Yep, they do it there too. On June 13, Nayeem Ahsan, a junior at Stuyvesant, one of the most elite, prestigious high schools in the country, took a Spanish regent. During the exam, he took out his smartphone and texted other students for help. He had given them answers during a physics regent and a history regent earlier that month, and now it was his turn to receive help. Ahsan was part of a network of students that supported each other by providing answers during tests, and he was a pro at sneaking out his phone, snapping pictures of test pages, and discreetly texting under the table. Stuyvesant principal Stanley Teitel was surveying the exam room when he noticed Ahsan’s phone, and confiscated it. While going through his messages, Teitel discovered mass texts to 70 other students involved (some of whom were suspended) filled with answers and photos of tests. Ahsan, who was shooting for Harvard and a career in investment banking, was expelled.
Ahsan, who believes he should have been allowed to return to Stuyvesant in the fall, explained the reasoning behind the cheating in an interview with New York Magazine. “There’s kids you know, and there’s kids you really know. There are kids I trust a lot and kids I care about. There are kids I really don’t care too much about, but I want them to have a bright future. There are kids that can help me in the future. There are kids that are good at most subjects, but they suck at one, and I worked that to my advantage.”
Many were surprised that the cheating took place during a regent, which is considered a basic exam for students at Stuyvesant. Some placed blame on the widespread use of technology and smartphones (which makes sneaking answers easier), while others felt that it was a result of the academic pressure many Stuyvesant students feel. Stuyvesant principal Stanley Teitel retired in August, in the wake of the scandal. The new principal, Jie Zhang, has already implemented new cell phone and cheating policies in the school.
Michelle Li, a freshman at Stuyvesant who transferred from BSGE last year, shares her opinion and a view of the scandal from within the school. “Personally, I think the cheating scandal is overrated. I feel like the scandal was blown out of proportion, due to the fact that Stuyvesant High School is considered prestigious by the public.” But why did they cheat? “Along with the bundle of homework we get from our teacher, additional work is piled on from our extracurricular activities and clubs that we have after school. I don’t always have enough time to finish my homework or to study,” she explained. When asked about how widespread cheating at Stuyvesant appears to be, she added: “I haven’t seen people cheating on tests in Stuy… yet. Ever since the cheating scandal, phones are a big thing. If an authority figure in the school sees you with a phone, they will confiscate it. That’s really inefficient for students, especially if they need to call their parents to inform them of staying at school late.”
BSGE students have their own opinions. When asked about his reaction to the scandal, Anowar Bashar ‘16 commented, “That was a shock, because of how highly the school is regarded. I don’t think it could happen here, because students in BSGE respect the teachers.” Still, BSGE is no stranger to cheating, and he added, “People cheat on homework, definitely not on tests.” Khalid Ali ‘16 agreed. “It’s pretty widespread here,” he said. In terms of cheating during tests, he said, “It’s not that bad.”
This scandal has been one of many cheating-related incidents revealed in the past several years, some of which have also occurred in well-regarded institutions. Over 125 Harvard undergraduates, including the stars of the basketball team, were investigated for cheating and plagiarism this August on their take-home exams. In the fall of 2011, 6 high school students in Great Neck, New York were accused of paying a man thousands of dollars to take their SATs for them, using a fake school ID. Cheating is a growing issue in the academic world, and its consequences are also growing – suspension, expulsion, fines, lower chances of getting into college, and sometimes even jail. Many students like Ahsan are unaware of the serious problems they create for themselves by cheating, even on a minor exam, project, or assignment.