Tags: Cheating | Thrives | Campus | Officials | Turn | Their | Heads

Cheating Thrives on Campus, as Officials Turn Their Heads

Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM

What's notable about this isn't so much the widespread cheating. That has become an unfortunate reality on college campuses. It's that this latest outbreak happened at one of the dozens of elite schools that employ an ''honor code'' to stamp out cheating.

Those schools, and thousands without codes, don't work aggressively to root out cheating, making it far too easy for students to view cheating as a way to succeed.

About 100 colleges out of 3,700 nationwide have strict honor codes, distinguished by signed pledges, student involvement in discipline and, at a few, rewards such as unsupervised exams. The University of Virginia's honor system includes such points, plus a rarity - expulsion for violating the code.

But simply having a code doesn't mean much if it's seldom enforced - the norm on too many campuses. Two surveys at UVA, for example, found a significant number of students and professors who'd be unlikely to take action if they suspected cheating.

At Dartmouth, the disciplinary committee dropped all 63 cases of alleged cheating on homework last spring after concluding that it was impossible to determine who had and had not cheated -- sending a message that the honor system was impotent.

The result, of course, is widespread, growing cheating, even at elite institutions.

A 1999 survey shows just how cavalier students have become. About 45% of students at schools without honor codes admitted to serious cheating on at least one exam. At schools with honor codes, 23% admitted to it, says Rutgers University professor Donald McCabe, who has conducted college surveys on cheating for 15 years. Many students blame the pressure to maintain minimum grades to retain financial aid, get into graduate schools and find jobs.

Universities could counter those pressures. The starting point is for students to fear that the risk of cheating exceeds any possible reward.

Strong policing with technology, as the Virginia professor did, sends the needed message. So far, only a few schools do that routinely. At UC-Berkeley, for example, some professors recently began running papers through a commercial computer program to detect plagiarism. That may soon become a schoolwide policy.

Long term, schools can develop a culture of honor by making it a part of college life. At Vanderbilt, freshmen sign an honor-pledge document, framed and hung on campus for four years, and the code is often discussed.

And professors can steer students from the temptation to cheat by investing the extra work it takes to vary tests and assign papers on original topics that won't lend themselves so easily to plagiarism.

But without tight monitoring to enforce high standards, cheating will persist. And students will waste time and money learning precisely the wrong lesson in college. Today's debate: College cheating Even the few schools with honor codes fail to strictly enforce them.

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What's notable about this isn't so much the widespread cheating. That has become an unfortunate reality on college campuses. It's that this latest outbreak happened at one of the dozens of elite schools that employ an ''honor code'' to stamp out cheating. Those schools,...
Cheating,Thrives,Campus,,Officials,Turn,Their,Heads
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2001-00-21
Monday, 21 May 2001 12:00 AM
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