prepare, progress, prevail

Academic Integrity

A colleague recently shared that three students had submitted assignments in which each had plagiarized material; not just any material but material from the professor’s hand-out, verbatim. As we commiserated this sad state of affairs, another colleague commented that several students in an online course plagiarized from the textbook in an open book test. As I sat shocked, a final colleague admitted that four graduate students, all professionals seeking a master’s degree in education, were caught cheating on a simple ten question quiz over the week’s reading.  In the language of my students, “WTH?”

Then when I thought it couldn’t possibly be as bad as my colleagues asserted, I attended a professionals conference in another city. I was alternately dismayed and shocked as I heard similar tales from other professors at other universities. The most disheartening was the tale of a graduate/professional school in which 65% of the second year students flunked the mandatory test for matriculation. Upon investigation, it was learned that all of the students who flunked had relied on answers shared electronically prior to the test. The answers were on a thumb drive and had been passed from the previous year’s students; unfortunately, the professor had changed the test this year. In the language of my students, “WTF?”

Plagiarism is cheating; sharing answers to tests is cheating. Pure and simple. There is no denying that students are under extreme pressure to succeed, to achieve high grades, to stand out above their peers. However, I cannot believe that it is this pressure and desire to be the best that begets cheating.

Cheating is born out of desperation when faced with too much material and too little time.   The amount of material is fairly constant from one year to the next; in other words this year’s 3Ls are expected to learn the same amount of material as last year’s 3Ls. Next year’s A&P students will be expected to learn the same amount of information as this year’s A & P students. Therefore “too much material” is not a valid arguemnt in defense of cheating.

College and ultimately graduate/professional school are incredible time consumers BUT that should not come as any surprise. Each year of your education builds on the year before. If not upon coursework, then surely in the belief that students have increased their academic skills, are more adept at navigating materials and resources and most of all, have continued to finesse their time management.

Procrastination is not a time management skill; cutting and pasting are not academic research; trusting answers that “magically” appear before your eyes (regardless of method or source) is gaining knowledge.

The grades will reflect cheating; in some cases, the money and time poured into the education will be wasted as the student is expelled for lack of academic integrity. However, the scariest cheater is the one uncaught who will graduate and then be representing you in probate court, or treating my cancer, drilling into your child’s gums, or leading a congregation of the faithful. In the language of my students, “WTF?”