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The Big Q

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The following postings have been filtered by tag academic integrity. clear filter
  •  Academic Performance Enhancement

    Monday, Dec. 2, 2013


    Frank and Bobby are freshmen at a university on the semester system. They meet at orientation and bond over their major, Economics, and their hobby of playing sports. They decide to request one another as roommates, and both enroll in the same mathematics class: calculus for business majors.
    The two get off to a bad start academically. They are experiencing the freedom of living on their own for the first time. No parents are around to make sure they are keeping up with their homework assignments or readings. In fact, since Frank and Bobby are both in the same math class, they often take turns going to class. It starts off with the boys alternating going to class, but eventually turns into both boys often skipping.
    One evening, midway through the semester, Frank and Bobby run into a classmate who informs them they have a midterm the next morning. They successfully get her class notes, however they soon realize they don’t have enough time to study unless they pull an all-nighter.
    Bobby doesn’t believe he can stay up all night and still perform well on the test the next morning.  He decides that it’s in his best interest to create a cheat sheet and plug equations into his calculator. He
    Frank is against cheating. He calls out Bobby, saying that this is unethical. Instead, he buys two Adderall pills from a student in their dorm who has ADD. He has heard that taking Adderall helps you stay awake and focus.
    Bobby gets upset when he finds out Frank is taking Adderall to study. Bobby claims that there is no difference between taking a drug that isn’t prescribed to you to help you study and bringing in a cheat sheet. Bobby says they are both forms of cheating. Frank disagrees, claiming that at least he’s going through the process of studying for the midterm.
    Do you believe it’s cheating to take an academic performance-enhancing drug that isn’t prescribed to you? If so, is it cheating to the same degree as blatantly bringing a cheat sheet to your midterm? Is relying on academic performance-enhancing drugs to study dangerous in long term?
    Useful Resources:
    Photo by Life Metal Health under a Creative Commons license.
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**


  •  Emails Exposed

    Monday, Oct. 14, 2013

    The best student comment on "Emails Exposed" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, October 27th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
    Robert is on the baseball team at a small college in Texas. He’s a high profile player on the team, and as a result he has a lot of followers on Twitter and a large network on Facebook. For this reason, the members of the athletic board at his college think it’s necessary to monitor his social media accounts. In Texas, there is no law to prevent schools from requiring individuals to give up their personal social media login and password information, so Robert is forced to hand over his social media account information.
    University officials say that the intent of monitoring is to identify potential compliance and behavioral issues early on, enabling athletic departments to educate athletes on how to present themselves online. They regularly check what Robert posts and flag certain postings they have issues with.
    One day Robert tweets “Skipping class to break bad #schoolsucks #bettercallsaul #breakingbad.” Since Robert publicly admits to skipping class, school officials flag the post and decide to also start monitoring Robert’s email account without informing him.
    Since the school provides an email account as a service to its students and faculty, it reserves the right to search its own system’s stored data. According to the college’s student handbook, administrators may access student email accounts in order to safeguard the system or “to ensure compliance with other University rules.” The policy does not mention whether or not account owners have to be notified that their emails are searched.
    When searching Robert’s email account, university officials find several questionable emails between Robert and his tutor. It seems that Robert’s tutor has been sending him all answers to homework assignments and quizzes. As a result of the investigation, Robert is placed on athletic probation and his tutor is fired.
    Should universities be allowed to monitor student email and social media accounts? If so, under what circumstances?
    What crosses the line between campus safety and invasion of privacy?
    Are university rules regarding email and social media monitoring too vague? If so, how can these rules be changed for more clarity?
    Should Robert have been punished for cheating in class if he did not know his email was being monitored? What about his tutor?
    Useful Resources:
    Photo by cmm08f available under a Creative Commons license.


  •  A Tale of Two Cheaters

    Wednesday, Apr. 24, 2013
    The best student comment on "A Tale of Two Cheaters" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 5th, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 
    **DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**
    Rebecca is a freshman this year, and the transition from high school to college has been pretty academically difficult for her. She has always been an excellent student, however, so she takes the challenge in stride.
    After turning in a final paper for one of her English classes, Rebecca receives an e-mail from her professor informing her that she has failed the class. Rebecca can’t believe it—perhaps she put less effort into this paper than her others, but she certainly didn’t produce F-quality work! She immediately responds and asks why. Her professor informs Rebecca that she had included a paragraph in her paper that was copied and pasted verbatim from an online source, and that Rebecca had failed to provide a citation. The professor then refers Rebecca to the section on academic integrity in the course syllabus, which clearly states that any student found plagiarizing will fail the course.
    At the same university that week, Nick wraps up his first round of sophomore year exams. He’s thrilled to be heading home for break after an extremely tough quarter, and is pretty happy with his grades as they begin showing up online. However, he notices he received a C in a class that he was expecting a solid A in, and e-mails his professor to ask why. His professor responds that she found several instances of plagiarism in his final paper, so he failed his final assignment, and that affected his final grade. She also notes that this is consistent with her policy on academic integrity as stated in her syllabus.
    Ultimately, for similar acts of plagiarism at the same school, Rebecca and Nick suffer very different consequences. Rebecca fails a course, while Nick fails a final paper. Is this fair?  Should schools force faculty to have the same policy about plagiarism across the board, or should it be up to the faculty’s discretion?  What would be a fair punishment?
    Useful Resources


  •  It Would Be an Honor

    Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
    Do Honor Codes work?

    This post is not a part of our bi-weekly Big Q contest, which will return in January. However, with finals coming up, please comment on this relevant and controversial topic! Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.


