Academic Integrity – Why I Care

I teach at a school that has yet to make the leap from quarters to semesters.  This means, while everyone else is on that last hard push from spring break to final exams, we are gearing up for a new term that will run through early June.  Last week, I had to start my new classes.  If you’re an academic, you know what this means. I had to cover a multitude of school policies, briefly mention my course outline, and make sure everyone had read the syllabus. There was one topic I spent more time on than most of the others: Academic Integrity.

I may have actually spent too much time on this topic. I had one student asked me if I punished offending students by dragging them out and executing them by firing squad (oh, the joys of a military school). While it is not quite that serious, I do take it very seriously. Why? Because cheating is not just taking the easy way out.  It is much more than that.

When a student cheats, it is theft. It means that not only have they been wasting their time, but they have been making me waste my time as well. But once again, that’s not the worst part of it. By volunteering for teaching, I opened myself up to such wastes of time.

What is even more offensive to me is the fact that for every cheating student, there is one who has put in the effort and achieved the purposes of the course. They actually did the work, learned something, and was able to excel in the graded assignments. When someone achieves the same outcome as they do, without putting forth the effort, it cheapens their success. And THAT is what gets my blood boiling.

I’ve always known there were cheaters, but I never really gave it that much thought.  I rarely see people cheating during tests, though I’m sure it happens. The most blatant violations are on the term papers. I’ve seen everything from Wikipedia articles (on the wrong topic, and complete with the donate links) to examples I had  written being turned back into me to grade.

I have never had a student argue with me when I confronted them about it. They knew it was wrong when they did it. And yet, they did it anyway thinking I either wouldn’t notice or wouldn’t care. With the rise of shadow scholars and the ease of downloading papers of the internet, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that it is becoming more common.

I guess people will continue to try to cheat and plagiarize. But as long as they so, I will continue to check their work. I don’t want to find it, but if I do, I want it to be a learning experience for them in the future. And when it comes right down for it, I would rather have the offending student upset with me than cheapen the work and dedication the students who have actually put forth the effort.

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