January 28, 2004

Candid Camera Invades Classrooms? Cell Cams Raise Questions About Cheating

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All across campus, students can be found chatting on cell phones while walking to class or taking a study break. Some students, however, are using these phones for entirely different purposes. They are taking candid snapshots with phones that feature a tiny camera easily undetectable to the untrained eye. But as these cellular camera phones become more popular and less expensive, will their presence result in a surge of academic and ethical misconduct?

Academic Integrity

According to Prof. Dale Grossman, applied economics and management, the existence of these cell phone cameras will not increase the rate of academic misconduct during exams. “I don’t think that it will increase the amount of people cheating. People [have been known] to put crib sheets in their water bottles, so students will find ways to cheat. New technology won’t change that likelihood. Besides, cell phones are banned from exam rooms so I don’t see it as a problem,” she said.

The security of Cornell’s academic research also does not appear to be threatened by these phones, at least for the present time. “If there’s a risk, I don’t think those things would make it particularly worse. All sorts of things like taking clandestine photographs, taking research — I don’t think there’s a great deal of that going on,” said Dean of Faculty Charles Walcott Ph.D. ’59. “[The phones] might make it easier, but it wouldn’t be a major threat. It could well happen in the future but I haven’t heard of any cases,” he said.

Although many people in the administration are unaware of the growing popularity of these cell phone cameras, academic misconduct regarding these phones is still covered under Cornell’s code of academic integrity.

“There is no written University policy covering specifically the use of cell phone cameras. However, I have spoken to several individuals, all of whom confirmed that any issues of academic integrity and cell phone cameras are covered by the Code of Academic Integrity and Acknowledging the Work of Others,” said Joshua Adams, manager of the Cornell Policy Office.

Privacy Concerns

The compact size and tiny cameras give cellular camera phone owners the opportunity to secretly snap compromising pictures of strangers. However, the wireless industry and many Cornell students do not feel that this is a major concern.

“I’m not aware of any suits filed but can understand why there might be concern,” said William Wynder, wireless consultant for Cingular Wireless. “[However,] your basic 35-mm or even a Rite Aid camera can shoot better [quality] pictures. People buy phones [to make phone calls]. Camera phones are just a fad right now and people want something cool to show their friends.”

Jeffrey Lee ’06 agrees that camera phones are just popular fad. “I had the phone for about a week. So far, I’ve taken pictures of my family. I don’t think I’d use the phone to take pictures of strangers because that’s rude. Furthermore, the quality of the pictures sucks, but then again, I just use it to make phone calls. The side features are not really necessary,” he said.

The relatively low cost of the phone is also reason for their popularity.

“The difference between just a regular phone and a camera phone [isn’t that much money]. The camera feature makes the phone more fun. You can take pictures on the spur of the moment and I thought that was worth it,” said Kim Truong ’06.

Archived article by Mary Chu