An environment that discourages cheating is truly needed at CSUN

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Having been to nine schools throughout my life, I’ve seen students cheat in all kinds of ways.

In elementary school, while taking tests or quizzes, there was the old whisper-an-answer-to-your-classmate or look-at-your-classmate’s-paper method students used for cheating.

In junior high, some wrote answers on their hands or desks.

High school had a mix of all of those tactics, but cheating was on a larger scale. More students used calculators and watches to cheat. Others even cheated by making coughs and sneezes represent answers.

A lot of these methods have become more advance these days.

In college, students can now use camera-equipped cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other forms of technology to cheat. Most likely, the same is happening in junior high and high school.

As the threat for cheating remains, the Academic Technology Committee at CSUN is looking into whether or not cheating with cell phones and other technologies is covered in the university’s Academic Dishonesty policy, according to committee chair John Noga. The committee may modify the policy and wait for approval. As a result faculty, who determine their class policies, may become more vigilant to watch for cell phones.

Cheating has been a substantial, nationwide problem, not only with tests, but with plagiarism, buying papers and other forms of cheating.

The Center for Academic Integrity conducted a study in June 2005 on academic dishonesty. Results showed that 70 percent of undergraduates “on most campuses” acknowledged they had done some cheating. This nationwide survey was done with over 60 colleges and universities. About 50,000 students participated in it.

Here is a glimpse of the academic dishonesty that has taken place at CSUN:

From Spring 2001-Summer 2002, there were 25 incidents of plagiarism reported. Sixty one incidents were reported from Spring 2002-Summer 2003, according to a report two journalism professors presented to the Center for Excellence in Learning and Training in Fall 2003. The information in the report was gathered by CSUN’s Vice President of Student Affairs office.

Tackling the possible cell phone problem can help get rid of some cheating, but it won’t do much. The root problem isn’t with the technology, but the problem lies within the person’s philosophy of cheating.

Donald McCabe, founder of the CAI, helped in a study that reported that universities and campuses that had academic honor codes had less incidents of academic dishonesty. The study, published in the mid 90s, is a little outdated, but it has a true and profound principle: schools with academic honor codes have a better environment of academic integrity.

But the truth is people will continue to cheat.

There is no direct answer that can completely stop it, but if we could create such an environment of academic integrity by campaigning the idea around campus or stressing it more in the classroom, it would be a big help.

When you cultivate a certain mindset in your community, especially a positive one like academic integrity, it really can change things.

Cheaters might argue that the class he or she is cheating in is a general education course that doesn’t apply to their career, so what’s the big deal, right?

But you must keep in mind, however, that you have compromised yourself. You should realize that you just cheated yourself.

Sam Richard can be reached at samuel.richard@csun.edu.