Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series about academic cheating.
What do the New England Patriots, former president Bill Clinton and students have in common? All three have been accused of cheating at one time or another. Whether unfair or dishonest methods are used to win a football game, to advance a political means or to get better grades in a class, the accusation of cheating does not affect just the accused.
And the ramifications can be far reaching. Loss of employment, opportunities in academic programs, integrity and reputation are only a few of the potential impacts accusations can have.
Unfortunately, the act of cheating is becoming more prevalent among students, not only in the lower grades of academics, but also in college and university levels. Ohio State University veterinary school disciplined 85 students in 2016 for “wrongly collaborating on online, take-home assignments,” Reuters reported. Those involved were doctoral students.
In a recent study conducted by Kessler International of 300 college students, 86 percent of those polled admitted to cheating during their college career, and 97 percent revealed they had gotten away with it.
With stats like that, several questions come to mind: why is cheating so popular, even with the understanding that, if we are caught, the consequences are almost always dire?
And speaking of consequences, what are they? Are the accusations of cheating almost as detrimental as a cheating conviction?
What are the policies and processes of discipline here on campus for cheating?
Can instructors help reduce cheating? Should instructors be held partially responsible if poor course management facilitates cheating?
Should students who are not involved directly be held responsible if they know about cheating but fail to report it? Who has the onus of proof when making accusations and convictions of dishonesty?
And finally, in regards to cheating incidents, how can further deceit be prevented?
The Motives Behind Academic Dishonestly
The motives most often associated with academic cheating are grade-driven. Of those 300 students surveyed in the Kessler study, 54 percent believed that it was acceptable to cheat, and a number of those went on to say they believe it is necessary to stay competitive.
We are taught as early as elementary school to be competitive with our grades. The coveted talented and gifted program, for example, selects those who excel in their schooling, often looking at their grade point average as part of the selection process.
Instructors, advisers and parents also habitually emphasize that the higher the grades, the more doors will open, while disregarding individual learning styles.
Accolades and scholarships are frequently offered to those students who are considered exceptional, again regularly based on their grades.
Parents push for their children to bring home higher grades, possibly forgetting that grades, after graduation, are almost always obsolete. When was the last time an employer asked for your grade report from first grade?
So, one might wonder if the race for the almighty grade pushes more and more students into the corner of cheating. Do students, especially those in competitive programs like the medical and media fields, become so overwhelmed by the constant drive to be on top, to compete for spots, that they will sacrifice their integrity and possible future advancement just to stay ahead? Yes, according to statistics.
I am concerned that we are so conditioned by the letter grade, that we have forgotten the importance of real world experience and hands on class work that gives us invaluable knowledge.
Please don’t mistake me. Book knowledge is very important as well. But when the call for book knowledge is the majority that a test is based upon, it can be the driving force for some students to simply learn or gain that information for the test, only to pass without a true understanding or retention of that knowledge.
And, with that call for passing, is it possible that some instructors might add to that competitive nature by only showing extra attention or offers of aid to the students who excel in their class or program, thus inspiring a sense of do or die among those who are behind? And for those students who are falling behind or need help with the subject material and are sent to student tutors for assistance, do educational institutions bear the responsibility of ensuring that the tutors’ information is correct? Students are relying on other students for instruction who often have limited training compared to instructors.
Why am I asking all these questions, you may be wondering by this point. Unfortunately, UCC is not exempt from a cheating scandal. Recently, a program on campus suffered from accusations of cheating, impacting current students not only in the program, but also potentially across campus.
Considering the seriousness of the accusations and its effects, The Mainstream will be examining these questions and more in coming issues.
If any student impacted in the current situation would like to talk with us, we offer you as much anonymity as we are able and a chance to discuss how a program’s cheating scandal has impacted you.
We would like to hear from you. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
86 percent of those polled admitted to cheating during their college career, and 97 percent revealed they had gotten away with it —Kessler International