TimesOC: Orange County professor sues students for alleged cheating

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TimesOC, a newsletter about Orange County, is published Wednesdays and Fridays.
(Los Angeles Times)

Good morning and welcome to the TimesOC newsletter.

It’s Friday, March 18. I’m Ben Brazil, bringing you the latest roundup of Orange County news and events.

A Chapman University professor has decided that the best way to teach his students a lesson about cheating is by suing them in U.S. District Court.

Professor David Berkovitz, who teaches at the school’s George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics in Orange, moved forward with the litigation after allegedly finding portions of a midterm and final examinations from a prior class posted to a website where students can access study resources called Course Hero. Reporter Hayley Smith wrote that according to the legal complaint, the alleged posting of the exams violated copyright and infringed on the professor’s right to “reproduce, make copies, distribute or create derivative works.”

The court documents say that it isn’t yet known which students posted the content to the website, but the materials could only be available to spring semester students.

An attorney for Berkovitz, Marc Hankin, said that uploading the content was unfair to other students because tests are graded on a curve.

“It’s partly punishing the wrongdoers, but more importantly, it’s protecting the other students who are being hurt by this behavior,” Hankin told Smith. “They did nothing wrong, they studied hard, they didn’t cheat, and yet their grade is artificially lower than it should have been because of the mandatory curve.”

A view of Chapman University in Orange, where a professor is suing after finding his exams online.
A view of Chapman University in Orange, where a professor is suing after finding his exams online.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

It appears that Berkovitz will be attempting to find out which students posted the content to the website through subpoenaing Course Hero. The complaint will then be amended because it currently lists five John and Jane Does as defendants, Smith wrote.

“Course Hero does not tolerate copyright infringement of any kind and employs a range of preventative measures, investigation and enforcement policies,” a Course Hero spokesperson said Thursday in a statement, adding that the content was already removed.

The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial, a permanent injunction preventing the defendants from infringing the copyrights and to impound all devices containing copies of the test materials. Smith wrote that Berkovitz is also seeking actual and statutory damages in addition to attorney’s fees and other lawsuit-related costs.

Despite all of this, Hankin told Smith that the lawsuit wasn’t about punishing students but rather about protecting others in the course.

“Maybe we’ll send a message to other students,” he said. “Don’t cheat. It’s just not worth it.”

It isn’t clear if he understood the dissonance of those statements.

Loreta Ruiz prepares mushroom pozole at La Vegana Mexicana in Santa Ana.
(Scott Smeltzer / TimesOC)


It’s been a busy pandemic for Loreta Ruiz. She’s had to balance owning a downtown Santa Ana restaurant with working for Latino Health Access, a nonprofit at the forefront of addressing health inequities in Latino communities around Orange County. “I want people to understand that they can eat mindfully and meet their nutritional needs without sacrificing their culture or traditions,” Ruiz said. “At Latino Health Access, the same concept applies. Health is addressed in a holistic manner and in a way that meets the community where they are without trying to change them.” My colleague Gabriel San Román has the story.

The Juaneño Band of Mission Indians hold an annual ceremony honoring the ancient village of Panhe in San Clemente. The event was started more than a decade ago to raise awareness about the preservation of the more than 9,000-year-old village. Now, the tribe uses the event to celebrate and educate the public about their preservation efforts around Orange County.

A convicted carjacker was charged this week with attempted murder after holding his girlfriend captive in a Huntington Beach apartment and beating her with a stick. The victim sustained “significant injuries” that required hospitalization, police said. The man, Conor Bryan Verdun, is scheduled to be arraigned later this month.

Months after Orange County tallied the highest number of homeless deaths in a single year, the county has received $6 million in funding to convert another Stanton motel into permanent supportive housing. The motel conversions are part of a statewide effort called Project Homekey, which entails purchasing and rehabilitating hotels, motels, vacant apartments and other buildings to house people experiencing homelessness.

Orange County sheriff’s deputies arrested an 86-year-old Mission Viejo man this week on suspicion of murdering his wife. Family members told investigators that William Wiley had been diagnosed with dementia.

Costa Mesa city employees have generally been paid less than their counterparts in neighboring cities like Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Santa Ana and Irvine. But this week, city officials decided to allocate money to raise the salaries of jobs that have been harder to fill in Costa Mesa City Hall. Officials hope that this will help the city attract and retain staff. “About 56% of resignations are for employees who had less than three years of service,” said Human Resources Manager Kasama Lee. “We’re essentially a training ground for other agencies.”

A view of the Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)


The Pacific Edge Hotel in Laguna Beach will be getting a makeover. As part of the remodel, which was approved by the Coastal Commission, 131 rooms will be renovated and another 25 will be constructed. Other additions include an expansion of the hotel’s restaurant, a new office and conference areas, a new café and a new pool and spa, wrote my colleague Lilly Nguyen.

The specialty grocery chain Bristol Farms Newfound Market opened a location this week at the Irvine Spectrum Center. The business is offering fresh produce, fine wines and more in a sprawling 34,000-square-foot building. My colleague Sarah Mosqueda wrote that a major aim of the market is to provide a space for local products to be sold. It also has a food hall, which features Bristol Farms’ own chef-driven concepts like an artisan fried chicken shop, vegan dining and a European inspired café.

A new restaurant at South Coast Plaza pairs a love of food with giving back to the community. At the recently opened Tableau Kitchen and Bar, there’s a table that seats a dozen people that can be reserved each month for a chef-led wine dinner in support of a local organization. Chef John Park said he got the idea for the “Giving Table” from taking part in fundraising events with the Illumination Foundation, a homeless services provider in Orange County.

Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ryan Tepera delivers during the eighth inning.
Former Chicago White Sox relief pitcher Ryan Tepera is now an Angel.
(Matt Marton / Associated Press)


The Angels improved their bullpen this week with the additions of veteran right-handers Ryan Tepera and Archie Bradley. Tepera spent last season with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox while Bradley played for the Philadelphia Phillies. They will help round out a relief pitching corps with Raisel Iglesias and Aaron Loup, wrote reporter Mike Digiovanna.

Digiovanna also wrote this week that the return of Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon could give the Angels an edge. Last season, the team’s three studs — Shohei Ohtani, Trout and Rendon — only got to play in 17 games together due to Trout and Rendon suffering injuries. “When Anthony is fully healthy, he’s one of the best hitters in the game, and to have all three of us together … we have a great group,” Trout said.

The Costa Mesa boys’ tennis team dominated their rival Estancia to claim a 17-1 win this week. The teams will meet again a few more times this season, but Costa Mesa seems to have made a statement with this one.

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