Unusual amount of cheating suspected at Stanford

An unusually high number of students are suspected of cheating during the most recent term at Stanford University, putting faculty members and administrators of the prestigious institution on alert.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Friday that University Provost John Etchemendy sent a letter to faculty highlighting "an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty'' that stem from "a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses." Etchemendy said students are cheating themselves and risk severe consequences.

Etchemendy added that all students are told of the school’s honor code and agree to abide by it.

"But with the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture," he wrote, "students need to recognize and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others."

University spokeswoman Lisa Lapin declined to discuss details with the newspaper, such as the course or grade level of the students, but she said such concerns are routine. She says that in the 2013-2014 academic year, 83 students violated the honor code.

One instructor believes that 20 percent of students in a large introductory course may have cheated, the newspaper reported. Lapin said Etchemendy’s note underscored the need for faculty members to be clear with students about expectations at the university.

Students accused of cheating have the opportunity to defend themselves against the charge. First-time violators are usually suspended for a quarter and must perform 40 hours of community service, with increasing disciplinary action for subsequent violations.

"We have a lot of classes and a lot of students," Lapin said. "It's not unusual to have a handful of concerns raised every term."

Cheating allegations have run rampant in big schools as of late.

Last fall, University of North Carolina employees were found to have participated in a widespread cheating scandal over the last 18 years to help more than 3,000 students get good grades.

Three years ago, Harvard investigated 125 students for cheating forcing dozens of students to temporarily withdraw from the Ivy League university.

The Associated Press contributed to this report