SUC­CESS ABOVE HONOR

Tech­nol­ogy and a drive to get ahead spur col­lege stu­dents to ig­nore long-es­tab­lished codes of ethics

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Carla Rivera

Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity’s honor code dates to 1921, writ­ten by stu­dents to help guide them through the mine­field of pla­gia­rism, for­bid­den col­lab­o­ra­tion, copy­ing and other chi­caner­ies that have tempted un­der­grad­u­ates since they first ar­rived on col­lege cam­puses.

Ex­ams aren’t proc­tored, and stu­dents are ex­pected to po­lice them­selves and speak up when they see oth­ers com­mit­ting vi­o­la­tions.

But there ap­pears to have been a mas­sive break­down dur­ing the re­cent win­ter quar­ter, cul­mi­nat­ing in “an un­usu­ally high num­ber of trou­bling al­le­ga­tions of aca­demic dis­hon­esty” re­ported to of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to a let­ter to fac­ulty from Provost John Etchemendy.

“Among a smat­ter­ing of con­cerns from a num­ber of win­ter cour­ses, one fac­ulty mem­ber re­ported al­le­ga­tions that may in­volve as many as 20% of the stu­dents in one large, in­tro­duc­tory course,” Etchemendy said in the March 24 let­ter.

He went on to re­mind fac­ulty mem­bers of their re­spon­si­bil­ity to dis­cuss with stu­dents the se­ri­ous­ness of cheat­ing — and the con­se­quences. A first of­fense can re­sult in a stu­dent be­ing suspended for one quar­ter.

Although the Stan­ford al­le­ga­tions may have sur­prised some, for many oth­ers they ce­mented the be­lief that a cul­ture of cheat­ing per­vades higher ed­u­ca­tion. Har­vard, Dart­mouth, the Air Force Academy and other prom­i­nent in­sti­tu­tions have re­cently grap­pled with al­le­ga­tions of large-scale cheat­ing.

Stud­ies find that stu­dents feel un­der more pres­sure than ever to suc­ceed and in­creas­ingly see cut­ting cor­ners as noth­ing se­ri­ous. And they are be­ing aided by cheat-

ing-friendly tech­nol­ogy. Etchemendy al­luded to those chal­lenges.

“With the ease of tech­nol­ogy and wide­spread shar­ing that is now part of the col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture, stu­dents need to rec­og­nize and be re­minded that it is dis­hon­est to ap­pro­pri­ate the work of oth­ers,” he said. “Do we pro­vide guid­ance for the use of tech­nol­ogy? And are stu­dents aware that we re­ally will seek to iden­tify and re­port con­cerns that may arise?”

Stan­ford of­fi­cials said the al­le­ga­tions are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but de­clined to say which course was in­volved. Nu­mer­ous stu­dents are be­ing in­ter­viewed, spokes­woman Lisa Lapin said.

“Ev­ery stu­dent has the op­por­tu­nity to present ev­i­dence of the work they did and why,” she said.

Lapin noted that some breaches of the honor code oc­cur ev­ery quar­ter. In 201314, 83 honor cases were re­viewed. Of­fi­cials said they had no in­for­ma­tion on how many were found to be in vi­o­la­tion.

Na­tion­wide, about 68% of un­der­grad­u­ates and 43% of grad­u­ate stu­dents ad­mit cheat­ing on tests or writ­ten as­sign­ments, ac­cord­ing to re­search by re­tired Rut­gers busi­ness pro­fes­sor Don­ald L. McCabe and the In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Aca­demic In­tegrity at Clem­son Uni­ver­sity.

As stu­dents see busi­ness lead­ers, ath­letes and their peers cheat­ing — in many cases with im­punity — the prac­tice no longer car­ries the so­cial stigma it once did, ac­cord­ing to the re­search. With com­pe­ti­tion at elite in­sti­tu­tions es­pe­cially in­tense, high-achiev­ing stu­dents are as likely to cheat as those who strug­gle aca­dem­i­cally.

“There is such steep com­pe­ti­tion for a rel­a­tively small num­ber of re­sources, such as get­ting into a par­tic­u­lar ma­jor or into grad­u­ate school, where one or two or three points might make a dif­fer­ence, that even good stu­dents see a rea­son to go for that un­fair ad­van­tage,” said Teddi Fish­man, direc­tor of the Clem­son cen­ter.

And there’s likely to be lit­tle progress as long as stu­dents and ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions re­main fo­cused on grades rather than learn­ing, she said.

