December 5, 2002

GRE Cheating Causes Arrest Of Ivy Students

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Two Columbia University undergraduate students are currently under investigation, following their arrest for allegedly using walkie-talkies and transmitters to cheat on the Nov. 18 Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

Columbia is waiting for more information on the criminal charges against seniors Bryan Laulicht and Sasha Bakhru according to Eileen Murphy, spokesperson for Columbia University. Murphy said that no punishment will be given to the two students until Columbia gains more information about the case.

Contrary to earlier reports, the test took place at a Prometric test center in Garden City, N.Y. and not at a Sylvan Learning Center, according to Steve Drake, vice president of communication for Sylvan Learning Systems.

The two seniors were arrested after a Prometric administrator became suspicious of one of the students.

According to police officials in Nassau County, N.Y., one student took the test while using a device to transmit questions back to the other student. The second student, situated in a van, proceeded to look up answers to send back to the test-taking student.

“The fact that the individuals were caught meant the security measures do work,” said Darcel Kimble, spokesperson for Prometric.

Although the students were arraigned on Nov. 19 and were scheduled to appear in court two days later, Murphy said that Columbia has not received any new information.

Laulicht and Bakhru were charged with third-degree burglary for electronically stealing test questions and unlawful duplication of computer materials.

“We have a very firm policy about cheating,” Murphy said.

Most of the measures taken by the Educational Testing Service, which administers the GRE, are effective, according to Tom Ewing, spokesperson for ETS. He said the ETS is not taking any new measures to prevent future cheating because of this case.

“We feel the security measures acted exactly as they should have,” Ewing said. “The process works.”

Ewing said that some cheating prevention measures already in effect include photographic images of students and videotape recordings. He added that although the investigation is still ongoing, evidence so far shows that test material was not leaked beyond the two arrested students.

According to a previous report, ETS would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to re-administer tests if the GRE had been leaked.

According to Ewing, this is the first time a cheating instance like this has occurred.

Previously, there have been attempts to try to impersonate test takers. He said that ETS must constantly revise its cheating prevention measures.

“We’ve been studying this for a number of years and we have trained test centers what to look for,” Ewing said.

Murphy said that if the students were found guilty of cheating, Columbia would evaluate the situation and decide on a punishment. Laulicht and Bakhru’s offense could result in their dismissal from Columbia. Student cheating cases are each looked at independently, according to Murphy.

“The bottom line is that every student has an equal opportunity on the test,” Kimble said. She added that cheaters, “skew the playing field.”

Murphy said that this case is different from other cheating instances because the infraction took place off campus.

Still, Laulicht and Bakhru will be reprimanded by the school if found guilty.

“If the students spent as much time on the test as they did to beat it, then they would’ve done fine,” Ewing said. “Now look at the price they have to pay.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao