Kurt McKee

lessons learned in production

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Academic dishonesty

Posted 16 November 2010 in life

In the past three months I've been surprised to hear of people not just committing, but actively bragging about, academic dishonesty.

Sometime in September I attended a performance at a nearby college. A friend of a friend also attended to get a program signed so she would get credit for a class. The problem was that she only stayed for the first piece and then slipped out the back. I'm told that she frequently doesn't even bother to show up, she just has other people get professors to sign programs for her. She's been defrauding the school's music department -- from which she's working to earn a degree -- so that she can attend her Christian group's Tuesday night meetings, which seems to be cognitive dissonance at its soul-sucking worst.

Last month, while visiting a friend's house, a housemate's friend came to visit and asked to borrow a laptop. An athlete, she asked for suggestions while composing a letter to a professor. "I have to take this make-up exam tomorrow, and I can't miss it because I missed the first one because of a game, but I don't want to stay up late studying for it tonight, so I'm trying to figure out the best way to say that the team got stuck in Atlanta and I won't be able to make it."

I asked if the professor might notice that the rest of the team taking the make-up exam wasn't similarly stuck in Atlanta, but she said they weren't in the same class, so the professor would never know. She continued that she really didn't want to study in the first place, so she would concentrate her studying -- excuse me, "studying" -- by simply looking over a make-up exam from one of the boys in the class.

I cautiously asked if she thought that that would constitute academic dishonesty. "No, he'll probably change the order of the questions. It won't be the same test." She further justified her fraud and deceit by pointing out that not only was this a distribution class, but she doesn't even like the class! (It occurs to me in retrospect that this girl is good friends with the first girl, and that both are in the same Christian group. I guess the two share beliefs beyond religion.)

Finally, two weeks ago one of my brothers told me that, while with a friend, some guy walked up to his friend and announced that he had just handed in his paper. "Man, I plagiarised the shit out of that paper!" Frankly, I was glad to hear that my brother informed the university of the problem. Whether it got addressed, he doesn't know.

When I was taking an electrical engineering course, I remember the professor announcing to the class that he didn't personally care if the students attempted to cheat on the final. He reasoned that the student would only be hurting himself by being unprepared for the succeeding class, and since he graded on an absolute scale, it really wouldn't affect other students. However, he issued a stern warning: anyone caught cheating would be reported to the university without exception.

Three students in the class were caught cheating on that final.

Academic dishonesty concerns me, as does the enabling culture of acceptance I've witnessed in the past few months. People who brag about their fraud, however, infuriate me.