“Un­til we don’t put so much em­pha­sis on a very few high-stakes tests, there are go­ing to be stu­dents who feel the need to cheat,” Fish­man said.

But she also ac­knowl­edged a grow­ing dis­con­nect even in the def­i­ni­tion of cheat­ing in this age of easy ac­cess to smartphones and the In­ter­net. Most stu­dents know that pla­gia­rism is wrong, for ex­am­ple, but see no harm in cut­ting and past­ing from Wikipedia or other on­line re­sources or copy­ing one an­other in group projects.

In more and more cases of vi­o­la­tions, stu­dents say that they didn’t in­tend to cheat but lacked the knowl­edge to prop­erly cite work that was not their own, said Matthew Gre­gory, as­so­ciate dean of stu­dents and direc­tor of stu­dent ad­vo­cacy and ac­count­abil­ity at Louisiana State Uni­ver­sity. He is more in­clined to work with such stu­dents in­stead of just met­ing out pun­ish­ment, he said.

At UC San Diego, pun­ish­ment for stu­dents found to be in vi­o­la­tion of the school’s aca­demic code can in­clude writ­ing a re­flec­tive pa­per, at­tend­ing a sem­i­nar to learn eth­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills, or ex­pul­sion. From 2012 to 2014, more than 1,200 al­le­ga­tions were re­ported. The vast ma­jor­ity — 94% — of those found re­spon­si­ble were as­signed a pa­per, a sem­i­nar or a work­shop, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from the school’s Aca­demic In­tegrity Of­fice.

Dur­ing the same pe­riod, about 158 stu­dents were also suspended. Of­fi­cials said ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents has led to fewer re­peat vi­o­la­tors.

Re­searchers, mean­while, are study­ing which ma­jors at­tract stu­dents who are most likely to cheat. They have found that stu­dents in tech­ni­cal fields such as en­gi­neer­ing and com­puter science, as well as busi­ness, are among the main cul­prits.

En­gi­neer­ing stu­dents cheat far more than hu­man­i­ties stu­dents in col­lege, said Trevor Harding, a pro­fes­sor of ma­te­ri­als en­gi­neer­ing at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, who has stud­ied cheat­ing in the field. He cites an en­vi­ron­ment that is less col­lab­o­ra­tive and highly com­pet­i­tive.

And cheat­ing seems to in­crease as stu­dents move through school, he said.

“There is a very strong cor­re­la­tion to cheat­ing in high school, cheat­ing in col- lege and per­pet­u­at­ing that in the work­place,” said Harding, who is study­ing prac­tices that en­cour­age more hon­est con­duct. “It’s very con­cern­ing be­cause en­gi­neers have a pro­fes­sional re­spon­si­bil­ity to up­hold safety for the public.”

A 2010 re­port to the Fac­ulty Se­nate at Stan­ford found that de­spite the vaunted honor code, stu­dents ac­counted for only a tiny por­tion — 2.5% — of those re­port­ing vi­o­la­tions. Many stu­dents found the penal­ties too harsh and didn’t want to in­form on their class­mates, of­fi­cials said.

Sam Cor­bett-Davies, a grad­u­ate com­puter science stu­dent at Stan­ford, said he agreed with those con­clu­sions and said that the honor code should be re­vamped. He said he was sur­prised com­ing as an un­der­grad­u­ate from New Zealand that ex­ams were not proc­tored.

“The feel­ing I get is that ev­ery­one likes the sta­tus quo even though it re­sults in more cheat­ing,” said Cor­bett-Davies, 24, who has worked as a teach­ing as­sis­tant at the cam­pus. “It’s more work to proc­tor, more work to fol­low up ev­ery lead on po­ten­tial cheat­ing, and stu­dents don’t want peo­ple look­ing over their shoul­der. By leav­ing it to stu­dents, it’s es­sen­tially don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Paul Sakuma As­so­ci­ated Press

STAN­FORD UNI­VER­SITY ex­ams aren’t proc­tored and stu­dents are ex­pected to po­lice them­selves, but one fac­ulty mem­ber re­ported cheat­ing that may in­volve up to 20% of the stu­dents in one course.

Bos­ton Globe via Getty Images

HAR­VARD UNI­VER­SITY, above, Dart­mouth Col­lege, the Air Force Academy and other in­sti­tu­tions have grap­pled with al­le­ga­tions of large-scale cheat­ing.

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