Surviving stats: How one student almost didn’t

Cameron Miles was accused of academic dishonesty and almost failed his stats class after several tutorial videos he made online became popular among students. | Pablo Milanese/The Cougar

When Cameron Miles uploaded his first statistics tutorial onto his YouTube channel to help some fellow classmates, he expected 10 views, tops. Within a few days, his video had been watched over 1,400 times.

“Next thing I know it starts spreading like crazy,” Miles said. “Everyone was saying thank you and that they were super grateful.”

After receiving approval from his peers, Miles continued making tutorial videos on homework and daily problems for his Stats 3331 class with Staci Smith. Altogether, he made five videos that ranged from 10 to 45 minutes in duration.

“I had just noticed a lot of people were struggling, and I asked (if) it helped anyone if I made a video to kind of help explain the process,” Miles said. “The reason I thought it was okay is because (the homework) randomly populates. The problems are different, so everyone still has to work for their grade.”

Miles’ professor disagreed with his reasoning. After the videos gained so much attention, Miles was called into his professor’s office and was told he had been academically dishonest and would be failed in the course.

“My teacher asked if I knew that what I was doing was wrong, and I (said) ‘No” Miles said. “Obviously I put my name on everything because they still have to do everything on their own; I’m just helping basically like a tutor does.”

After word leaked that Miles was in violation of the academic dishonesty policy and that he might fail the class, his classmates came to his support.

An online petition to revoke his failing grade received over 200 signatures.

“The first week or two I kind of became a Bauer celebrity, I guess,” Miles said.

Students continued to support Miles, who they see as  another tutor.

“I had heard about the videos, and I didn’t think it was cheating,” accounting junior Autumn Hayes said. “It was just helping people, like free tutoring that they offer at the school.”

Miles was able to make a proposal with his professor and the academic board. Instead of failing the class, he was asked to take down all of his tutorial videos and in return would receive a zero for all of the assignments he helped students on.

“I’m a man, and if I make a mistake I’ll own it,” Miles said. “Mathematically, it’s still possible for me to get an A based on the weights of the grades.”

While Miles said he is grateful to not fail the class, he understands why other students are still upset.

“People are still asking for help (but) I’ve been directed to advise them to go see the instructor or blackboard or the tutors here at Bauer,” Miles said.

Management information systems sophomore Erik Otuomagie said he thinks Miles should still be able to help students.

“That’s really dumb to me because a lot of people really need help,” Otuomagie said. “First of all, it’s stats. It’s a hard class. Not everyone is geared towards math (and) people will need help whether it’s (by) videos, tutoring or old materials. I don’t think its cheating because the material is not exactly the same.”

Miles said he would like to make videos over class material that is not graded, but was told not to. Despite all of the drama over the past few weeks, Miles said he respects his professor and her decision.

“The only reason why I can teach anything is because I went to class, I took notes and I learned from the teacher,” Miles said. “I think Dr. Smith is a fantastic teacher. She did stand up and defend me, and I didn’t go through the whole hearing process because of her.”

The Cougar reached out to Smith but was unable to get a response.

[email protected]


  • Hooboy… this is why I’m glad I didn’t become a professor. There’s always a fine line between help and hard collaboration. The professor often needs to be clear as to when and how this is appropriate. When I had to do grading, especially with grad students, I was always on the line of “collaborate but not copying”. This is harder to do with situations where formulae are the expected answer unless one assumes a high level of student honor. You can tell when the student has the solution manual but usually there’s not much that can be done.

    The problem with homework is that often it carries the value of an examination. Homework is often the first opportunity for the student to struggle and understand the concept. At some point, in a finite time, we must assess mastery. That being said, one cannot know their conceptual misconceptions until they are corrected by a grader, professor, or other persons (tutors?). So, is the homework a micro-exam? I suppose it is if it serves for sanctioning proficiency.

    How to view this… ugh. It depends on how the professor views the meaning and intent of homework. If its as micro-examination… then yes, this is cheating and clearly so. If it is as a process of practicing material then it isn’t. It really comes down to how the professor views the purpose of examination. As long as students push up against the traditional means of evaluation this will become more of an issue as the lines become unclear from professor to professor.

    My personal solution is one part hammer and one part glove but I won’t give it. No reason not to turn this into an opportunity with a student willing to go the extra mile. The school must have some extra pizza money somewhere.

    Note: No affiliation with Houston at any time. I do not teach. Ph.D. Statistics.

Leave a Comment