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The cheating scandal at Harvard has prompted prestigious schools around the country to review their plagiarism policies and “honor codes.” More than 100 students are accused of plagiarizing or collaborating on a take-home test.

University of Rochester student newspaper Campus Times reported more students are being reported for cheating. Sixty-two students were referred for hearings last school year, up from 20 the year before. This could be the result of more vigilance or more students cutting corners:

But the reasons for this remain unclear. (Professor Beth) Jorgensen does not believe that cheating at UR is more of an issue than it is at other institutions.

“We’re not outliers,” she explained. “I wouldn’t guess that UR sees more cheating than less competitive schools.”


Jorgensen is looking to address what she sees as the problem with the physical conditions for exams. Large settings create the erroneous belief that more cheating is going on than really is and the feeling that students must cheat to “measure up” to fellow students, Jorgensen said.


Economics Professor Michael Rizzo, who has been teaching at UR for five years, said that he thinks that there is “not a culture here that respects not cheating” and that he “didn’t realize cheating was as bad as it was.”


Last fall, one student was expelled and two were suspended during the spring 2012 term for cheating on one of his introductory economics exams.

Plagiarism, the act of copying another’s work without attribution, is clearly a huge no-no. Plagiarism has been around since the beginning of time, but there’s a feeling the Internet is encouraging it. (Plagiarists should really discover hyperlinking.) The New York Times reports:

The Internet has changed attitudes, as a world of instant downloading, searching, cutting and pasting has loosened some ideas of ownership and authorship. An increased emphasis on having students work in teams may also have played a role.


Numerous projects and research studies have shown that frequently reinforcing standards, to both students and teachers, can lessen cheating. But experts say most schools fail to do so.


Experts say that along with students, schools and technology, parents are also to blame…

“We have a culture now where we have real trouble accepting that our kids make mistakes and fail, and when they do, we tend to blame someone else,” said Tricia Bertram Gallant, author of “Creating the Ethical Academy,” and director of the academic integrity office at the University of California at San Diego. “Thirty, 40 years ago, the parent would come in and grab the kid by the ear, yell at him and drag him home.”

As for collaborating with peers on a take-home test, some are not convinced that’s cheating. A Slate columnist writes:

What’s the point of prohibiting students from working together? If the students in “Introduction to Congress” act as these test rules demand when they move into the workforce, they’ll be fired. Outside of academia, teamwork is the rule….In this case, it’s the test’s design, rather than the students’ conduct, that we should criticize.

Are today’s college students really less ethical than previous generations? Technology makes it easier for them to plagiarize and collaborate, but it also makes it more likely they’ll get caught.

Links of the Day:

– Chicago teachers union delegates rejected a tentative contract deal and will not be back to work on Monday.

– Teachers no longer want to mentor student teachers because of the new evaluations. I know a teacher who is so stressed about implementing the new core curriculum, she “has nothing for the student teacher to do yet.”

– How much do local teachers earn? Check out this map of teacher pay across the U.S.

– I like this column criticizing Rochester for issuing camera-generated rolling-stop-right-on-red tickets.

– Get ready for more Toronto “home games” for the Buffalo Bills.

– An interesting team of investors – many with sports ties – is trying to take Syracuse’s hometown hot dog national.

One Response to College Cheaters

  1. September 17, 2012 at 2:32 pm Edward Richards responds:

    A great movie to watch featuring cheating is School Ties featuring an all star cast of young Jews – Damon, Greene, Afleck and Brendon Fraser who all would go on and have their own successful careers in Hollywood. And nobody can forget Amy Locane (Sally Wheeler).

    As far as cheating, you cheat you lose. In fact, everybody loses.

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