Have You Cheated?

Based on an admittedly very small sample of instructors, I've learned that plagiarism -– cheating -– is quite common in academics these days. It may have been done quite frequently in pre-Internet days, but my contacts in higher education say they now see some of it in almost every class.

A cheating scandal at Harvard College brought these conversations to mind. Harvard Crimson staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins wrote a thorough report about the case Aug. 30, identifying the Spring 2012 class, Government 1310: Introduction to Congress, that is involved and reporting about 125 of the 279 students enrolled in it are being investigated for either plagiarism or collaborating on a take-home final exam.

The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and probably many other news organizations published their own stories about it.

Robbins' excellent article includes comments by some students in the class identifying problems with the exam questions that appear to have caused some classmates to collaborate, even though that was forbidden. Her article also quotes the undergraduate education dean, Jay M. Harris, saying the magnitude of the case is "unprecedented in anyone's living memory."

I'm well past the point in my life where I must pass an exam to gain something vitally important to me: a diploma, a graduate degree, or a certification, perhaps. When I did take them, I never copied anyone else's answers or tried to pass off some other person's work as my own. The Harvard students at risk here probably would say the same; in any case, a stream of comments being added to Robbins' article is as illuminating about the problem of cheating as the article itself.

Have you ever cheated on an exam or lied on a resumé? Have you uncovered cheating while teaching a class of some sort or while interviewing a job applicant? Has cheating ever affected your work or your workplace? Is it even anything to worry about, beyond academia, in your opinion?

Posted by Jerry Laws on Aug 31, 2012