Students responsible for academic honesty and intergrity

A recent study by the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University found that on most college campuses, more than 75 percent of students admit to some form of cheating.I don’t know about you, but I think that number is huge.

But what constitutes cheating? Most students think that cheating is just copying other students’ answers on tests or buying pre-written essays.

But that is just a fraction of what cheating is.

The definition of cheating varies in different classes. In some classes, studying together or working on homework assignments with classmates is considered cheating. In other classes, professors encourage students to do this.

Another example of the ambiguity of academic integrity deals with reporting students who you know have cheated. Keith Whitworth, an instructor of sociology, said that only about 10 percent of students report incidences of cheating.

There is a fine line between being a tattletale and being honest. Maybe students should start by casually confronting their peers whom they suspect of cheating before discussing the issue with the professor.

Since there is no solid definition of cheating, many students cheat without knowing it. Syllabuses say to refer to the student handbook for guidelines about cheating. But do students actually do that? Probably not.

“It’s more of crime of convenience and opportunity,” said Justin Brown, chair of the TCU Integrity Week committee. “It (academic integrity) is not something that is pressing on their minds.”

But it needs to be.

The honor code task force sponsored Integrity Week last week to promote dialogue and raise awareness about the importance of academic integrity. Events ranged from a movie and discussion about academic integrity to a dorm storm to a panel discussion. The events were well attended, with the campus kickoff Monday reaching about 350 students.

Academic integrity is important on many levels. It is about more than grades. It is about developing an ethical lifestyle.

College is preparation for the “real world.” If you can get away with cheating on a test or plagiarizing a paper in college, you will be inclined to think that it is acceptable to cheat on things after college, too.

But after college, more than a grade is at stake. People’s lives and lifestyles are in jeopardy. For example, the Enron fiasco ruined hundreds of peoples’ lives. It all happened because somebody thought it would be OK to cheat on the numbers.

Cheating weakens the importance of learning. College teaches students skills they will need after they graduate. If someone graduates with a degree in accounting but doesn’t really understand how to balance a checkbook, the clients of that “accountant” are in trouble.

If someone graduates with a degree in nursing but does not know how to convert measurements, he or she could kill people by accidentally giving overdoses.

Andrew Schoolmaster, dean of the Addran College of Humanities and Social Sciences, stated at the Integrity Week panel discussion, “life is not a multiple-choice exam.”

If you don’t actually learn the skills you will need in your profession, why do you go to college? Education is a case where the means is more important than the end.

It is the process of learning rather than the actual diploma or GPA that counts.

Academic dishonesty undermines the value of a degree. It doesn’t matter if you have a 4.0 GPA and are president of 15 student organizations. If companies do not believe that you maintained that GPA or got elected to those positions in an ethical manner, they will not hire you.

That’s a lot at stake just for a grade. Make an effort to find out what is cheating and what is not. Develop an ethical lifestyle. Learn the skills you need to succeed. Trust me; you’ll be better off that way.

Christina Durano is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Albuquerque, N.M.