Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A footnote on take home exams

I suggested in a post below that take home exams, if we are going to continue to offer them, could become a graver exercise if they were centrally administered using standard software, which would limit the time available for a student to complete the exam. It turns out that software already exists. The Registrar uses it to administer placement exams, which freshmen now take before they arrive in Cambridge. So all that needs to be built to implement my suggestion is a policy change.

Kindness Revisited

In a series of posts on this blog a year ago (here, here, and here), I raised my worries about the "kindness pledge" that incoming freshmen were invited to sign. In the original plan, the signatures would be posted in the entryway of the dormitory, so that those who refused to sign would be known to the members of the entryway. This year there was no pledge, but there was sensitivity training instead. I didn't pay much attention to it, but Harvey Silverglate and Juliana DeVries have a good analysis called Harvard, Where Civility Trumps Free Speech. If it is unfair in its factual reporting, I hope someone will let me know.

These programs grew out of the "community conversations" that have been run for years, in which small groups of freshmen read and discuss texts with faculty and staff group leaders. Part of my concern with the programs is that the texts are more politically correct and less challenging than they used to be. Excerpts from Emerson's Self-Reliance used to be one of the texts, but is no more. This year's list is shown below. Was there really no alternative to including the Obama text as required reading for all freshmen, two months before the first election in which many of them will vote?

I have taken some heat from people I respect (I would not mind taking heat from people I don't!) because these programs are so well intended. There are some values we would like our students to have, not just for the sake of peace in the dorms, but because the world will be a better place if our lawyers and politicians and business leaders and so on are all more civil than they typically are today.

That is all true. But the reason these efforts seem so juvenile to me, beyond the nature of the texts, is that there is so little mention of these kindness values elsewhere in the institutional discourse. Silverglate and DeVries mention the litigation about tips involving the Faculty Club waitstaff; that is, perhaps, a bit of a cheap shot. A better example might be the amusement and utter absence of institutional shock that greeted President Summers' public declaration a year ago that the Winklevoss brothers were assholes. Here, in case you missed it, is what he told Fortune:
One of the things you learn as a college president is that if an undergraduate is wearing a tie and jacket on Thursday afternoon at three o'clock, there are two possibilities. One is that they're looking for a job and have an interview; the other is that they are an a**hole. This was the latter case.
If any dean said at the time that it was unkind for President Summers to suggest that students who dressed up to visit the president were assholes, I must have missed it. (And by the way, I don't know the Winklevoss brothers, but it is not that unusual to see Final Club guys in jacket and tie, even when they are not going to see the president of the university.)

Of course there are daily examples of rudeness and thoughtlessness at Harvard--I would not suggest that such incidents are worse or more frequent here elsewhere in the Boston area, but we certainly don't talk about them much. (Boston is a ruder place than, say, Michigan--it used to be a signature of the famous eatery Durgin Park that you could count on the waitresses insulting you.)

So I think the Silverglate-DeVries critique is right on. The freshman exercise is more about peacekeeping, at some cost to free expression, than it really is about creating a kinder Harvard community. I don't doubt that the deans would be glad to see everyone at Harvard be kinder, but they are carrying out their limited mission in a vacuum and without a larger support structure. And while peacekeeping is a good and necessary thing in a residential college, in a serious university there are other, sometimes conflicting values at stake.

This year's readings:

A More Perfect Union, Barack Obama
Whistling Vivaldi , Claude M. Steele
Choosing the Color of My Collar, David Tebaldi ’10
Every Asian American I Know Is Smart, Frank H. Wu
Who Is the Surgeon? , Chris Barrett, GSAS ’12
Psalm, Wislawa Szymborska
Demographic Snapshot of the Harvard Class of 2016 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Constructive Suggestion About Take Home Exams

A couple of the commenters on my Huffington Post piece about the "cheating scandal" (really more of a course administration scandal) have expressed puzzlement over the idea of a "take home exam" and the amateurish way this one was administered. As one of my colleagues noted below in response to one of my posts on this topic, take home exams absolutely have their place. So to leave for the moment my sense that the blame being cast on the students should be shared and hence diminished, let me make some pretty obvious observations about take home exam protocols.

