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  • 1.  Ethics Question

    Posted 01-16-2019 10:08 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-16-2019 10:11 AM
    I recently became aware of a site set up to solve student homework, apparently for renumeration.  I recently became aware of yet another site offering to do homework for students for a fee.  This site lists its "experts", one of whom identifies himself as a civil engineering doctoral student. He lists his name, photo and the university where he is doing his PhD.

    If this person is an ASCE member, could this be considered as a violation of Canon 6 and possibly Canon 3?  Would an appropriate course of action be to file a formal complaint with the Committee on Ethics?

    Charles Haas Ph.D., F.ASCE
    LD Betz Professor of Environ. Eng. & Department Head - Civil, Architectural and Environmental Eng.
    Drexel University
    Philadelphia PA
    (215) 895-2283

  • 2.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-16-2019 11:02 AM
    Edited by Chad Morrison 01-16-2019 11:17 AM
    No.  I think the code that controls here is the university's student code of conduct.  Both students are in violation of that code.

    The engineer offering the service is not acting in a professional capacity.  He is not providing stamped calculations.  There could be a violation of ASCE or state code if he is billing or conducting business through his firm (which is licensed and insured for professional work).  If he is providing the services as an individual... this is where he could say he is moonlighting as a tutor.  How do you prove that he is doing the homework or just providing tutoring services?  Because he is self incriminating?  

    If the engineer is employed or studying at a university, it is likely that this is a violation of their code of conduct.  It should be reported to them to take action. A student who helps another student cheat is just as culpable. If there is no policy against this practice or honor code to combat this, it needs to be created and the offender needs to be notified.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207

  • 3.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-16-2019 11:45 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-16-2019 11:45 AM
    In my opinion, the answer is yes.   The amount of cheating that occurs in engineering programs is out of control.  Many (if not most) students don't see copying homework as cheating. And while cheating has always existed, technology has accelerated this mindset. They see going to websites like "Chegg" or "CourseHero" similarly to just asking a classmate for help on a problem. I've had students tell me (misguidedly) that it helps them learn when they can see the problem solved. One student told me he didn't think he was cheating because he didn't pay one of the "tutors," but just looked at the posted solution manual (a copyright violation as well). There is a good article in the Center for Academic Integrity here High-Tech Cheating on Homework Abounds, and Professors Are Partly to Blame
    The Chronicle of Higher Education remove preview
    High-Tech Cheating on Homework Abounds, and Professors Are Partly to Blame
    Technology A casual joke on Twitter recently let slip a dirty little secret of large science and engineering courses: Students routinely cheat on their homework, and professors often look the other way. "Grading homework is so fast when they all cheat and use the illegal solutions manual," quipped Douglas Breault Jr., a teaching assistant in mechanical engineering at Tufts University.
    View this on The Chronicle of Higher Education >
    Donald Carpenter at Lawrence Tech has also been doing research in this area and you can search for some of his articles.  And, as the article that I linked notes, many professors are complicit in allowing this to occur.  The attitude is that homework isn't worth that much, and if they are cheating on homework, they will pay for it on the exams.  Plus, it's exhausting being the cheating police. So trying to change mindsets is a challenge and many of the research articles have suggestions. I think your idea has merit, and is worth investigating.  But it's like going after a drug dealer.  If you take out the dealer, someone will take his place because the demand is there. Trying to reduce the demand is ultimately the way we've got to address this. Students have to be taught that using these sites is cheating. They still might do it, but they need to hear it loud and clear from the teachers (and, by the way, this problem begins in high school and middle school). 

    Timothy Murphy P.E., M.ASCE
    Trine University
    Angola IN
    (260) 665-4216

  • 4.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-16-2019 04:52 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-16-2019 04:51 PM
    Greetings!  From my experience as their staff liaison, I think this is certainly something the Committee on Professional Conduct would investigate as a potential ethics violation (assuming the doctoral student is an ASCE member).  If you are interested in exploring that option, I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

    Tara Hoke Aff.M.ASCE
    Reston VA
    (703) 295-6151

  • 5.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-17-2019 09:44 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-17-2019 09:45 AM
    I agree that this is an issue for the Committee on Professional Conduct. If the student is not an ASCE member (and many PhD students are not), CPC could likely resolve the problem through the student's advisor and/or Department Chair. They are most likely (hopefully) unaware. This impacts all of us and our profession.

