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State ethics exam: University types are too fast

Three to four minutes to read 80 screens of information and answer 10 questions? Even university professors can't do that without a little cheating, state determines.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Usually, the first one done with a test is the one everyone assumes knows the material best. Not so in Illinois, where 250 Southern Illinois University employees failed a mandatory online ethics test because the state determined they finished too quickly, reports the Associated Press.

A letter sent to 96 employees on the Edwardsville campus and 159 on the Carbondale campus by SIU Ethics Officer Corey S. Bradford stated the situation clearly.

"I would like to thank you for completing the on-line ethics training for 2006, as required under the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act.

"Unfortunately, the Office of the Inspector General has invalidated your Certificate of Completion for failure to carefully read and review all of the program's subject matter based on your insufficient completion time," wrote Bradford.

Insufficient completion time? Yep, although the test included 80 screen pages of information and 10 questions, some people finished it in as little as three or four minutes, while the average state employee took about 30 minutes. The training includes information on gifts and retaliating against whistle-blower employees, said Deputy Inspector General Gilbert Jimenez.

In total, 10 percent of 160,000 state employees who took the test failed. They will have the chance to retake the test again in an untimed, paper format, Bradford said.

"They just basically had to read the material and then sign a certification that they understand the ethics training," he said.

One Carbondale professor, who finished in six minutes, got a perfect score and received a noncompliance letter, was irate at receiving the noncompliance letter. "They just found me guilty about some rule they made up after the fact," Martin Zeman, a mathematics professor.

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