One of the oddities of the transition Harvard has undergone from a proctored-3-hour-exam form of assessment to a roll-your-own form of assessment is that there has been so little study, guidance, or regulation about those alternative forms of assessment. The faculty handbook states,
It is the responsibility of faculty members to determine the best means of assessing the work of students in their courses. One option available to them is the seated three-hour written Final or Midyear examination scheduled during Examination Period by the staff of the Office of the Registrar and proctored by instructional staff of the course, at locations and times specified by the Registrar. Such examinations are subject to the following rules …
followed by many pages of regulations about exams--what you have to do about students with disabilities, make-up exams, and so on. As far as I can see, all that is said anywhere about other forms of evaluation is this:

Completion of Work in Courses without Three-Hour Examination

Course heads should not assign any work to be done during the Examination Period. Faculty policy stipulates that this time should be reserved for standard three-hour exams. Any final assignments other than final examinations must be completed before the end of Reading Period. 
Take-Home Final Examinations 
Take-home examinations are considered like other projects and not as scheduled final exams; as such they must be due before the end of Reading Period. When assigning a take-home exam it is imperative that the instructor be mindful of student obligations to other courses, some of which continue to meet during Reading Period. Course heads should be careful to explain to students in writing the extent of collaboration and any source materials that may be permitted in the preparation of the examination.
 As a faculty member I love the lack of regulation. But the lack of regulation is accompanied by a general lack of cultural norms, junior faculty mentoring, faculty orientation about evaluation protocols and professional commitment, institutional memory, and so on. If I were still writing big tuition checks, I would wonder whether it isn't taking the my-classroom-is-my-castle view of professorial prerogative a bit too far when a professor can assign four take home exams as not only the sole form of evaluation, but the only work for the entire course, and the College can then round up almost half the class for cheating (but not until the course is over). I think that if the "exam" protocol falls below a certain level of professionalism, the College shouldn't have to enforce its sanctions as strictly.

Students tend to take their courses as seriously or un-seriously as their instructors appear to. Sometimes the signals instructors send are misinterpreted, and I suppose that is what happened here.

After some chit-chat with faculty colleagues, it occurs to me that there are ways Harvard could ensure that courses signal that their evaluations are serious business. It could partly restore the sense that there was a grave, central authority overseeing even take home exams.

Flip the default back, making alternative forms of assessment the exception rather than the norm. Set up some standard mechanisms for timed take home exams, so a clock starts when the exam is downloaded and the solution must be securely uploaded within some time period not to exceed 24 hours. If collaboration is to be disallowed, have the tool scream NO COLLABORATION and make students type a statement that they have in fact not collaborated. Anything that would take more time than that may not be termed a "take home exam" and must be considered a research exercise, for which discussion and collaboration with other students is not disallowed (though of course sources would have to be properly credited).

And the take-home exam option would not be available to any course with more than X students without a personal, face to face meeting between the instructor, the department chair, and some appropriate central authority to talk about the educational rationale and the spirit in which the option was being taken (e.g., not because the instructor wants to leave early for the summer or hates proctoring multiple exams for disabled students). Everybody would learn something; right now the university administration has no way to know what these big courses are actually doing to evaluate their students. Pick X large enough that the number of such direct conversations would be manageably small and this would not turn into an administrative nightmare--recognizing that the present loosy-goosey attitude about take home exams does create nightmares.

(P.S. For those who can't get enough of this, there is a video now up on the HuffPo of a conversation between me, the president of the Crimson, and some recent alums.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Deregulatory Failure

Almost my first reaction when I heard about the so-called "cheating scandal" at Harvard was that with that many cases, there must have been something wrong with the way the course was run. With all the difficulties in adjudicating 125 disciplinary cases, each implicating the reputation and career of an actual human being, I hope Harvard will be able to avoid being influenced by its worries about its own reputation. That would make it even less likely to look in the mirror and ask what it was about its course administration culture that set this debacle in motion. 

The more I know, the more I think this case is a deregulatory failure. Professors didn't like the heavy apparatus of secure, centrally administered final exams, and when the centrally hired proctors were eliminated along with hot breakfasts as a cost-saving measure a few years ago, they liked it even less that they had to do exam proctoring themselves. Vacation beckoned at the end of each term, and would come sooner if evaluations were done before Exam Period began. Going with the flow of faculty sentiment, the administration flipped the default so some non-exam form of evaluation during Reading Period became the norm rather than the exception. The faculty, left to their own devices to make up evaluation protocols, came up with a variety of methods, some better than others. I doubt much time was spent in department meetings talking about this; no guidance was given to the full faculty, except that we should be clear about our expectations. The prose in the student handbook regarding collaboration was revised along similarly permissive lines. The newly empowered, lightly regulated faculty experimented with some good and some unwise evaluation practices, without supporting norms and cultural memories.

