Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

This forum is for discussing tournament formats, question styles, strategy, and such.
Post Reply
Lo, Marathon Ham!
Wakka
Posts: 161
Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:09 pm

Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by Lo, Marathon Ham! »

Hi all, I wanted to bring up a topic which I know may be controversial, and many of you may disagree with my opinions. In the past few years, the community has seen several occasions on which it was discovered that a player had cheated (usually at nationals and less occasionally, at regional tournaments). I understand that it cannot be condoned when a player has cheated at nationals, however, in this post I'd like to discuss other instances such as cheating at regional tournaments and in practice.

I feel as though the amount of social shaming that occurs after a player is discovered to have cheated is a great punishment itself. Such a player may not even wish to return to play quiz bowl after the fact. I do feel though that if a player cheats at a regional tournament they shouldn't be outright banned from the game. There should be a path to redemption for a player because at the end of the day we all make mistakes, especially when we're in high school. Maybe such a player thought if they did well they would be cool or something, and if they're a freshman or a sophomore in high school I think they definitely deserve a chance to make amends for what they did wrong and to learn from it and at the end of the day come to enjoy and appreciate the game for it is. Perhaps a system by which a player is suspended for several tournaments or a certain amount of time for a first offense would be more beneficial.

Cheating in practice is a situation I've come across quite a bit more throughout my high school career. Admittedly, I cheated a few times myself in practice when I was in my early days playing quiz bowl and luckily I had an older mentor who discovered this, took me aside, and told me to stop and he wouldn't make a big deal about it to the rest of my team. I've continued this method whenever I discover a freshman or new player who thinks it's ok to cheat during practice to look good in front of his teammates and I've found that its better than shaming someone and causing them to quit out of embarrassment.

Many times I've heard people discuss this and it usually ends with "the community is better off without people like that." Well, I'm here to say that isn't true. It's better to reform people, help them enjoy quiz bowl, and show them that there is more to it than just winning games. I don't think its right to place a lifetime ban on someone unless their cheating occurred at something like a nationals tournament. It's better to give their team forfeits and perhaps give them a suspension so that they can introspect. Thus, a player can decide to come back of their own will and make a difference when they do.

This issue has been irking me for a while and I just wanted to get it out there. Feel free to comment your (potentially angry) thoughts.
Mohan Malhotra
The Independence School '12
Charter School of Wilmington '16
New York University '20
Wilmington, DE/New York City, NY

User avatar
1992 in spaceflight
Auron
Posts: 1379
Joined: Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:11 pm
Location: St. Louis-area, MO

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by 1992 in spaceflight »

Mohan, cheating at one of your first practices is a lot different than cheating at a tournament. I'm sympathetic to the idea that you shouldn't be too harsh on kids in practice that do this-you should pull them aside and let them know that they shouldn't be cheating at practice or tournaments, and then teach them how to improve.

However, I have absolutely no sympathy for someone who cheats at a tournament, nationals or otherwise. Quizbowl is about being able to trust people, and if you cannot be trustworthy during a tournament, then tough luck. If you acquire a question set before you play it, I have no qualms about you being banned from playing tournaments in your area. Cheating at tournaments doesn't reflect well on the schools involved or quizbowl as a whole.
Jacob O'Rourke
Washington (MO) HS Assistant Coach (2014-Present); MOQBA Secretary (2015-Present)
Formerly: HSAPQ Host Contact; NASAT Outreach Coordinator (2016 and 2017); Kirksville HS Assistant Coach (2012-2014); Truman State '14; and Pacific High (MO) '10


"And here we are as on a darkling plain, Swept by confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night."
Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach.

RexSueciae
Rikku
Posts: 376
Joined: Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:24 am

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by RexSueciae »

To the best of my knowledge, there is a net total of zero recurring quizbowl tournaments of any kind which do not charge some sort of fee for registration, nor do I know of any quality question set that has offered mirrors of itself for free (excepting guerilla events). Every quizbowl player and every quizbowl team spends money on this activity, whether it's in mirror fees or registration or simple transportation costs (the latter of which can be quite high for schools that are located further away from good quizbowl areas, although fortunately in these days that's getting rarer). To put it in purely materialistic terms, anyone who cheats at a quizbowl tournament is not only committing a moral wrong, they are making the money that other teams spent all for naught, especially if the cheating team or player ends up winning a trophy. Retroactively forfeiting the cheating team's games and re-issuing whatever awards that other teams might have won can only do so much--you might want to read the reactions of those whom Andy Watkins defrauded, who were deprived of the experience of getting recognized for their skill at what was supposed to be the height of their careers. Yes, a "regional tournament" might not be quite as high-stakes as a national championship (and what happens at practice is not the business of anyone not part of that particular quizbowl program), but is it really so hard to just institute a culture of not cheating before sending one's new players off to tournaments?

