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Academic dishonesty cheats the system, society

A survey published in Harvard University’s campus newspaper, The Crimson, revealed that 42% of the incoming freshman class admitted to having cheated. This is a scary statistic that makes people wonder how many of our nation’s top students got there by cheating. Those students lacking in academic integrity may soon become doctors, CEOs or politicians. Many cheaters are likely walking the sidewalks of UH now.

According to the Academic Program Management Office, three hundred students are reported for academic dishonesty each calendar year. On a campus of forty thousand people, three hundred doesn’t seem like a lot, but remember these three hundred students are just the ones who got caught.

The UH Academic Honesty Policy defines academic dishonesty as plagiarism, cheating and unauthorized group work, fabrication, falsification and misrepresentation, stealing and abuse of academic materials and complicity in academic dishonesty. That’s right, failure to report someone for cheating qualifies as academic dishonesty. The policy does a good job of defining what qualifies as academic dishonesty, setting clear expectations for students. However, what is not clear is how academic dishonesty is to be discouraged and monitored.

The Academic Honesty Policy lists several ways in which professors might discourage cheating, but these measures are not required. In classrooms which seat three hundred students where the professors do not know each student, there is no requirement for checking IDs and often, professors work on their computers at the front of the class rather than monitoring their students, making sharing answers as easy as glancing at a neighbor’s paper. This is not to say that all professors don’t care about academic integrity in their classes — many patrol the room for a full hour and a half. For the professors who monitor their students’ academic integrity, however, there are others who do not take needed precautions. Without clear expectations for professors on discouraging and monitoring academic integrity, it is too easy for students to get away with cheating.

The statistic of 42% of Harvard’s incoming freshmen having cheated in the past cannot simply be due to lax standards. There is a train of thought permeating throughout American students that the only problem with cheating is the chance of getting caught. This thinking, combined with inconsistent and lacking policies in educational institutions, has created a culture of students who will do whatever they can to get ahead, as long as they don’t get caught.

This trend is a detriment not only to students, but to universities, businesses and our nation as a whole. By giving degrees to people who have committed academic dishonesty, universities not only invalidate the work of those who didn’t cheat, but also invalidate their own credibility. Applying the same loose morals to business amounts to Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme or the sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2007. Academic dishonesty and shady business practices are not just ways to get ahead. Whether or not the perpetrator is caught, their actions are negatively affecting those around them and invalidating the hard work so many people do.

While UH’s policy in monitoring academic integrity may be lacking, that is no reason or excuse to cheat. If one could get away with murder, it wouldn’t be any less morally reprehensible. Academic dishonesty is a choice. It is not the job of the University to tell us that cheating is wrong; it is their job to make sure those committing acts of academic dishonesty face the repercussions.

 Opinion columnist Emily Johnson is an English literature freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

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