A top university student is falsely accused of cheating in an engineering class. While fighting for her innocence, she discovers that she is part of a professor’s clandestine research program. She documents how the University uses fallacious arguments, consequence engineering, and lying to intimidate and pressure students to admit guilt after a false allegation. A unique investigation of what goes on behind the scenes of university academic integrity courts, and the real price students pay when universities fail to protect innocent students from unethical research—something as yet unseen in the cheating scandals periodically splashed across media headlines.
Every year, millions of students pay enormous sums to pursue a college education. Most have no idea how easily a single false cheating accusation can derail their dreams. Shocked, shamed, and silenced, they watch their futures crumble in the university kangaroo courts of “academic integrity.” Catherine Wagner was an enthusiastic, top-performing student when she unwittingly walked into a trap. She provided authorized aid to a classmate on one part of one homework question, as her professors specifically encouraged. A grader later flagged their answers as “similar,” and both students were accused of cheating.
Innocent, and certain that she would be exonerated, Catherine had no idea that one professor’s reputation for convicting “cheaters” would supersede a fair hearing. Despite the support of eight PhD experts from across the U.S., she was dragged through her university’s academic integrity machine on so-called “evidence” of similarities—even something as absurd as simply using “H2O” to abbreviate water. Under threat of expulsion, Catherine was forced to defend her reputation and career prospects. Along the way, she discovered that the University seemed to repeatedly break federal law, spy on her, and reject science in favor of fallacies and falsehoods. Using statistics and behavioral science to scrutinize audio recordings and university emails, Catherine systematically unmasked the unthinkable: a confidence scheme fueling clandestine research on more than 2,000 unsuspecting students for over a decade.