Vol 12, Issue 11
As an pseudonymous coordinator of two compulsory subjects with weekend take-home exams, I read the De Minimis article on collusion with great interest. And amusement.
But first the moralising. Collusion – talking to others about an exam while you’re sitting it – is seriously against the rules (unless the rules say otherwise.) And breaking rules is bad, m’kay? If you’re caught, the Uni will fail you or worse. And you may be barred from legal practice. Indeed, it’s much easier to make an example out of a team than an individual.
Even worse, if you’re not caught, you’ll end up becoming a lawyer and then getting booted out of the profession (or worse) for breaking other rules, ‘cos rule-breaking is addictive. The higher you rise, the harder you’ll fall. Just ask Marcus Einfeld.
Forget rules and morality, though. Last week’s author, ‘Anon’, says that collusion ‘is rife at MLS, more a product of fear than anything.’ As a pseudonymous marker who’s been at the law school for 15 years, I wouldn’t call collusion ‘rife’, but it certainly happens – we take-home examiners see it occasionally in rather strange patterns in answers.
The author argues that if some students collude, then it makes sense for everyone to do it – and MLS does its students a disservice by demanding a ‘shroud of deception’. Interestingly, as Anon notes and I can confirm, there’s little (indeed, no) sign of collusion in the Evidence take-home, where some talking about the exam is expressly allowed.
But it’s also noteworthy that Anon’s cheating in constitutional law ‘didn’t even turn out that well. My group didn’t get amazing scores’. Yeah, no kidding. That pattern of similar answers we sometimes see? It’s ALWAYS a pattern of similarly bad answers.
It’s not hard to see why. Who runs around organising cheating groups? Who joins them? Not the good students, or the diligent ones. Instead, it’s the ones who spend more time covering up their lack of study than actually studying. Anon faintly claims, ‘Is there a clear cut advantage? Possibly.’ After all, are two, or five, thick heads better than one?
Anon also claims (surely tongue-in-cheek) that collusion isn’t a ‘problem’ either: ‘Employers ask for students with teamwork skills and this is what such projects provide.’ Earth to Anon: teamwork sucks.
To put it nicely, teamwork is very difficult to do well. To put it less nicely, teamwork is a great way of doing everything badly. Those team members of yours? At best, they’re scared to criticise your bad ideas in case you get narky. At worst, they’re feeding you their worst ideas in the hope that at least they’ll do better than you. They are definitely keeping their best ideas to themselves, just like you are.
Only children and university administrators think that teamwork is a good way to do anything. Everyone else avoids it like the plague, or finds a way to do the whole team’s work themselves. If you didn’t manage to learn any actual law in constitutional law, at least you should ‘take home’ that life lesson.
Is MLS worried about collusion? Hell yes, because our reputation is everything (to us and to you.) And because marking lousy answers is such a drag. But are we in a panic? Nope. Not unless we start to see suspicious patterns of good answers. This pseudonymous professor won’t be holding his breath.
Guy Incognito is the author of The Ouija Board Jurors (Waterside Press, 2017), to be published on 4 October.
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