The results of a fact-finding committee created by University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) Chancellor Ramon Arcadio to investigate alleged cheating in an examination by some members of Class 2009 of the U.P. College of Medicine (UPCM) are out and have been discussed in the Minutes of a Special College Council Meeting held at March 2, 2010 at UPCM, Manila.
Excerpts of the minutes have been furnished to the Diliman Diary and are embedded below:
The findings acknowledge that there was a leak in an exam, conducted by the Department of Medicine in April, 2009 and that 22 students from the U.P. College of Medicine may have cheated in that exam, as these 22 did oustandingly well in that exam.
As a quality control mechanism, the UPCM invalidated the first exam and held a second "surprise" exam five days later, and these 22 should have done just as well if they had not cheated.
The fact that they did not do well is a strong statistical indicator of cheating, and should normally have resulted in a full-blown investigation, complete with administrative charges being filed in order to ferret out the truth.
However, the students were allowed to graduate, and have even already taken the Medical Board exams. The excerpts of the minutes refers to passing the results to the Office of Legal Affairs of the U.P. System for possible action, but with no apparent enthusiasm or appetite to get results or punish the perpretators.
In fact the weight of the discussion on corrective measures centers on how the faculty should tighten their test design procedures rather than seek punitive action versus cheats in the academe.
These developments have been eerily forecast several months ago by several students at the UPCM who call themselves, UP Med Fight for the Truth and emailed then Secretary Francisco Duque on August 17, 2009 the following letter of complaint:
"Doctors who cheat
Apparently, training starts from Med School.
It is amazing that this still happens, and in UP no less.
Twenty two students from the already graduated class of UP College of Medicine 2009 were caught cheating in the Final Exams of their 5th year (Internship). These are would-be doctors, all men in their mid twenties, highly intelligent by the country’s standards, all independent minded individuals in the final stages of their training to become the country’s healers. Yet, last April of 2009, weeks shy of their graduation from the University of the Philippines, they decided, both individually and as a group, to use recently acquired test exams leaked by an unknown source from the esteemed Department of Medicine. These medical interns then topped the final exam, besting perennial excellent exam performers (like the Class Valedictorian) and occupying the most coveted spots in what was probably the Department’s most challenging 200 point exam in recent history. When the dust settled the top scores were held by these 22 men, and all were amazed at the academic acumen they displayed. They were applauded, pats on the back were made, and people were impressed. But when questions about the suspicious nature of their scores arose—one student made the innocent observation that most of those who topped came from a single fraternity, Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity—the entire class of more than 200 medical interns were asked to retake the exam again, this time a completely different one with the same coverage. An obvious disparity in scores revealed itself, in that these 22 students had two scores which were significantly different from each other. In short, it became clear that during the first exam the 22 students received some form of unfair advantage, and in time it was revealed that yes, these interns did indeed receive leaked questions of the newly made exam. An investigation was performed, and an admission of guilt, albeit defensively and only when no other recourse seemed possible to these 22 interns, was made.
The guilt hangs on the shoulders of these 22 medical interns, all members of the Mu Sigma Phi Fraternity. The Mu Sigma Phi fraternity is the first medical fraternity in Asia, and it counts Scholarship as one of its pillars. It has been recognized by award giving bodies both within and outside UP for excellence. All these distinctions (somewhat ostentatiously declared in the UPCM school grounds in the form of banners and posters) now ring hollow, for an entire batch of their brothers have proven themselves to be cheaters. This also raises the question that if this has happened to this batch, then has it happened before? And if their brazenness is any indication, is it possible that this has systematically been going on for years?
No scandal has rocked the academic foundations of the UP College of Medicine like this event. Known for its high standards and rigorous program, it is surprising that this behavior can come from some of its students. The scandal has already reached the Chancellor of UP Manila, Chancellor Ramon Arcadio, who has supported the initial plan to disallow the students from taking the Board Exams until the matter has been resolved. It has been elevated to the Student Disciplinary Tribunal in UP Diliman, to see what legal recourse can be undertaken against these individuals. This matter is extremely serious, and it raises questions about the university’s basic values. If these adults are not penalized in a way that is commensurate to their offense, then the national university is sending a clear message that it tolerates dishonesty.
The UP College of Medicine, however, seems serious about pursuing this. It seems to understand that to cheat during high school, while wrong on any level, can somehow be excused as part of the recklessness of youth. To cheat during college is already a major offense, punishable by expulsion in most of our respected universities. But to cheat during Med School, a postgraduate degree, and a degree that lends so much of its credibility in integrity, is extremely appalling. But up to what extent UP wishes to prosecute these students is at the heart of the matter. Initial reports point to the likely soft stance the College will be taking in this incident. Students of UPCM know that the administration, led by its Dean Alberto Roxas, has been outwardly strict but has quietly been tolerant of student misbehaviors such as these.
What of the 22 young would-be doctors who cheated? Reports claim that most of them are unaffected, confident of the outcome, coolly believing that no real consequence can come from their actions. They feel they can no longer be expelled (a reasonable consequence of cheating in such an important exam) and this gives them reassurance. Their fraternity, deeply enmeshed in the college and the hospital, will have means of protecting them (PGH Director Carmelo Alfiler, as well as key persons in his employ, as well as the head of the Department of Medicine—all are members of Mu Sigma Phi).
It was expressed by some members of the fraternity that it would be impossible for the UP College of Medicine to go after them now, now that they have just taken the recently concluded Medical Board Exams and especially because they have been issued certificates of graduation by the acclaimed Medical School. Apparently, their certificates of graduation have already been signed weeks prior to the actual graduation, before news of cheating have surfaced, and they have already been claimed by the students prior to the school’s decision to hold their papers. The members of the fraternity seem to not be taking this matter seriously, as if this is again one of those things that can disappear in the murky waters of academic bureaucracy.
But the indignation of the UP Community in unlikely to disappear. Too much is at stake, and the Dean and his administration know this. What is the worth of integrity? Of honesty? Maybe in other professions these are qualities that may not take first priority. But in the profession of Medicine, in the practice of healing the sick, in a position of responsibility and authority, integrity is paramount. Trust is key. And once it has been compromised, it can diminish your worth as a physician.
August 17, 2009
A more detailed backgrounder to the events leading up to the investigation, including an inclusion of the points of view of the affected 22 students are thoroughly documented in the website, Atmidfield.com: http://atmidfield.com/2009/08/27/a-crisis-over-alleged-exam-fraud-simmers-at-the-u-p-college-of-medicine/
The Diliman Diary will continue to provide more updates on this topic for its readers as events continue to unfold.
The page of Ibalik ang Tama sa UP-PGH on Facebook had the following information which it posted on April 16, 2010 and which the Diliman Diary is including in its update to its readers:
"The minutes of the March 2, 2010 College council meeting show that 24 UP interns most probably cheated on their exams due to the statistical improbabilities. The following summary of facts appear to point to this conclusion:
1) Previously non high ranking students suddenly get to the top 30 of an exam.
2) These same students belongs to the same medical fraternity - the Mu Sigma Phi fraternity
3) They have the same correct answers and the same wrong answers.
4) A re-examination on the same subject a few days later show that 22 of these 24 top notchers could not replicate their high scores.
Behavior after these facts also point to guilt. None of these twenty four interns agreed to be interviewed despite repeated invitations. It seems clear that cheating did occur."
(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary)