Why it happens and how to prevent it
BY SANJANA RAGHAVAN STAFF WRITER
How is cheating like running a red light?
“[If you] run a red light, it’s not malicious, but you still have to pay the ticket,” said Dr. LaShonda Anthony, Director of Academic Integrity and Initiatives in University Life. “It’s not meant to brand you forever; it’s not meant to make you feel [bad]; it’s more of an alert.”
Anthony emphasized that she and the honor committee are not on just “the institution’s side.”
“They’re looking to see if there are enough facts to say clearly and convincingly, because that’s our standard, that this student violated the Honor Code,” Anthony said.
According to Anthony, there are two main reasons why people cheat. First, some students struggle with managing stress, time and/or resources.
“What I mean by resource management is, ‘I’m busy juggling work, school, or a home life, so I grabbed the wrong thing and turned it in,’ or, ‘I planned to cite and paraphrase properly, but in the rush, I submitted it, and it’s too late,’” Anthony explained.
The second reason is trouble understanding the course.
“For some, they’ve mentioned a challenge with grasping the course material,” Anthony said. “People are so fixated on, ‘I have to be this or else all this money is for nothing.’ I ask students, ‘But do you even like studying this? Your parents may expect you to do this, but … you have to live with you.’”
One way to prevent cheating is for students to let go of the idea that a degree needs to be done in four years.
“Five-to-six year degree completions have been the standard for decades, so it’s OK if it takes a little longer, if you can financially afford it,” Anthony said. “The conversation I’m having is, ‘Have you considered dropping a course? Can it be a summer course or an online course? If you have a lot of external obligations, maybe start with [no more than] 12 credits.’”
If a student experiences a crisis mid-semester, the Student Support and Advocacy Center (SSAC) can help.
“If you’re going through a particularly tough time, or you run into a catastrophe, [the SSAC] does a lot of that work,” Anthony explained. “I used to work there and I would often have to reach out to professors if students were losing parents or experiencing major medical issues. Often I would send a letter saying the student had experienced a crisis and are going to be delayed with some of their work.”
Another solution is for students to look more critically at what they want for their career.
“In 30 years, you might look back on your life and think, ‘I want to do what I want to do, which I enjoy and can get paid for, and it’s not this. But I’m 30 years into a career, and I don’t know how to get out of it, and I’m miserable,’” Anthony cautioned. “It’s OK to switch gears and find something that fits better.”
Anthony added that Career Services offers a number of resources, and that even if students are only in their first or second year, it is never too soon to start developing a career path and drafting a resume.
Anthony also noted that the vast majority of students do not cheat, and those who are referred to the Office of Academic Integrity do not usually do it again.
“The referrals to our office constitute less than one percent of the campus population,” Anthony said. “We’re not seeing thousands upon thousands of students a year. Within that, the number of repeat students we’re seeing is in the tens.”
The office also helps professors with questions regarding Honor Code violations.
“Just give us a call,” Anthony said. “We’re always available to chat if you’re not quite sure it’s an Honor Code violation, and we can talk through it to see.”
Professors can also take measures to prevent cheating.
“A few years back, Dr. Dade [of Research Development, Integrity, and Assurance] and I worked together to bring an online module on plagiarism to campus,” Anthony recalled. “We bought the licenses, so there’s no charge to students, and a professor could have students do that and generate a certificate.”
Reading and paying close attention to syllabi are also helpful.
“In some educational levels, collaboration isn’t allowed in your entry point courses,” Anthony explained. “It’s important for the professors to be specific in their syllabi about the activities that are allowed and [to] talk about it on the first day of the class. Students don’t always read the syllabi, so review it with them, and let them ask questions around it.”
Students can also use Learning Services, located in Counseling and Psychological Services, if they need help with coursework.
“They have study-skills courses, and that’s an amazing asset,” Anthony said. “K-12 education is way different than how we approach learning in higher ed. The honor committee sends people there as a sanction, but you don’t have to go just because a professor tells you to go.”
Ultimately, Anthony wanted to remind students that working honestly and avoiding cheating is up to them.
“Sometimes when we get overwhelmed with our life, we forget we can make choices to reduce that,” Anthony noted. “Especially when it comes to external pressure, like family pressure, which can be very heavy. Don’t forget that in all of this, you have agency. You have choices. Especially now, as an adult, you’re not beholden to the expectations of your parents. You have to live with you at the end of the day.”