    Donald F. (Don) Hayes, PhD, PE, BCEE, F.ASCE
    Research Environmental Engineer
    Engineer Research and Development Center
    (601) 634-7267

  • 6.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-17-2019 09:44 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-17-2019 09:43 AM
    Hey Chuck...

    Thanks for posting this.  Like many others, this has become a major source of sometimes-heated discussions among our faculty.  Similar to other reports, many of our faculty have abandoned graded homework under the assumption that rampant cheating renders the resulting grades moot.

    Let me offer a little different 'spin' to the ethics question.  (As a bit of background, I teach our "professional issues" course, in which we take apart the ASCE Code of Ethics and examine real-world cases)  I fully acknowledge that I will stray into the over-stereotyping territory here - so my caveat is that I am speaking in generalities.

    One of our discussions focuses on changes in mindset/culture/values versus changes in behavior.  It can be argued that the Code of Ethics - while somewhat aspiring to describe a culture of ethics -- is in reality a set of behavioral guidelines (the engineer shall do this...shall not do this). This presents a paradox to those of us trying to 'teach' ethics - we would hope that changing a person's mind/heart will subsequently lead to correct behavior; however, teaching the Code focuses primarily on actions, which we then try to tie (with varying degrees of success) to a change in mindset.  Given the diversity of mindset-shaping worldviews in a typical classroom, this can be a daunting task.

    Viewed through that lens (what the engineer must do/not do and how the engineer should act), one significant disconnect for students is the assumption that the behaviors described apply to practicing/professional engineers - not students studying to be engineers.Thus, these behaviors do not -- yet -- apply to them.  In addition, many students see the stakes of cheating on homework as somewhat low, i.e. "...well, it's not like I am designing a real bridge...". 

    Obviously, then, our greatest (perhaps) challenge in our academic programs is to inculcate the mindset of integrity.  Sadly, however, much of our effort appears to be geared towards thwarting behaviors - creating and implementing systems, procedures, and technologies to 'catch' perpetrators and administer appropriate consequences.

    Thanks again for the post!!

    Kevin Hall Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Univ Of Arkansas
    Fayetteville AR
    (479) 575-8695

  • 7.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-17-2019 12:35 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-17-2019 12:35 PM

    If the name of the student and university are known, wouldn't it be appropriate to refer the issue to the student's department head and advisor as a mentoring opportunity?  I am assuming and hoping that they are unaware of the activity.  If this student later applies for faculty positions and this comes out, I think it might be disqualifying.

    Norbert Delatte Ph.D., P.E., F.ASCE
    Professor and Head
    Stillwater OK

  • 8.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 03-24-2019 06:44 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 03-24-2019 06:44 PM
      |   view attached
    The amount of "But on the other hand" perspectives reminds me of conversations between economists!

    Please consider the dated opinions in the attached paper.


    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880


  • 9.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 01-02-2020 07:53 AM
    Everyone on this thread may be interested in reviewing and commenting on the draft of the revised ASCE Ethics Code. Check it out here: https://www.asce.org/draft-coe-member-feedback/

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 10.  RE: Ethics Question

    Posted 04-14-2021 03:23 PM

    I thought everyone on this thread may be interested in the "Ask Me Anything" thread ASCE is hosting this week to ask questions on the changes to the new ASCE Code of Ethics. 

    Do you have any questions about the changes? Do you need guidance "for a friend" on how the new language applies in a particular case? You're invited to participate in an ethics workshop by posting your questions in this thread until Friday, April 16. All submitted questions will be reviewed by volunteers that contributed to the development of the new Code of Ethics, and you will receive a response by April 19th on the thread. Learn more about the experts

    Tirza Austin
    Manager, Online Community
    American Society of Civil Engineers
    1801 Alexander Bell Drive
    Reston, VA 20191