Since the scandal broke, students are reacting in confused and self-protective ways. A student told me over the weekend that her peers are avoiding classes with take-home exams out of fear that innocent coincidences will get them swept up in some future compare-all-the-papers investigation. Hard to imagine that is really going to affect enrollments significantly, but the fact that a student thinks so is already troubling.

In the Huffington Post today I have a piece called Harvard, Know Thyself, which takes up several of the points I have blogged about recently, with somewhat greater specificity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Casualty of the "Cheating Scandal"

5pm update: The Bureau of Study Counsel has fixed its broken link and the excellent collaboration guide is now accessible.

It would not be surprising if confusion and fear about collaboration prevailed among Harvard students this fall, due to the large penumbra cast by the investigation of the Congress course. The investigation involves not just students who had cut-and-pasted but others who report that they had talked to each other, or talked to their TFs in a group, or worked in study groups prior to the exam, etc.

Just out of curiosity, I went to the Bureau of Study Counsel web page to see what guidance Harvard offers students about appropriate and inappropriate forms of collaboration. I recall, for example, that studying in groups is one of the things that students from less fancy schools had to be taught to do here--they are more likely to sit by themselves and stare at their notes and text books. Various studies, including Dick Light's very widely read Making the Most of College as I recall, cite group study as one of the keys to success. I knew a couple of students who always watched the videos of my lectures together rather than coming to class, because they found it better to stop and back up the videos and talk to each other about what I was saying than to listen to me lecture or interrupt me if they didn't understand what I was saying.

I was pleased to see that the BSC page on Handouts and Resources has a link labeled "What Do Teachers Mean by 'Collaborate'?" It seems to me perfectly symbolic of the present state of affairs that when I click on that link, my browser responds, "The file you are looking for may not exist."

I do not believe there is a culture of cheating at Harvard. But it would not surprise me if a culture of fear of cheating developed--a fear that extremely useful educational practices should, just to be safe, be avoided. The biggest victims would be the very students who would most benefit from working together.

At some point, faculty should be told that academic freedom notwithstanding, they actually cannot run their courses however they want, or that if they do, the College will not round up and punish the alleged offenders of their ill-considered practices.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Thoughtless Evolution of Final Exams, Part II

In response to the last post, several people (including a commenter below) have mentioned to me that take-home finals are not new to Harvard. And they are common at other universities, and indeed in other Harvard schools. So what is different about the College that such a disaster could occur?

First, to fill out the history. Yes, professors have been giving take home exams during Reading Period for years, probably with increasing frequency. Since what happens during Reading Period is not centrally monitored, professors who did not want to deal with the rigid protocols for administration of final exams during exam period were rolling their own exam protocols, in-class or take-home, during Reading Period. The College's decision to flip the default doubtless had something to do with frustration with having to grant so many permissions for exam substitutions. But it was dangerous to respond by letting faculty do whatever they wanted.

Some forms of take-home exam work better than others. The exam protocol for the infamous Congress class was that students had eight days to do the exam; it was posted at the beginning of Reading Period and had to be turned in by 5pm on the last day of Reading Period. So there were students who put off doing the exam, because they were writing term papers, having dinner every night with roommates who did the take-home exam right away so they could study for other exams closer to the time they were taking them. That was a recipe for disaster, under the rules that students were not to be discussing the exam with each other.

An exam that had to be done over a 24-hour period would suffer less from that failure mode. But if that 24-hour period were a particular calendar day during Reading Period, then the lack of synchronization between courses would create the possibility that some unlucky soul would have four of those exams to do in the same 24-hour period. That, of course, is the problem that Exam Period was designed to avoid! By having classes that meet at different hours centrally allocated to different exam slots, no student would have to take different exams at the same time.

Technology has created another solution. Today a professor can post the final exam in such a way that a clock starts the instant an individual student downloads it. Each student must upload his or her response within 24 hours, but the students do not all have to be synchronized with each other. Of course this does not eliminate the possibility of information flowing from student to student, but the structure of the protocol reinforces the message that collaboration is not allowed, in exactly the way the structure of the Congress exam signaled the opposite, whatever the instructions said. (HBS gives exams this way.)

