned to them in class,” Low said. “You could be muted, or you could just not even open the text.”

The students accused of cheating are now pending review from the Office of the Dean of Students. UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University could not comment on individual cases, but said he is not aware of any upcoming changes to the University’s definition of cheating.

“We focus on larger principles rather than specific technology,” Bird said.

Cheating, as defined by the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, includes but is not limited to “providing aid or assistance to or receiving aid or assistance from another student, individual, or source, without authority, in conjunction with a test, project, or other assignment.”

Selimoglu said the University needs to clarify what counts as cheating in a class group chat.

“UT needs to make it clear what the rules are on GroupMes,” Selimoglu said. “Students won’t feel safe until then.”

In terms of failing students, Low said professors have too much power and that Kappelman abused his.

“That F is going to stay with them for a long time,” Low said. “He’s like the judge and the jury here in terms of assigning the F.”