more cheating or better reporting?

University of Georgia’s independent newspaper reports that the university had 224 students reported for academic dishonesty during the 2011 fall semester – increase 50 more than the year before.

Interestingly, Debbie Bell, coordinator of academic honesty, says:

I would like to think that there isn’t more cheating going on… I would like to think that faculty, graduate students and students themselves are taking the policy more seriously.

I’ve been wondering about this myself.  When more students are reported, what does it indicate?  Does it mean that there’s more cheating or does it mean that faculty are more vigilant?

Sadly, the reported number of “224” cannot tell us much about the reality of academic honesty (or dishonesty) at University of Georgia.  The total number of full-time undergraduate students exceeds 24,000 students.  This comes out to about .9 percent – not even 1 percent.  When national surveys say that over 75 percent of students admit to cheating in college – and even with the fact that not all 75 percent of such students are cheating all the time, of course – the number reported is abysmal.

This is true at my institution as well.  Cheating happens.  Sure. But we are certainly not doing a great job of monitoring and reporting cheating.  In fact, Donald McCabe and his team’s studies have shown that a significant portion of faculty admit to witnessing and overlooking cheating. These faculty sometimes have good reasons for doing so, one of which may be lack of support from the institution.

Still, I think we all need to remind ourselves that we must defend the integrity of learning if not for ourselves and our belief in the power and value of learning… then at least for our students who work hard to do their own best, honest work.

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