All this raises a larger question, which I hinted at near the end of the previous post. Harvard has been giving exams for hundreds of years. Have we really forgotten how to think through that there are better and worse ways to do it? The protocol in this course was amateurish.

Part of what has happened is that the university administration is increasingly deregulatory---if faculty members want to do their own thing, it seems, we might as well allow them to do it. I know how hard it is to herd these cats, but the collapse of regulations, norms, and even memory is dangerous. For all that we have to say these days about pedagogical improvement, the role of the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, the Conversations@Harvard series on the future of the university, and so on, there is remarkably little practical guidance to faculty on how to avoid these avoidable disasters.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Curious History of "Take-Home Finals"

Much ink has been spilled about the significance of the cheating alleged to have occurred in Harvard's "Introduction to Congress" course. There has been such a run on high moral dudgeon that the supplies must be running short. What does this unprecedented scandal say about the ethics of youth, about their eroding sense of intellectual property in the Internet age, about the blurred line between collaboration and copying?

I suggested in a previous post that a deeper issue might be that large courses are sometimes run casually, or may even promote themselves as easy and fun in an attempt to swell enrollments. Students tend to take courses only as seriously as their instructors seem to be taking them. 

Over the weekend I was out of town and saw several alums at a party. They all asked the same question: What is this business of take-home exams anyway? There was a reason, they noted, that exams used to be proctored--it's called human nature. The greater the temptations, the easier the transgression, the more likely it is that people will sin.

I don't know what percentage of courses now administer take-home exams rather than sit-down exams or some other form of evaluation (seminars are often graded on the basis of research papers, for example). I suspect there are a great many more non-final-exam-evaluations today than even two years ago. They may well be the norm rather than the exception. And that is because NO EXAM is now the DEFAULT OPTION.

Until the fall term of 2010,courses gave final exams by default. Instructors could substitute a different form of evaluation if they made a timely request to the appropriate dean and explained what form of evaluation they wanted to use instead, and why. 

Starting four terms ago, the default was flipped, so that instructors are assumed to be using an alternate form of evaluation unless they make a request, by a certain date early in the term, to give a 3-hour, sit down final exam.

Defaults are well known to be powerful signaling devices, indicating what is normal and expected. For example, otherwise similar societies in which people are assumed to be willing to have their organs donated after death, unless they specify otherwise in advance, have far higher organ donation rates than places where the default is the opposite. Even though in both cases individuals have complete control over the decision, by checking a box at the time of renewing their drivers' licenses, for example, the donation rates vary drastically depending on whether you check to opt in or check to opt out. So while I don't know the numbers, I imagine the number of final exams being administered has shrunk rapidly since two years ago when the default changed.

And why was the default flipped? 

Because fall term exams were moved to before winter break. 


You see, professors were not very diligent about turning in those forms specifying what kind of exam they intended to give. The administration could not make up the exam schedule until they knew which courses were going to have final exams, so the the exam schedule tended to be posted late in the term. It was always a nuisance for students wanting to make their end-of-term plans not to know the date of their last exam. But the nuisance became a big cost item when fall term exams moved before Christmas, since airline ticket prices grow drastically as December 25 approaches. And Harvard was paying for a lot of those tickets, through its financial aid budget.  

So the solution was to change the default--no exam unless you asked for one, by a certain drop-dead date. No form to return any more, no email to respond to, unless you specifically want to given an exam.

One other wrinkle: Final exams may be given only during exam period, and other forms of assessment must be completed by the end of reading period, which precedes exam period. So courses that do not give final exams (and instead, for example, give "take home finals"), are finished earlier than courses that give final exams--certainly done for the students, and potentially for the professor too, depending on the exact timing of the alternative assessment and how long it takes to grade.

So altogether, there are pretty powerful incentives not to give final exams, and nobody is telling the faculty that they are educationally a good idea in spite of the disincentives.

