Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Cheating on Campus Is Worse Than Ever
Fifty years ago, I was sitting in a high school classroom taking an exam. The sun was shining through the windows behind me, and I wasn’t particularly anxious about this test. I looked up from my test paper and something caught my eye, off to my left and slightly behind me. Two of my friends, two lovely teenage girls who always received excellent grades, were consulting each other.
They were cheating on the test. And I was dismayed.
I quickly turned my head back to my test paper and tried to unsee what I had seen.
And did nothing else except finish my own exam.
I’m embarrassed to tell this story today, because I consider myself a person of integrity. I could give plenty of excuses for not telling our teacher, but it’s clear that I colluded with their behavior.
And I was wrong.
* * * *
This memory came back to me as I ruminated about recent reports about cheating. Yes, I’m aware that there have always been students who cheated. But the opportunities to cheat and the tools available to aid them have grown; the societal norms and values about cheating have decayed and been severely compromised. And it suggests an even more dismal future for our values and culture in the U.S.
So, how and why do people cheat?
Some of the usual cheating methods continue. Students have others write their papers. Others use crib notes or silently commiserate with others. But the violations are bolder than I could have believed, especially following the restrictions of Covid-19.
One of the strategies is to work around the rules for midterm online exams:
No one checked IDs to make sure the students enrolled in the class were the same students taking the final. Cheaters in the class paid fellow classmates—the ones who stayed in the proctored exam room—up to $100 to send them the codes so they could log in from outside the room, where they were free to look up information on their phones or brainstorm answers together. In case the Olds got smart and thought to track students’ IP addresses—that is, where they actually were—students reserved study rooms in the same building as the exam room, Huntsman Hall, making it appear as though they were physically there. (It’s unclear whether any proctors thought to check.)
The average on the midterm was around 80 percent. In past years, it was closer to 60 or 70 percent. ‘It’s not that the teachers got miraculously better at teaching the content or that the kids are smarter,’ the University of Pennsylvania sophomore told me.
There are technical tools available as well:
Remote testing combined with an array of tech tools—exam helpers like Chegg, Course Hero, Quizlet, and Coursera; messaging apps like GroupMe and WhatsApp; Dropbox folders containing course material from years past; and most recently, ChatGPT, the AI that can write essays—have permanently transformed the student experience.
For one online exam, students were to allow no more than an hour. Since the exam wasn’t proctored, students violated the time limit, used technical sources to answer questions, and commiserated with each other to answer questions.
You might ask about the role of instructors to stop these behaviors. Many are intimidated by the demands and expectations of their students:
‘Nontenured faculty have no real choice but to compromise their professional standards and the quality of the students’ own education to take a customer’s-always-right approach,’ Gabriel Rossman at UCLA told me.
That’s because lower-level courses, where cheating is more rampant, tend to be taught by nontenured faculty with little job security—the kind of people who fear getting negative student evaluations. ‘Students can be tyrants,’ the CUNY English professor said. ‘It’s like Yelp. The only four people who are going to review the restaurant are the people who are mad.’
* * * *
What is the source of this rampant cheating? It often starts in high school:
It stands to reason that if high school students are allowed to cheat, then these same habits will be repeated in college. A survey of 9,000 high school students shows that 70% have cheated at least once in the past year. Moreover, 50% have cheated more than twice.
Once they enter college, the outcomes are even more bleak:
In March 2020, [International Center for Academic Integrity] ICAI researchers tested an updated version of the McCabe survey with 840 students across multiple college campuses. This work showed the following kinds of key cheating behaviors:
- Cheated in any way on an exam.
- Getting someone else to do your academic work (e.g., essay, exam, assignment) and submitting it as your own.
- Using unauthorized electronic resources (e.g., articles, Wikipedia, YouTube) for a paper, project, homework or other assignments.
- Working together on an assignment with other students when the instructor asked for individual work.
- Paraphrasing or copying a few sentences or more from any source without citing it in a paper or assignment you submitted.
The rationalizations for cheating are legion, but many people do it to get a competitive edge for job procurement.
There are solutions to these issues; you may have identified them yourself: stop online testing; require essay exams in proctored settings; take advantage of technology that aids in detecting cheating. There is no way to stop completely the determination for students to cheat, but we should try to slow down this pervasive deception.
Why, you ask? Unfortunately, many losses are generated by students cheating. First, their performance on the job may be sub-standard. These are the people who will become doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, engineers of all kinds, airline pilots, and teachers. Many of them will believe that they can cut corners and no one will notice.
