An Educator Believes His Students Cheated and Sues Them

After discovering his midterm and final tests from last year were published on a popular website, an instructor at Chapman University in Orange, California, took the extra step to determine whether his students cheated.

Harming Other Students

According to the New York Times, David Berkovitz, a business law professor filed a federal complaint against a number of his students, charging them with copyright violations.

Berkovitz’s lawyer, Mark Hankin, told the Times that Berkovitz wants the website Course Hero to pass over students’ identities in the class who posted previous examinations that included sample answers.

Mr. Hankin stated if Professor Berkovitz is successful, he intends to give over the names to Chapman’s honor board.

Given that Chapman’s business school assesses on a curve, Professor Berkovitz is concerned those who cheated may have unjustly lowered the marks of their peers who followed the rules.

Berkovitz discovered the uploads of his prior examinations online in January. Then, he inferred the exams had been posted and utilized to cheat on this year’s exams by some of his students. 

He was primarily concerned the anonymous group of pupils who allegedly utilized the posted information to study for examinations were “injuring their classmates.” 

Hankin informed Berkovitz that he was “definitely not in this for the money.” He added Berkovitz might not pursue further legal action until he had the students’ identities he believes were defrauded via the website. 

Course Hero

The Times wrote, “Course Hero, which is not listed as a defendant in the litigation, stated it would cooperate with a subpoena Mr. Hankin expects to serve within the next day or two.”

Sean Morris, Course Hero’s VP of academics, commented on the case, noting, “Our approach is always consistent with the law; if they issue a subpoena, we will assist them in their inquiry.”

Morris explained to the Times Course Hero is a platform that enables students and professors to upload and exchange papers in an “almost library-like” fashion. 

Students receive free access to certain papers through Course Hero, but users must pay a $9.95 monthly fee to gain additional access.

This is not the first time the site has become a source of contention. In 2009, an essay for Inside Higher Ed by Steve Kolowich questioned if Course Hero aided students in stealing material and cheating. 

“Some professors and supervisors chafe at the prospect of a site that encourages individuals to steal professors’ collective knowledge, post it without authorization, and then permit a company to sell access to it for profit,” Kolowich stated. 

For some, the discussion of whether such a webpage violates copyright protections is irrelevant; certain officials voiced alarm over whether Course Hero’s attempts to create a group of shared information are successful. 

The website, however, maintains it “does not accept copyright violations, duplication, or cheating whatsoever.”

Berkovitz’s lawyer, Hankin, was told by Course Hero that the company would need a court order to get the names of students who were uploading materials to its site.