BY DR. LASHONDA ANTHONY
On September 17th, Fourth Estate published a letter from an anonymous contributor entitled “Cheating is Not Immoral.” It would be easy to see my role and assume that I am writing with expected responses such as ‘cheating is immoral, resorting to cheating is lazy, and choices have consequences.’ Mason’s opinion on the matter is clear, and when I present on the Honor Code to the campus community, I always stress that the Honor Code is more than just what an individual won’t do. It is about how an individual chooses to respond and engage in the academic community. I chose to write because what struck me most about this individual was the complete absence of personal agency. That is not a judgement. It is what I believe to be a very real experience for many of our students who may be new to college, or overwhelmed by life.
I understand family pressure. My father sat me down and talked to me for HOURS about a B and that C I got during school despite having all As in my other subjects. He was worried because he thought that the B and the C were indicators that I wasn’t putting forth my best effort. I figured out a way to keep my grades high-enough Bs to give myself some breathing room, but never too many that would pull the overall grade below an A. It was something I had to learn for myself, but I was never tempted to cheat.
That doesn’t make me a better person. I learned that while getting all As helped me to secure my academic scholarships, they weren’t a requirement to KEEP them. Most scholarships in college require anywhere from a 3.0 to a 3.5 GPA. That means the occasional C won’t end you. I share this because I want those who might be experiencing the same challenges and pressures as the original writer to reclaim control of their lives. Your family and society may expect certain things of you, but you are the one who has to live with you. Stepping outside of yourself and making choices you wouldn’t normally make that are contrary to established expectations hurts you in the long run. You may not see cheating as immoral, but is it the only solution you can resort to? I would argue that the answer to that question is no. Before cheating on an assignment or exam, you can choose to take the zero. You can choose to drop the class and try again with another professor. You can choose to visit Learning Services and take advantage of the many workshops they have available designed to strength you as a student. You can choose to live for you, and not the expectations others have for you. It is scary, but in the long run, you will experience less stress as a result.
Dr. LaShonda Anthony
Director, Office of Academic Integrity
George Mason University