Over the 2009-2010 school year, a total of 77 cases of academic irresponsibility were brought before the University’s Board of Review on Academic Responsibility. While we could hardly argue that 77 cases represents a rampant outbreak of cheating on campus, we do believe students and faculty should more seriously consider the issue.
Of the 77 cases adjudicated, 22 were found not guilty. The remaining cases received sentences ranging in severity from taking a zero on the assignment or a drop in the final course grade to a one-semester suspension. More troubling, however, is that many more instances of cheating go unreported, potentially skewing our interpretation of the statistics provided by the Board of Review.
The increased availability of information on the Internet and the growth in the use of electronic telecommunications devices have made cheating and plagiarism easier, though many students still resort to traditional techniques. Some students sneak a peak at their classmates’ quizzes while the teacher’s back is turned. Others stash notes in the bathroom and take breaks during exams to review the stowed materials. Some students have even made a business of trading old exams and homework assignments with other students who are taking the same classes the next semester.
Using technology to cheat on homework has also become prominent, according to the March 28, 2010 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some students download online solutions manuals and hand in answers copied directly from the manual. Others may store answers in graphing calculators during exams. The problem lies in the “technological detachment phenomenon,” according to the article on “High-Tech Cheating.” In other words, students feel that cheating is acceptable because technology removes them from any notion of responsibility.
Plagiarism, whether intentional or not, is another growing issue. Twenty-eight of the reported cases related to plagiarism, and only six were found not guilty. The rise of plagiarism reflects a growing trend in students not understanding the importance of giving credit where credit is due. For example, a New York Times article dated Aug. 1, 2010 reported that many college students simply did not understand the extent of their crime, faulting digital technology for the blurring lines of authorship.
But no matter how much technology facilitates academic irresponsibility, students should resist the urge. Although the competitive college culture seems to encourage it, cheating is still no more than the easy way out. It fosters neither lifelong learning nor original scholarship. While it may produce short-term results in the form of higher grades, its long-term effects promise only a lifetime of dependence on others.
Students should realize cheating and plagiarism are severe crimes and should not be taken lightly. Furthermore, faculty and teaching assistants should assume a more no-nonsense approach to these problems when they see them. Letting the matter slide only encourages serial cheaters to continue their unethical methods.
Cheating and plagiarism are never acceptable in any learning environment. Students and faculty should report instances of cheating to the Board of Review on Academic Responsibility, and the sentences issued need to reflect the severity of the crimes.