I include below the memo that was sent to faculty in the spring of 2010 explaining the rationale for changing the default. I was on Faculty Council at the time and asked whether there were any educational considerations in the change. What I was thinking was not actually that students might cheat more on take home exams; I wondered whether anyone who had looked at the matter had come to the conclusion that take-home assessments are fairer, more accurate, more revealing, more educational in terms of what is learnt studying for and preparing the take home exam, and so on. As far as I can remember, educational questions did not enter into the discussion at all, essentially because it seemed the change was being forced upon us by other decisions already made.

To be sure, one thing sometimes leads willy-nilly to another to produce unexpected and unforeseen results. Still, I hope that somewhere along with the sanctimonious shock about the morals of the members of the Congress 125, someone asks some questions from 50,000 feet about what really happened here that could have been avoided. Of course mechanical changes to exam administration are not going to end cheating, but they will reduce the number of cases of students who thought they weren't cheating but learned to their sorrow that they were.

To: The Members of the Faculty
From: Jay Harris, Dean for Undergraduate Education
Date: May 7, 2010
Re: Change to default policy for Final Examinations given in courses in the FAS 
Because FAS policy requires that courses culminate in a scheduled three-hour final examination, the Office of the Registrar currently must schedule a final exam slot for each course unless the faculty member petitions for a substitution. At the start of each term, faculty are prompted to submit a Final Exam Request form to the Registrar. In order to produce an accurate schedule of final exams, the Office of the Registrar needs to hear from every faculty member before the Registrar’s Office can release a confirmed schedule for final exams, causing serious delays. As a consequence, our students and faculty are not able to plan for the end of the term until late into the semester. With the change of calendar, this problem becomes particularly acute in the fall semester when the exam period falls so close to the holidays. In the fall of 2009, our first term under the new calendar, many students who needed to purchase tickets to fly home were forced to wait until November because they needed to know when their exams would be scheduled before finalizing their plans. 
The solution to this problem is to post the final exam schedule much earlier in the term, but in the absence of accurate information from the faculty, and with the default requirement that we schedule a three-hour time slot for every course unless otherwise notified, any list of final exams produced early in the term would contain many courses that will not actually culminate in an exam. 
On behalf of the College and the Graduate School, I therefore move that, effective July 1, 2010, unless an instructor officially informs the Registrar by the end of the first week of the term of his or her intention to give a three-hour final examination for a specific course, the assumption shall be that the instructor will not be giving a three-hour final examination and no slot will be reserved for that course in the examination schedule. 
Should the Faculty vote to accept this motion, Information for Faculty Offering Instruction in Arts and Sciences would be updated accordingly. I enclose, for your review, a red-lined version of the changes that would be made to the handbook. It is important to note that faculty who wish to assign some alternative means of assessment for undergraduates would be allowed to do so, but the alternative assignment (even if it is an exam, such as a take-home exam) could not, according to current FAS policy, be scheduled to take place or be due during the Examination Period. For graduate students, Examination Period may be used for assignments when there is no final examination for the course.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Big Courses and the Problem of Parallel Universes

(Added: Those who are unaware of the cheating allegations at Harvard could read this quick summary from Bloomberg. It isn't the most complete--the Globe and the NYT have reporting that is fuller, but behind a paywall.)

Though I have weighed in on other blogs with some reactive comments about the Harvard cheating issue, I have been reluctant to go on the air or to launch an offensive since my knowledge of the course is limited. I have read some but not all of the news stories, and have talked to a student in the course. The professor's reputation is at stake, as well as the students' integrity, so I want to be careful about seeming to attack or defend either on the basis of inference or speculation. Still, a few structural and institutional things seem to be clear.

The course seems to have sent some mixed signals about the exam, with a TF holding office hours during the exam, in which students could hear each other's questions about their proposed answers, and the TF's responses.

Of course, the exam instructions were clear: No collaboration. But 60mph speed limit signs also could not be clearer. If you go 63 for an hour and people are passing you, and then you pass a speed trap and see that somebody who raced passed you at 75 has been pulled over, you get used to the idea that maybe you, everyone else, and the police all agree that 60mph signs don't literally mean what they say. It sounds to me like some students were going 75--they were cutting and pasting--and some of the other students who have been pulled in were going 63. Hopefully the Ad Board will respond in proportion, though I think those 63mph students have some justification for rolling their eyes about their culpability. Those who keep insisting that the students should be punished because the exam instructions were clear will, I trust, not complain if they are ticketed for driving 63, like everyone else,  in a 60mph zone.