In addition, cheating at an actual tournament on an actual question set is a lot different (and a lot harder) than cheating at an everyday practice. Quizbowl practices are usually run on question sets that are clear and have been released to the public, and which can be easily accessed by "a freshman or new player who thinks it's ok to cheat during practice to look good in front of his teammates," but to cheat at any sort of event using a non-clear question set requires some degree of deception (e.g. emailing someone who legitimately has access and request sets for "practice," impersonating staffers, perhaps low-level bribery). Someone who's put that sort of effort into cheating really ought to know better and obviously hasn't been taught the basics of quizbowl ethics by their team's elders.
Vasa Clarke

Maggie Walker '14
Virginia '18
William and Mary '21

Halved Xenon Stinging
Wakka
Posts: 162
Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:31 pm

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by Halved Xenon Stinging »

As a specific case to Vasa's point, in a recent tournament that my team and I played, we nearly lost to a team (we won on the last tossup) during the prelims that ended up finishing last in our prelim bracket. My teammates and I suspected that one particular player was cheating because they got ridiculously good buzzes on us, which simply did not match their performances during the other games. In addition, the moderator was holding the packet at a very good angle to read off of, and the particular player was extremely close to the mod's table. We thought about reporting this particular player, but since we ended up winning the game, we decided against it.

I'm saying this because of how easy it can be for players to cheat off of paper packets, so moderators also have a responsibility of being wary of the position of the packet at all times. Double sided packets also don't help with this problem. At a history bowl tournament that we attended, during one history bee round the mod held the packet such that the back's questions and answers completely faced the players so that anyone could have seen the answers if they wanted to. Everyone played fairly during that particular round, but if there was a player with an intent to cheat s/he could have easily obtained the answer. This is one of the reasons why i prefer tournaments that run their packets electronically.
Devin Shang
Lexington High School Co-Captain '16
Pomona '20
2016 National History Bee Runner-Up, 2016 National History Bowl Runner-Up
NAQT Writer
NHBB Writer

schen
Lulu
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Sep 10, 2013 5:43 pm

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by schen »

Halved Xenon Stinging wrote:I'm saying this because of how easy it can be for players to cheat off of paper packets, so moderators also have a responsibility of being wary of the position of the packet at all times.
To prevent this, moderators can hold something behind the packet (like a folder) to hide the back of the packet, assuming that the packet is being held up.
Sunny Chen
Hinsdale Central HS '16
Cal '20

Member of Ankush Club

User avatar
jonpin
Forums Staff: Moderator
Posts: 2127
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2004 6:45 pm
Location: BCA NJ / WUSTL MO / Hackensack NJ

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by jonpin »

Here's the thing: Why in the world is the metaphorical you cheating at quiz bowl? There are (in almost all cases) no big cash prizes, no lasting fame and fortune, no fifteen minutes on TV. All there is in quiz bowl is a community of people. And if you cheat in competition, whether it be local, national, or anything else, you have no place in that community. Besides the above notes which mention how any cheating of this sort requires either outright lying or at least failure to be forthright and honest (as in reading answer off an unguarded packet), is the idea that if you're willing to cheat for no substantial gain, how can anyone ever trust you? Why should the innocent teammates whose performance was wiped away by your greed let you come to another tournament which--for all they know--is going to be just an exhibition of your memory of things you read in a packet yesterday? Why should hosts let you register and risk you making a mockery of their competition?
Some years ago, there was an incident where a college team (either through negligence or malice) attended two events on the same IS set. From my vague memories, the team admitted after the fact that they'd already heard the questions, but even the act of playing them (and wasting the time of everyone else at the tournament) made a colleague of mine distrust members of that team for some time afterward. Now, if you knew a player had gone out of their way to cheat at a prior tournament, and that their team intended to bring them along to your tournament, what would your reaction be?
The good news is that everyone who has tried cheating has been as inept and obvious as the guy in Starter for Ten.

If you cheat in practice, what does it gain you? An undeserved spot on your A team? Congratulations, not only will you be exposed at your first weekend tournament, you have also decreased your school's ability to win by replacing someone who actually knows stuff.
Jon Pinyan
Coach, Bergen County Academies (NJ); former player for BCA (2000-03) and WUSTL (2003-07)
HSQB forum mod, PACE member
Stat director for: NSC '13-'15, '17; ACF '14, '17, '19; NHBB '13-'15; NASAT '11

"A [...] wizard who controls the weather" - Jerry Vinokurov

Lo, Marathon Ham!
Wakka
Posts: 161
Joined: Tue Apr 02, 2013 11:09 pm

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by Lo, Marathon Ham! »

jonpin wrote:
If you cheat in practice, what does it gain you? An undeserved spot on your A team? Congratulations, not only will you be exposed at your first weekend tournament, you have also decreased your school's ability to win by replacing someone who actually knows stuff.
Hmm I guess when I did this in practice a few years ago I was thinking I would look cool in front of my friends, and perhaps some other naive young freshmen could be thinking the same thing. I am personally very happy that I was corrected by an elder team member before I could embarrass myself.
Mohan Malhotra
The Independence School '12
Charter School of Wilmington '16
New York University '20
Wilmington, DE/New York City, NY

