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Students React to Cheating Scandal
By Tim Pugmire
March 11, 1999
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University of Minnesota administrators and students are trying to make sense of the academic-fraud allegations against four men's basketball players. U of M officials declared the players ineligible for today's NCAA tournament game, and an internal investigation is pending. University Regents tried conducting business as usual, and reserved comment about the scandal. But around the campus, students freely shared their opinions, and few are defending the accused players.

AS REPORTERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS PREPARED for the University of Minnesota news conference, members of the Board of Regents started their regularly-scheduled meeting by swearing in two new members and two re-appointed regents. House Speaker Steve Sviggum administered the oaths, but paused to briefly comment on the basketball scandal. The Republican Representative assured the regents they had his complete confidence and support.

Sviggum: We all realize that sometimes the front pages of the paper, of the press, give us some challenges, but I know that you'll meet them. I wish the challenges were also always the great research that you do, the kids that are going to classes right now, your graduates that are the CEOs and doing what they're trained to do. You know I wish those were in the headlines too.
University regents have enjoyed a relatively-smooth ride the past year-and-a- half. The hiring of Mark Yudof as president brought some much-needed stability and record funding from the Legislature. A somber William Hogan, Chairman of the Board of Regents, says the allegations against basketball players are a serious matter, but only a temporary setback for the institution...
Hogan: I mean, look at the total university, you know you have 49,000 regular students - 67,000 total students. The faculty is doing outstanding. This doesn't take away from the legislative performance last year or what's happened in the past. Our research is doing well. So this is a great university, which is improving every day. And everybody, once in a while, has a bump in the road. We have a bump in the road and we have to go solve the problem.
If the allegations prove true, the solutions may include an overhaul of the university's academic-support system, which includes the tutoring for student athletes.

But concerns about cheating are not limited to the athletic department. Any student with a computer and Internet connection can find and buy a road-tested term paper. Executive Vice President and Provost Bob Bruininks says academic integrity is the heart of the U's higher education mission. He says he does not believe fraud is a widespread problem.
Bruininks: I think the faculty of the University of Minnesota and the students place a very, very high value on honesty and integrity in their academic work. And so, you occasionally find a student that cuts a corner, perhaps. But, I've been impressed with the, over the years of my experience - 30 years at the University of Minnesota - people take these issues very seriously.
In the lower level of Coffman Union, most students have their heads in their books studying for next week's final exams. But word of the player sanctions has spread across campus. Sophomore Sara Kock, a biology major, says university officials dealt with the players fairly.
Koch: Yeah, because if any other student cheated like that, then they would be investigated and probably suspended or expelled, so they should be treated just like any other student at the college. They shouldn't get preference because they're athletes.
It's a stressful time for many students. They've just completed final research papers for some classes, and big tests are just days away. Sophomore Katie Greszewski, a pre-design major, says she has no sympathy for the accused basketball players.
Greszewski: You get done writing a 14-page paper and you read that article and you're mad. You're just like, that is not fair, and they should be punished in every way possible.
But computer-science major Bob Bergerson, another sophomore, says he was disappointed officials would punish athletes who help generate a lot of revenue for the university. He also says he thinks cheating is a bigger issue than some administrator might admit.
Bergerson: Maybe they should instigate some better regulations so that they can improve chances of them catching students cheating from now on, but cheating does occur. It's just a matter of no one getting caught cheating. You hear instances of students cheating all the time on exams. It's just not really common; people get caught for cheating.
Whatever the outcome of the investigation, academic fraud is now in the spotlight at the University of Minnesota. Provost Bruininks says he thinks the incident serves as an important reminder to students, faculty and administrators about the importance of honesty and integrity in higher education.