The individual vs. the group When Trinh got a phone call from Taylor Lea '01, the student attorney gen- eral, who said that Trinh was being inves- tigated for cheating, his first reaction was disbelief. Trinh was spending the surruner completing an internship at Go To.com, a
reward for acing all of his classes, including
Coggins' Comp 120. He was particularly
proud of the A he earned in that class. It
was a real bear, he said, even for technol-
ogy whizzes like hinlself, and he had even
done well on the lO-page final exam.
dents clearly had cheated, Trinh said -
some, for example, had accessed copies of
the computer code his group was work-
ing on without the groups' knowledge
and copied the assignment. Trinh figured
that these students would be charged and
found guilty but that he and the students
who had legitimately worked together
had nothing to worry about.
But Coggins denied that he ever gave
students carte blanche permission to work
together; he said he provided a detailed
statement of what constituted an honor
code violation, which he had posted on
his Web site and discussed with students
in class. Students were free to work in
groups to brainstorm ideas, but all graded
assigrunents were to be the students' own,
individual work. When he saw groups
together, he assumed they were working
on analogous problems that would help
them figure out the assignment that they
were supposed to handle alone, he said.
Trinh was one ofhis best students, he
said, but he and the others working with
him were clearly guilty of cheating.
Soon into the process, the students'
eyes opened to the realities ofa system in
which justice may be severely constrained
by many factors.
Short of resources, the court tried
n"lany of the computer science students in
pairs. Trinh was tried with another stu-
dent who had been accused of accessing
and copying the code Trinh had posted
on a private file system so his group could
work on it. Trinh's charges were changed
two days before his trial was scheduled to
take place, leaving him little time to
mount an appropriate defense. Coggins
was scheduled to testify at one trial after
another that dragged into the late hours
of the night - Orange County District
Court is run by £lUl-time professionals,
but Honor Court participants must sand-
wich court business between classes, study
and other activities of being a student.
Likewise, Coggins, Trinh and everyone
else involved were supposed to continue
with their normal responsibilities, even as
the students' futures hung in the balance.
But, Trinh said, the hearings occupied
CAROLINA ALUMN I R EV I EW