Students given opportunity to cheat as mobile phones allowed by lecturer in Psychology summer exam

The incident occurred in May when an examination in the Statistics module was moved from Áras an Phiarsaigh to the Chemistry Building

Trinity’s Department of Psychology allowed students to bring mobile phones into an examination in lieu of online scientific calculators following a change of venue due to Luas construction works. As a result, students were able to use the internet to find answers to the examination questions.

The incident in question occurred in May when an examination worth fifty per cent of the overall mark in the ten credit Statistics module was moved from Áras an Phiarsaigh to the Chemistry Building as the noise from the Luas construction works continued.

The examination venue in Áras an Phiarsaigh had the computers necessary, while the Chemistry building did not. The computers had the scientific calculators as well as the SPSS statistics programme necessary to complete the exam. The department printed the outlet from the SPSS programme, but sent an email advising students to bring their mobile phone to use as a calculator.

The results the students received in this examination remain part of their module result, and were not altered to account for this incident.

Rising junior sophister Psychology student, Johnny Halligan, was one of those affected by the sudden changes. Speaking to Trinity News, Halligan said: “I just assumed bring a scientific calculator but he [module co-ordinator Michael Gormley] actually wrote at the end of the email to bring your mobile phone in and I heard people afterwards saying ‘sure I’ll just go on Blackboard and you know Google the answers’. There was a few theoretical questions that constitute a fairly big chunk of the exam that was available to a few people.”

“Normally you wouldn’t have any mobile phone, the computers in the lab are monitored to see if you’re on the internet so you can’t do that so it’s tightly controlled for that.”

He continued: “I usually get a first in every statistics exam and this one I didn’t. I think the department should be held accountable because there was no proper measures, the person who’s overseeing the exam…didn’t go around the room to check to see are you on Blackboard or whatever. It’s not fair, cause other people had access to the material or potentially could have [access]. The very fact of the matter is that he [Gormley] can’t promise me that wasn’t the case cause he didn’t put any restrictions in place.”

In emails seen by Trinity News Dr. Michael Gormley, the module co-ordinator, informed Halligan that the exam was marked by a set standard, rather than a distribution. Gormley also noted that “the issue you raise about phones has some validity and was something that I was forced into because of the unexpected unavailability of our lab”.

Similarly, the Director of Teaching and Learning (Undergraduate) for the Psychology department, Elizabeth Nixon, said in a June 20 email: “It was a far from an ideal situation that the examination venue had to be changed at short notice and that phones were allowed in lieu of calculators and we will endeavour to ensure that this does not happen again.” Nixon also offered Halligan a meeting to discuss the incident with Gormley and Jean Quigley, who was acting in place of the Head of the Psychology School who was on leave at the time. However, this was not able to take place due to schedule constraints.

College had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Niamh Lynch

Niamh was Editor of the 65th volume of Trinity News. She is a History and Politics graduate.