I was sitting in front of the Matador Bookstore enjoying a late lunch when I overheard a student next to me asking a friend on the phone if she or he would write him a six-to-eight page paper for one of his classes.
I figured I might have misheard; maybe the guy was asking his friend to help him edit it, or type it, because he didn’t have a computer or something. Nope, as the conversation went on, I realized the guy was outright asking his friend to do his dirty work for him. He said he’d give the person $50 to do the paper.
There’s a reason why most professors’ syllabi talk about the university policy on cheating. There are some pretty harsh punishments to be had for anyone caught cheating, the most extreme of which is expulsion.
I can imagine an elementary or middle school student tinkering with the idea of cheating and maybe even getting away with it, but at the college level, not only is it more risky, it’s also more stupid. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freshman at 17 or 18, a senior at 28, or a grad student at any age. The fact remains that cheating is something that’s done by people whose age is closer to the average college student’s shoe size.
Cheaters have any number of reasons for doing what they do: they’re stressed with other classes, work, family issues, the list could go on. Perhaps they forgot about the assignment, their grade is in jeopardy and they can’t ask for an extension or turn an assignment in late. Maybe they know a friend who’s an expert in that subject, or who was in the same class that can save the day.
But the fact remains that all of those reasons are just excuses. Behind the byline, I’m a full-time student like thousands of others here at CSUN. I have to deal with term papers, exams, family issues, being broke, and my own forgetfulness just as often as anyone else. Yet never in my college career have I cheated, and I’m quite proud of that fact.
Each month, I find myself trying to balance my checkbook, chastising myself as I wonder where all the money went. If someone came up to me and offered me $50, I’d probably give it good thought; that $50 could pay for my food on-campus for several weeks, if not a month. But if that same person said they’d give it to me if I wrote their paper for them, I’d turn them down in an instant.
Why? It’s obviously not because I don’t want the money, but it’s because I hold myself to a higher standard than that. I have more integrity than that. Believe it or not, integrity is actually something that shows– not just in the way you carry yourself and how you treat others, but in the work you produce, whether that work is a term paper or a big project at work.
College is just the beginning of a long period of time when we’ll have to make tough decisions; not cheating on a class paper should really be the least difficult of those decisions. For me, it’s a no-brainer: your professor would have to have no brains to not detect a cheater in this day in age.
For upper division classes where you regularly submit writing assignments, don’t you think your professor would realize the difference between your writing style and someone else’s? And even if you’re not in one of those kind of classes, consider that the advent of the Internet makes things infinitely easier them and difficult for you at the same time.
Sure, you can copy and paste a paragraph from Wikipedia, but what makes you think your teacher can’t do the same, and find out just where you got that information from?
I would honestly like to find that guy who sat near me that day in front of the bookstore. I’d ask him if it’s really worth it to put his personal integrity, his relationship with his friend and his teacher, his reputation and his friend’s reputation on the line like that. Is $50 worth it for something that can get you kicked out of college and looked down upon, not just by your professors, but by your peers, potential employers and other institutions? I think not.
That day I was sitting in front of the bookstore; I’d just completed a major presentation for one of my classes. Murphy’s Law was in full swing that day, and anything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Somehow I managed to complete the presentation, turn it in and answer my professor’s questions. I left class that day feeling like a huge burden had been lifted off my shoulders, but I knew that there was a lot more work ahead of me. To top it off, there’s work, my family, money and plenty more to worry about.
But I can handle it. I’ve been handling it for 22 years now. All of that isn’t exclusive to here and now; it’s life. And I don’t want to live a life ashamed, thinking that I couldn’t dedicate a few hours out of what I hope will be a long, fulfilling life to write my own term paper.