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Last week, I took my mid-term Greek exam. As the professor handed out the exams, the air was thick with stress and tension. My pencil was slick with sweat. After the professor wished us good luck, he told us he’d be back in about forty minutes to collect the exams. And he walked out.

About five minutes later, that’s when the cheating began. The girl seated at the very back of the classroom behind me (the laziest student I’ve ever encountered, never did the assignments, feigning headaches, busy-ness, and even the I-left-my-book-at-home excuse) began to shuffle papers. I heard all this: rustle rustle rustle. I also heard books being open, pages turned, more papers being pulled out. Strange behavior indeed, especially since the exam was not open-book. She was quiet as she could be about it, but since I was sitting in front of her, I knew exactly what she was up to.

I didn’t say a thing. I didn’t even look back. Just mind my own business; I had an exam to take, after all.

At Princeton University, students have a duty to – not just be honest on exams – but to actually report cheaters. It’s spelled out in the student handbook. I wonder now if I should have blown the whistle on this cheating student. I wonder if I should perhaps have ratted her out. Just turned around and declared: Hey, what the hell are you doing?! I don’t know. A part of me feels that cheating is so rampant, it’s just a part of life, everybody does it, just let it go. But another part of me is saying that this is a seminary where future pastors and ministry leaders are being trained. Cheating should simply never be found on campus. And when it is, it ought to be weeded out. There is a moral component to the eventual vocation of the seminarian, after all, and if he is immoral while in training, he ought to be kicked out if only to spare the future churches he might have one day led.

So maybe I should have said something. But it wouldn’t have made me feel heroic, I don’t think; more likely, I would have felt no bigger than a pinched-lip spinster scolding a puddle of spilt milk.

My Korean American classmate (who I confided with) told me not to make a mountain out of a molehill. The truth is, he told me, cheating is a “reactive” word for an activity that is actually a lot more rampant in seminary than most would care to admit. Lots of his friends – international students from Korea – could pass some courses only after much “assistance.” They “helped” each other during Hebrew and Greek exams. One time, after my friend was asked to proof-read a final paper, he found it to be so ridden with grammatical errors and just plain-awful that he rewrote the whole paper himself, inserting in a few spelling mistakes for authenticity. To do otherwise, he concluded, was to be unloving and unsupportive.

I thought his words really brought some shades of gray into a matter I’d thought was clearly black & white. To rat or not to rat? Ah…not so simple, even in seminary, apparently.

Tonight I’m going to go out and rent The Insider. Because seminarians – by deed and by words – are absolutely no help at all in giving me moral clarity about this issue.


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2 Comments

  1. Two initial questions flood my mind:

    1. Which seminary do you attend?

    2. Why didn’t you confront this person? As a future pastor, would you also not confront sins in the camp?

  2. 1. Cheating in seminary is a reality
    2. However, it is also apart of the test of integrity.
    3. Ephesians says to expose the deeds of darkness.


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