Are these the people you want to put in charge of your lives?
These are also people who don’t value integrity, so they are likely compromised in pursuing relationships, not only friendship and marriages, but work relationships, too.
These people can wreak so much damage to our society, but I am struggling to figure out how we can turn things around:
Amy Kind, the Claremont McKenna philosophy professor, is pessimistic. ‘We’re headed for one of these dystopian societies in science fiction where we just outsource all of our writing and projects and thinking to computers, and they do it for us.’ Soon, she added, ‘we’ll be at the mercy of our future computer overlords.’
Do you see a better way forward?Published in Education
Awesome thought (but a sad one, too). I don’t do games, but it’s similar to doing crossword puzzles. When I completely finish one (or get as far as I can), I’ll look up the solution. I don’t bother to fill it in because there’s no point. I just want to learn what I didn’t figure out myself.
I’m also reminded of “Why do I need to learn math when I can just use a calculator!?”
Now expand that: “Why do I need to write a grad thesis when I can just have ChatGPT do it?”
What’s the difference between a calculator to do math, and ChatGPT to do dissertations? Is it merely a matter of scale? A difference in subject? But essentially the same thing?
The college, not the students.
Thanks for the clarification – that’s what I meant.
Cheating, at least the discovery of, is on the rise at the military academies.
Plus, the sheer number of administrators and non-classroom staff manning DIE and other non-essential positions, are costly so all the university cares about is “(seats) in seats”; paying customers. If the customer doesn’t learn anything but the government or parents pays off the loans, tough noogies for the student.
Absolutely right. Nailed it as usual.
It’s not just colleges, it’s k-12 as well. The total number of “administrators” has grown faster than the total number of students; DIE is one particularly onerous piece of the whole.
When you live in a society where Honor, Duty, Sacrifice are punchlines rather than Codes to live by, cheating is no big deal.
Let us be honest and say that they were always punchlines or camp jokes to some. Now, I believe they are to the majority.
How many of the other students in that class, do you think got that benefit from it?
It may have been more about you, than about the class.
In that case, why would bringing a copy of someone else’s notes, be helpful? Because you still wouldn’t know the material well enough to use the notes?
The hopeful fruit of “magical thinking.”
Students (and/or their parents) can be litigious. And it cuts tuition income; there are incentives both in grading and punishment that results in fewer students being expelled.
In many universities, a violation accusation requires a student-run judicial procedure. So the accusing professor has to be at the hearing(s) and testify. It’s a price you think about before initiating a complaint.
Other places have appeals hierarchies: professor to Department Head to Dean … to some dedicated honor court. Or some variation of that.
So much about oaths and honor codes has to do with how they are administered and supported. Do our representatives in Washington seriously swear “to support and defend the Constitution”, or is their swearing in simply a photo op on their way to making laws and taking executive actions which they know and even admit are unconstitutional?
Do the children in Japanese elementary and middle schools have lockable desks and lockers in their classrooms and hallways? No, why should they? The importance of mutual respect and responsibility are a vital element of their education. This makes life nicer for everyone in Japan, including foreign visitors who have dropped a valuable on the street or left a smart phone on the train.
Turning in cheaters is a difficult test for high school students. What were the standards and expectations? At The Citadel, it is the ‘toleration clause’ which makes a tough honor code: “A cadet does not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do.”
Bob Gibson’s last pitch in the major leagues was hit for a grand slam by Pete LaCock.
Years later when Bob Gibson was pitching at an old-timer’s game and LaCock came up to bat, Gibson plugged him.
That works until it doesn’t work.
I taught at a university with that exact clause, but the rate of cheating was not obviously different from every other place I worked. I certainly built the same defenses against cheating there.
Yes, Gibson felt that every hit off him involved some cheating by the batter.
A vital distinction.
We are seeing the difference between people who pay big bucks for a shingle and those who pay big bucks to learn a skill. Imagine spending years paying off a college loan while realizing you have very little to show for the money. Once they are in the real world, they will have to do their own reading, writing, and math. They will have to demonstrate a work ethic they did not acquire in college. You can’t hide ignorance.
In the public sector: nah.
In the private sector: maybe.
I wonder about that. Is it really to the majority or to an elite minority?
It’s the undecideds you have to worry about.
The secret of managing is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five guys who are undecided.
— Billy Martin, baseball manager