I'm enrolled in a university course. For some time, I've been helping another student with a major project for our class, which counts for a quarter of our grade. It is an individual project where each person is expected to turn in their own work, but our teacher allows us to help each other out.

However, I no longer wish to work with them on the assignment. The first reason is a lack of time on my part: I have a part-time job, I have to do my own project, and I also have to write a large paper as an alternative assignment as I'll be missing the class final exam due to a conflict.

Additionally, just yesterday, the student was caught copying answers during our mid-term exam. (The exam was earlier, but it wasn't until yesterday that they were told about it.) The teacher has allowed them to continue in the course, but they would receive a zero on the exam and an overall grade deduction. They've admitted to me about copying, and I don't feel like working with someone who cheated.

Third, it's pretty clear to me they will not pass without any help. If I'm to help them succeed, I have to describe the concepts we're learning pretty much all over again repeatedly. This takes an emotional drag on me and detracts from my above other things.

Finally, the more I help him on the project, the greater the chance I will be called out for cheating because our work is similar. Given the classmate's prior record of cheating, it's likely the teacher will give their work extra scrutiny.

Prior to receiving the latest news (about the instructor allowing them to continue), I told them I have to help someone else on the assignment as well. This other classmate is much easier to work with, knows their concepts, and just needs help with fine-tuning. I also told them I have to help a third student with a project for another class, but I plan to instead put that student in contact with a tutor friend of mine.

After the first classmate received the news, they called me begging to help them on the project. I gave them a non-committal answer and it's right after that that I'm posting this question.

How can I tell my classmate that I don't wish to help them on the project anymore, for the reasons outlined here?

I found the answers at How can I politely refuse to help classmates with their work?, but they don't really work for me. First, this is from an Indian cultural context (we're in the U.S. but they're an Indian international student which forms a large part of the student body here), so the answers which say to stand for individuality won't work here: if I flatly deny, word of that will spread like wildfire and it may reflect negatively on me. Already a couple other students here are asking me why I'm not helping the first student. Second, the context there is that the student doesn't want to help anyone; I'm OK with helping, but just not that student. Many solutions there would be hypocritical since I agree to help someone else.

  • 1
    What about just telling the truth like you explain it here to us? I mean, 1. You have too much work and 2. You fear that the cheating might affect you. Your points are more than valid, why do you think it would backfire badly?
    – OldPadawan
    Jun 23 at 4:43
  • 1
    @OldPadawan The last paragraph addresses your points.
    – gparyani
    Jun 23 at 5:29
  • 1
    You have already helped them. Did that come with an explicit promise to help them through the entire project? Or have you just agreed with them to help with some smaller tasks/bits, one at a time? Also, if you have to prioritize, would you rather have the bad reputation from declining to help this student, or the bad reputation gained from being called out for cheating?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jun 23 at 7:23
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    @Tinkeringbell To your first question, it's the latter. To your second question, the former.
    – gparyani
    Jun 23 at 10:07
  • 3
    When someone asks why you aren't helping the first student, and you point out that you are helping several other students and have limited time, why not ask the asker why they aren't helping the first student?
    – DaveG
    Jun 23 at 15:24


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