Another thread (represented in a Globe editorial today, and an op-ed yesterday) suggests that if there is an institutional failure that contributed to the culture, it's that the course was too large. Again acknowledging that I know nothing in particular about this course or its professor, I think it's important to parse that a little bit--it has a germ of truth but it's not quite right. There are great courses that are large, and there are awful courses that are small.

First, why is a course large? If the course is large because the professor announces at the beginning that it is going to be a gut, there should really be no surprise that the students don't take it seriously, but the size itself is not the problem. It's that students put out in proportion to what is expected of them, and a professor who says that his course is a gut has announced that he doesn't expect much of his students. Of course they may misunderstand each other about what exactly that means, but the professor surely intends to signal SOMETHING if he says that.

A course can be large because it's a good course about an interesting subject. (Harvard's intro CS course is like that.) For certain courses, such as introductory economics, it doesn't matter that much whether it is a great course or not--the importance of the material will create demand, if it is the only intro to the field.

A course can also be big because the professor is famous. I'll bet Niall Ferguson draws crowds, even beyond what the high quality of his lecturing would produce.

Big courses, whatever the reason they are big, create management challenges. There are grading equity issues. There are problems with having adequate TF staffing, especially if enrollment is unexpectedly large.

And there is the problem that the guy in charge of the course may have no idea what is happening on the ground, among the students. That can't happen in a seminar, and is unlikely to happen in a lecture course of 20. It can happen very easily in a big lecture course with a lead instructor who is a celebrity or is very busy with other things, and has left the management of the course to his staff. It is hard to talk about this without naming names, and again I would stress that I don't know the first thing about Niall Ferguson and the way he runs his courses. But you have to wonder about a professor, affiliated with both Harvard and Oxford, who brings up a page beginning with the following Google results when you append "speakers bureau" to his name. (Only one of these lists a fee: $40,001 and up.)

I don't imagine that the professor involved in the current case is operating at that level. But isn't he taking his cues about personal and institutional values, as he works his way up the tenure ladder, from observing the behavior of his more celebrated peers?

One of the unhealthy divides in the faculty (not just at Harvard of course, but at any research university) is between those who lecture, and those who actually look forward to everything that teaching entails--not just lecturing, but to all the grungy work of educating students, in small numbers for sure, but in large numbers too. It is a lot of work to run a big course well--you in essence have to teach a second course, to the teaching staff. You need to tell them that you want them to take the temperature of the class and tell you the buzz. You yourself need, at least occasionally, to hang around the places where your students are talking over coffee or hacking on their laptops. You don't need to be a crack bureaucrat to run a big course, but you have to act like you care how the course is being experienced by your most ill-prepared and insecure students. (Of course, the top students too; they bring you the greatest joy. But they are not going to be your problem cases.) Because if those weaker students don't think you care, and your TFs pick up the same attitude, then your students will try to figure out how to navigate your course--what those 60mph signs mean--from their peers, from gossip, etc.

This is the problem of parallel universes in big courses. Not a new phenomenon--Lowell noted one of the problems Eliot had left him by hugely expanding the size of the College. "The personal contact of teacher and student becomes more difficult. . . . Great masses of unorganized young men . . . are prone to superficial currents of thought and interest, to the detriment of the personal intellectual progress that ought to dominate mature men seeking higher education."

The incentive and reward system is stacked against this kind of student-faculty engagement. There are papers and books to write to get yourself promoted and enhance your professional reputation. There are conferences to go to, or better yet for your standing in the academic community, to organize and run. You may be able to save something for your children's education if you take on outside work as an expert witness or a speaker or columnist, while your TFs are grading papers and holding office hours. And the only data about your teaching that you know will go into your tenure dossier, if you are junior faculty, are your Q guide ratings and enrollment numbers, so whatever else you do, you have an incentive to keep those high.

I enjoy those invitations to Faculty Dinners in the Houses, but have always found them rather odd--do the professors who go to them never talk informally to students otherwise? The trick in holding a big course together is to avoid the phenomenon of parallel universes, where the teaching staff talks to each other and the students talk to each other and the two groups have little to say to each other. The system of incentives in research universities is not set up to encourage mixing of those universes; there are plenty of great professors who do it, but they don't do it because it will show up on their annual Activity Reports. It is hard for me to imagine that half of a class could be charged with cheating in a course where the engagement and mutual understanding was at a healthier level.