In the 2014-15 academic year at Delta College, 87 students were reported to the administration on accusations of academic dishonesty, according to information provided by Enrollment Services & Student Development.
As an observant student and a paid reader, I’ve seen a range of cheating behaviors and felt discouraged by what seems to be a pandemic for today’s students.
Students sometimes cheat unintentionally due to ignorance of the definition of cheating, which is more encompassing than copying someone else’s answers. Other students know what cheating is and choose to do it anyway.
Delta’s policy against plagiarism, cheating and other academic misconduct covers not only the people who submit another’s work as their own, but also the people who provide work for others to copy.
Because it’s up to the discretion of each faculty member whether to report cheating or handle it alone, and because most people are never caught, the number of people accused is unlikely to be reflective of how many people cheat.
“I have always felt my efforts as a teacher are better served by devoting my energies to the students who are working hard … rather than making a career out of policing those who are deliberately cheating,” said English professor Anna Villegas, in an email interview.
Some professors place importance on second chances, and use Internet tools to discourage students from plagiarizing essays.
“If Turnitin flags a paper anyway, it receives a score of zero which impacts its writer’s overall grade very negatively,” said professor Ulrike Christofori, in an email interview.
Other professors place importance on the hard lines between right and wrong, and discourage dishonesty by pursuing maximum punishment.
“If it were up to me, our policy would be that if you were caught cheating you would be expelled,” said Dr. William Ferraiolo, professor of philosophy.
I understand the pressure to succeed, and the pressure to “help” a classmate or turn a blind eye, but it’s important to avoid the temptation of the easy way out.
College is meant to prepare students for careers that have higher incomes, with greater responsibility and accountability.
Graduating without the knowledge or ethical standards that are the point of a higher education is a disservice to the cheaters and to the employers and customers who will count on them.
I fear this argument will be lost on many students raised in the modern age of permissiveness.
Today’s young adults have been lauded for accomplishing the feat of breathing, and offered sympathy as a reward for moral failings.
Children shielded from the natural consequences of their misbehavior become adults who believe there are no negative consequences so long as they’re doing the best they can.
“I have faith in the cosmos that cheaters (especially repeat offenders) eventually get their due,” said Villegas.
Professors shouldn’t have to be academic police officers, but college is the last sieve between youthful indiscretion and adult corruption, and there are no others to stand guard.
“I was plagiarized by a graduate student in a program in Pennsylvania. He turned in a paper that the instructor thought was kind of suspicious, the instructor Googled it and found out I had actually written the paper,” said Ferraiolo.
Students who cheat only damage themselves, but dishonesty in the workplace will affect the employer and a person’s ability to support their family.