Ethnic history of the Vilnius region
Yuna
Posts: 991
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2004 12:50 am
Location: Columbia, SC

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by Ethnic history of the Vilnius region »

Lo, Marathon Ham! wrote:
Cheating in practice is a situation I've come across quite a bit more throughout my high school career. Admittedly, I cheated a few times myself in practice when I was in my early days playing quiz bowl and luckily I had an older mentor who discovered this, took me aside, and told me to stop and he wouldn't make a big deal about it to the rest of my team. I've continued this method whenever I discover a freshman or new player who thinks it's ok to cheat during practice to look good in front of his teammates and I've found that its better than shaming someone and causing them to quit out of embarrassment.

Many times I've heard people discuss this and it usually ends with "the community is better off without people like that." Well, I'm here to say that isn't true. It's better to reform people, help them enjoy quiz bowl, and show them that there is more to it than just winning games. I don't think its right to place a lifetime ban on someone unless their cheating occurred at something like a nationals tournament. It's better to give their team forfeits and perhaps give them a suspension so that they can introspect. Thus, a player can decide to come back of their own will and make a difference when they do.

This issue has been irking me for a while and I just wanted to get it out there. Feel free to comment your (potentially angry) thoughts.
I don't have a lot of sympathy for anyone who cheats at quizbowl tournaments. It strikes at the heart of the community and cannot be condoned. And I am fine with lifetime bans (more on that below).

There are different situations, obviously. I'm a forgiving sort. If, say, a 16 year old novice cheats one time to impress his teammates and coach and gets caught, it's still a big deal, but it's not the same as an experienced veteran accessing questions before a college or high school championship. In a situation like our hypothetical 16 year old who sees the error of their ways and is truly contrite, I (as someone who has little say on such things) would be open to a path towards rehabilitation if they 1. Admit that they did indeed cheat, 2. Admit that it was wrong, 3. Agree to whatever terms, such as a suspension, a "quizbowl service" requirement (like, having to scorekeep or do other such things at local tournaments), etc., and 4. Personally apologize to the teams they cheated against. I would be very much against letting confirmed cheaters back into the game if they merely serve a suspension without admitting to anything. And if a coach decides to kick said cheater off of the team or a TD refuses to let said cheater play at her tournament, well, that's their prerogative.

I will also say this: as someone who has been involved in high school and college quizbowl for almost 20 years (and as someone was deeply affected by a particular cheating incident), I have never heard of an instance in which a known cheater actually admitted to the fact and expressed any remorse for what they did.

Your practice example is trickier, imo. Cheating at practice is basically something to be handled internally by the team, and it's a pretty nebulous concept. I make it clear to my team that cheating at a tournaments is unacceptable, but I guess I've never laid the law down as far as cheating a practice goes. I mean, I had a player once who literally read all of the tournaments, so he basically had to cheat every practice (though he would never cheat at a tournament, of course). It was a nice problem to have; we just had to try to find which tournament he had seen least recently.
Eric D.
University of South Carolina Alum

Joshua Rutsky
Tidus
Posts: 632
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2005 9:59 am
Location: Hoover, AL

Re: Cheating in High School Quiz Bowl

Post by Joshua Rutsky »

I agree with pretty much everything Jon and Eric said upthread, but as a coach, I feel like my colleagues and I have a particular burden to make sure cheating is something we emphasize as unacceptable in this game. What disturbs me a little is that while I think there are very few coaches out there who would condone cheating of the obvious sort--acquiring packets, stealing answers, reading over a moderator's shoulder, etc.-- I frequently run into coaches who, in the name of "competitiveness", act in a manner that fosters a win-at-all-costs attitude in quizbowl. These are coaches who encourage their teams to protest frequently to disrupt a match and to "throw" the other squad, coaches who look the other way when a team member changes an answer when asked to repeat something, coaches who refuse to cede a question that is "right" or "wrong" based on technicalities, and so on. These are often gray area issues, sometimes cases where the coach is, under the rules, right. Even so, such coaching does nothing to help players understand that, as was said, this game isn't really about the trophies or the glory. It's about proving something to yourself about what you can accomplish, how much you can know, and how well you can produce that knowledge when competing against the best out there.

The win-at-all-costs attitude is everywhere in our culture, and I think it drives a tremendous amount of academic fraud as well as financial and ethical shenanigans. This is one place we can make a stand and say "we won't accept this behavior in our community", and teach people that honor still matters. We aren't football coaches; we don't keep our jobs or lose them based on our team's finish at HSNCT. We owe it to our students to be good role models in this regard.
Joshua Rutsky
President, Alabama Scholastic Competition Association
Hoover HS Coach, 2007-2019
Member of the Qwiz Team!

Post Reply