Survey reevaluates criteria for academic integrity

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Student responses will ultimately determine changes to Fairfield University’s policy on academic integrity.

The school’s regulations define academic integrity as intellectual honesty.

Beginning Oct. 22, an academic integrity survey is being launched via student mailboxes. The goal of this survey is “to paint an accurate picture of our own campus attitudes, compare those with other campuses and in doing so engage the campus community in a conversation about integrity,” according to Dr. Kathy Nantz, professor of Economics and head of the survey task force.

The results of the survey will be returned in December.

But where does Fairfield stand at the moment? An informal survey of 29 students shows a preview of what the survey may reveal. It found several results regarding cheating, including:

All 29 students have witnessed another student openly and purposely cheating.

11 students admitted to openly and purposely cheating themselves.

Roughly 25 percent of the students felt guilty and undeserving of a grade they received in the past.

22 students felt angry and bothered when witnessing another student cheat.

If most people become angry with others for cheating, why do students cheat?

Some students argued that they turn to cheating as a coping mechanism for heavy workloads, and they feel as if it is their only escape from the demanding college schedule. Other students feel pressured to succeed and believe cheating is their only option to do well.

”Society puts so much importance on GPA and succeeding in the classroom and with some courses, no matter how hard I study, I know I am not going to live up to these high standards,” said a junior named Alex, who prefers that her last name remain unknown. “Cheating, with the possibility of getting caught, was worth the risk for me because I feel good about myself when I get good grades.”

But Fairfield isn’t the only school with a cheating problem.

One of the most famous cheating scandals comes from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

The school prides itself on honesty and states on their website that their mission is to prepare each graduate to be “a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country.” In addition, their code of honor that simply reads, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Yet this code of honor was severely violated.

In a 1976 cheating scandal, more than 150 cadets resigned or were expelled for cheating on a take-home electrical engineering exam, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal.

A more recent scandal at Harvard shows another example of how no school is superior when it comes to cheating.

An examination given at Harvard was “open book, open note, open Internet”, but there was one other small rule:

”students may not discuss the exam with others.”

Although still under investigation, it is suspected that more than half of the class of over 250 students “inappropriately collaborated or plagiarized on that exam,” according to CNN.

When approached, the students at Harvard were bewildered that they were even being accused of cheating.

”It’s horrible when any student cheats or is accused of cheating. But, we look to Harvard as one of the world’s leader institutions in education, and as a leader, we look for more from places like Harvard,” said American ethicist Bruce Weinstein.

Based on these occurrences, there seems to be much confusion regarding academic honesty in universities nationwide.
Fairfield has exhibited similar confusion in the informal survey when 29 students questioned whether their behaviors could be considered academic dishonesty.

Fairfield University has caught on to this pattern and hopes the academic integrity survey will raise awareness about cheating across campus to produce a more academically honest atmosphere.
Students should look out for surveys in their mailboxes next week.

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