Hypothetical: Alice and Bob are students, and will be tested in a week. Bob steals a copy of the test (and answer key) ahead of time. Bob likes Alice, so he helps her prepare for the test, but doesn't tell Alice what he did.

After the exam, both Alice and Bob get excellent grades. But after some more time passes, Bob's misdeed is exposed, and Alice realizes what really happened.

Question: Did Alice cheat? Certainly she hasn't done anything wrong, but should a teacher have her repeat the test? What should be prioritized: the other students' right to fair competition, or the (also unfair) burden this would place on Alice?

  • This raises a few questions. How was Bob able to "steal" a copy of the exam, if it was locked up? Did he break into the professor's office or hack his computer? Did he sneakily swipe it off the instructor's desk, right under his nose or while his back was turned? How was the crime detected and the culprit identified? Was he arrested for it? Afterward, did anyone question the other students to find out whether or not they were involved? Since the exam was obviously compromised, I would suggest giving the whole class another one -- minus Bob, who of course should be expelled. – Bread Jan 19 '19 at 23:38
  • We may assume Bob got the exam from the teacher's office, but didn't violate any further rules (e.g. didn't invade the teacher's privacy beyond that). The point that the entire class should redo the exam is a good one, but let us, for the sake of argument, also assume that the exam only had "open-ended questions", in the sense that it is easily noticeable who knew the answers beforehand and who didn't (Alice wouldn't have been careful to rephrase, and though Bob might, but he'd been caught via a missing exam copy and security footage). So we know for sure only these two have had any advantage. – ABlueChameleon Jan 20 '19 at 9:57
  • Depends on what "helps her prepare" means. There is a difference if alice was told what the questions were or even the answers without context ahead of time, versus if she was merely guided on what to study. In one case she cheated, in the other case she was just benefited from being at the right place at the right time. – Cell Jan 20 '19 at 13:39
  • You have the answer in the question. Alice is under no more of a burden than the other students should she have to repeat the test. So she should be the only one to repeat, provided it is known no one else benefited. – christo183 Jan 20 '19 at 15:16

Alice benefited from unfair treatment but didnt cheat. There is no burden placed on Alice for taking twice the exam (that should give her even more time to prepare),

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  • This answer makes sense. However, is there any reference that you could offer to support this position? That would give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to Philosophy! – Frank Hubeny Jan 20 '19 at 13:43
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    I see no reference needed as the reasonning is plain enough – Manu de Hanoi Jan 20 '19 at 14:20
  • I disagree with the statement "there is no burden placed on Alice". Sure, it gives her more time to prepare, but people have other things to do, and memory doesn't last forever, meaning that she might have to re-learn things she already forgot and also invest her time in preparing. Furthermore, I'd say most people don't enjoy taking tests, as it can be quite stressful (the preparation and the action itself). – ABlueChameleon Jan 20 '19 at 16:34
  • I see two problems with this answer: Firstly, this seems to rely entirely on your personal assessment of the situation. Secondly, and this reflects the first point, I fail to see how taking an exam another time without any culpability for what happened means "no burden". – Philip Klöcking Jan 20 '19 at 19:15
  • Guys, any ethics statement should be made within an ethical framework. I didnt go into that because in this case the answer seems obvious. If there is a burden it's obviously minimum. Do I need to explain that we are not supposed to study for exams and that we are not supposed to forget everything after the exam ? The exam results are obviously meaningless for Alice, and she should retake the exam even if it was a huge burden. Her not being guilty doesnt matter, because retaking the exam isnt done as a punishment, but merely as a second attempt at evaluating her. – Manu de Hanoi Jan 21 '19 at 8:04

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