Cheating Among University of Utah Fraternities and Sororities from 1961-1962

By Ashley Espinoza

When a student is admitted into any university, they are required take an oath refraining them from cheating. This does not mean that students haven’t found ways to get through classes by bending the rules a little. Finding new ways to cheat the system is nothing new. Academic predecessors have been doing this since before many current college students were born.

U of U Fraternity-1

Photo of Don Barthel and fellow fraternity brothers from the 1961 University of Utah yearbook, the Utonian. Used with permission from Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Before there was innovative technology and Scantrons to ensure students weren’t cheating, there was just a simple pen and paper. This lack of monitoring offered students the opportunity for students to cheat. One student decided to share his perspective on the topic with a simple letter meant for the Letter to the Editor section of the University of Utah newspaper. In the February 6, 1961, issue of the Daily Utah Chronicle, Don F. Skipworth discussed the ongoing cheating he had witnessed throughout his first semester. He found that these individuals didn’t particularly care about the policy because they were not getting caught. He suggested in order to stop the phenomenon teachers and students should implement “a new and improved method to catch these traitors to the cause of learning.”

In the following “Letter to the Editor” section of the February 7, 1961, issue, student Maynard L. Pollock also wrote a letter to the editor titled “Cheater’s Delight” expressing his concerns on cheating, even going as far as to point the finger at fraternities and sororities for their use of files containing past tests. He suggested that the school implement an honor code to encourage students and faculty to tell an adviser if they saw a student cheating.

In an attempt to set the record straight in the following “Letter to the Editor” section of the February 8, 1961, issue, students Donald N. Bryan, William Maxey, Larry Jensen, Karl Bethsold, Don Barthel and S. M. Polinsky, who were involved in Greek life on campus, came to the defense of the use of test files. They claimed that the files were only used as a means of studying and it was not the fault of the student if the professor chose to administer the same test again. The group ended their letter by telling Maynard L. Pollock to “direct his remarks to individuals and not to groups who are trying to help their members become better student.”

Interfraternity Council-1

Photo of Interfraternity Council shown in the 1961 University of Utah yearbook, the Utonian. Used with permission from Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

In an attempt to shift the blame, University student John Ronald Jones sent a letter to the “Letter to the the Editor” section of the February 8, 1961, issue to rebut the previous statements. The writer claimed that the grading system was set up in a way that made it competitive among students, resulting in them cheating to get ahead. He ended by suggesting that the University of Utah create its own form of a test file but make it accessible to all students, not just those in the Greek system.

To refute the statements made in the February 8 issue of the Chronicle, Maynard L. Pollock wrote a letter for the February 15, 1961, issue. He tried to invalidate the statements made by those in the Greek system by claiming that if students only depended on these test files, they are not technically retaining anything from class, therefore defeating the purpose of them being a “study guide.”

Almost a year later, on January 19, 1962, another letter entitled “Cheat — Whose Fault?” was published in the “Letters to the Editor” section of the Chronicle. The author Dianna Davis told her firsthand experience with living at the dorms and listening to students brag about cheating. She suggested that the University administer harder entrance exams and more stimulating courses in order to filter out all the unfit students.

Cheating was much easier over 50 years ago, but professors today have found more ways of catching cheating using technology. In the article “Technology Keeps Up With Cheating,” Chronicle reporter Andreas Rivera discussed how teachers use programs like Turnitin to catch when a student has plagiarized an essay. Rather than looking at test files, students have websites like SparkNotes that help them study and retain the information. Looking back at these letters and seeing how students are going through their schooling really puts into perspective how different, yet somewhat similar, our lives are compared to theirs. Cheating is definitely something that has not gone away over the past 50 years but seeing why they did it and how lets us know how to not repeat history.

Ashley Espinoza is a senior at the University of Utah. She is studying communication with an emphasis in communication studies.

Primary Sources

Dianna Davis, “Letters to the Editor: Cheat — Whose Fault?Daily Utah Chronicle, January 19, 1962, 2.

Don F. Skipworth, “Letters to the Editor: Cheating,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 6, 1961, 2.

Donald N. Bryan et al., “Letters to the Editor: Helpful Files,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 8, 1961, 2.

John Ronald Jones, “Letters to the Editor: A Solution,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 9, 1961, 2.

Maynard L. Pollock, “Letters to the Editor: Cheater’s Delight,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 7, 1961, 2.

Maynard L. Pollock, “Letters to the Editor: Files Open?” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 15, 1961, 2.

Secondary Sources

Rivera, Andres. “Technology Keeps Up with Cheating,” Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, The University of Utah.