minutia press.
Your cheatin' heart will tell on you...

I'm way behind in posting, but one thing to goad me on is the issue of "academic integrity" (pronounced cheating at lesser-ranked universities), which has been raised by Chris and Nathan.

So I think this topic got launched in 503 Bryan when I was relating the story of my freshmen discussion group the night before, where a varoius academic life topics were debated. The students told me and each other of the rampant cheating that had occured in their high schools. Students, presidents of honor societies, even teachers, had been found cheating with schools doing next to nothing about it. One acquaintance had been expelled multiple times only to return and cheat again on her final English assignment. That was the last straw, so I think she had to graduate last in line or something.

One interesting, quasi-Jerry-Springeresque moment occured when student A asked student B, who previously yawned in the face of others cheating, how B would like it if a cheater C scored better than B and got into Wash U, preventing B from being admitted. Or if C got into med school keeping an honest person like B from getting in. This hit home, and B started to care about cheating.

I sat back and took all of this in. But I started to wonder: Do universities have an obligation to catch cheaters, so that the person asking you to say "ahhh" will be an honest, trustworthy person? I know it's not in my job description but I wonder if there is an ethical obligation somewhere to stop these people.


My brother was telling me a story about a girl in his dorm who went to a high school that had a policy that if one student knew another student was cheating, the first student was required to report the second student to administration. I thought that this was an interesting, and terrible idea. It would turn the school into one big spy group.

On a completely different note, I heard you are going to be substituting for our 342 class in a couple of weeks. I am most excited!

Posted by: Nathan at August 28, 2003 9:13 PM

Thanks, better brush up on my C++ !

Posted by: rkc at August 28, 2003 9:31 PM

If I remember my WashU history, in the first half of the last century WashU students tried to put together an honor code that would have required students to report other students for cheating. This isn't the kind of thing that works without a majority of the students supporting it, however, and it quickly disappeared. But it does seem like someone, somewhere should try to catch cheaters. Students have the best argument for doing so, because the value of their degrees are lowered if unqualified cheaters are out in public making WashU students look dumb. But students are probably the least likely to turn in cheaters.

Posted by: david at August 29, 2003 8:19 AM

Remember that one girl who sued to be the only valedictorian of her high school? She was set to go to Harvard, except that a newspaper found that some of her articles that she submitted to the teen column of the newspaper turned out to be plagiarized (or she didn't note her references). Harvard dropped her from their freshman class.

At least she learned that plagiarism = bad.

Posted by: Amy Sia at August 29, 2003 2:37 PM

Mmm...let's see. They say that children learn by example. What have we taught them over the past 10 years? Executives at large multinational companies can lie and cheat their way to millions and get off pretty well scot-free even if they're exposed and convicted. The person with the bigger, more expensive SUV can drive however poorly he or she pleases and use as much fossil fuel as they can afford. Global community be damned! The lesson isn't don't cheat, it's don't get caught; it isn't be fair, it's get as much as you can while the gettin's good. Honest Joes loose all of their money to the big suits at the top who could care less about little (clueless) Joe. Whose side would you be on if you were trying to survive as a student, being told that GPA, rank of university, and plentiful accolades were the only way to not end up working for minimum wage for the rest of your life? Of course I'm overgeneralizing here, but sincerely, there are unfortunately far more incentives for students to cheat than there are incentives for them to be honest and have integrity. If they don't already have a sense of integrity about this kind of thing, the high school and university environments as they are today aren't going to do much to foster it. It's not students' responsibility to take care of it by going turncoat either. It's got to come as a larger message over the long term of their educational careers I think.

Posted by: Michelle at September 3, 2003 8:50 PM