    Does your school have an Honor Code?

    If so, do you think that it really works?

    Why or why not? 


    For further reading on this topic, check out these articles: 

    Academic Dishonesty: Honor Codes and Other Contextual Influences


    Empirical Support for Academic Honor Codes


    Do University Honor Codes Work?


    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making 




    Photo by CollegeDegrees360 available under a Creative Commons License on Flickr. 


  •  Once a Cheater...

    Monday, Jul. 23, 2012
    Devon has to decide if he can trust his friend Cory, who regularly cheats on schoolwork.

    The best college student comment on "Once A Cheater..." wins a $200 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, August 5. Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.

    Devon thought it might be difficult to make friends when he went to college, but three weeks into his freshman year, he had already found two of the best friends he could ask for. They did everything together, from basketball to homework. And, as luck would have it, Devon randomly shared the same class as one of these friends, Cory.

    In that class, Devon noticed that his friend cheated profusely. Not only would Cory plagiarize assignments, but he would also use his phone to cheat on tests. Still they were friends; whatever Cory did in class was his own business and shouldn’t matter to the friendship, Devon thought.

    One night, however, the three friends were playing poker, and Cory kept getting good hand after good hand. As much as Devon wanted to call it coincidence, he couldn’t help thinking of Cory cheating in class. On a later day, Devon played against his two friends in basketball; Cory claimed he was fouled even though Devon didn’t see it.

    Now, Cory has asked to “look over” Devon’s essay for their class--just to give Cory an idea of where to start. Devon wants to help his friend out, but worries about what Cory’s real intentions might be.
    Is Devon just being paranoid? Would it make sense for Devon to trust his other friend more than Cory? Does cheating in class reflect anything about your character outside of it? 

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What is Plagiarism, and is it Always Bad?


    Photo by theentiregospel available under a Creative Commons license on Google Images.

  •  Cheat Sheet

    Thursday, Jun. 21, 2012

    The best college student comment on "Cheat Sheet" wins a $200 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, August 5.  Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.

    Shelby has been studying for the past two weeks for her final in chemistry. Her grade in the class is much lower than it should be, and her father has warned her to improve it or there will be consequences. So declining party invitations, restricting her time with friends, and spending hours in the library, Shelby has done a lot to prepare for this exam.

    Come test day, Shelby sits next to a mutual friend of hers that lives on the same floor in their dorm. Talking with her before the test begins, Shelby notices that this friend has hidden a cheat sheet at the top of her backpack.

    Ordinarily, Shelby wouldn’t be concerned about it; however, the professor has already announced that he will be grading the test on a strict curve. Even if everyone does really well, the professor will divide up the grades to make sure there’s a limited amount of A’s and B’s. Should Shelby report what she’s seen to the teacher? Should she keep it to herself? What would you do?


    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What Does It Really Mean to Curve Grades?


    Photo by Mr_Stein available under a Creative Commons license.

  •  What's Wrong With Cheating?

    Monday, Jun. 18, 2012


    With about two-thirds of 14,000 undergraduates in a recent study admitting that they cheat on tests and assignments, colleges and universities are looking for ways to engage students on the importance of academic integrity.
    This summer, The Big Q will focus on cheating. Every two weeks beginning June 25 and ending July 30, The Big Q Facebook page and blog will feature a new case study illustrating an aspect of academic integrity. A $200 Amazon gift card will go to the best undergraduate response on each of three cases. The Big Q will also run a weekly poll on students' attitudes toward cheating.
    For the past three years, the Ethics Center has partnered with SCU's Office of Student Life to offer summer sessions on academic integrity to every incoming freshman at Santa Clara.
    "What we've found," says Center Assistant Director Miriam Schulman, "is that students often think of cheating as a victimless crime—an action that may be unethical but that doesn't hurt anyone else." The materials for The Big Q project put cheating in the context of fairness, showing how it provides an unfair advantage that does, indeed, harm classmates.
    Also, Schulman notes, "Many students believe that they can quarantine cheating—just doing it in classes outside their major or courses that have no impact on their professional readiness. " In response, The Big Q case studies encourage students to think about how the act of cheating changes the cheater, eroding character in ways that affect every aspect of their lives.
    SCU will be using the cases and polls this year in 26 orientation sessions for freshmen, and organizers hope the dialog spreads beyond the Santa Clara campus. The Big Q is free and available to faculty or staff at any university who wish to use the materials. Contests are open to any student at a 2- or 4-year college or university. 


  •  Dangerous Curves

    Monday, Aug. 1, 2011

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon Gift Certificate.  Responses must be received by midnight August 7, 2011.

    Francesca is taking an introductory chemistry class this quarter with a bunch of people from her dorm. Knowing that chemistry is not her strongest subject, she studies regularly. Before the midterm, her friends from the dorm go out partying, but she stays up all night going over the material.

    Francesca goes into the exam feeling somewhat confident. She knows the professor will grade on the curve, and she will probably do better than her dormmates, who have hardly cracked the book. During the exam the professor leaves the room temporarily. While he is gone, Francesca notices Nick, a guy from her dorm, sneakily pulling out his IPod and consulting a crib sheet he has downloaded. He then passes the IPod over to Chloe. Both of them notice her watching, and wink at her.

    Should Francesca inform the professor of this cheating? Won't her dormmates suspect she was the "snitch"? She has to live with these people for the rest of the year.


    Here are some resources you might find useful

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making

    Cheating in College is Widespread - But Why?

    What Does It Really Mean to Curve Grades?


    Photo by Jixar available under Attribution- Non Commercial- No Derivs License.


  •  I Can't Get a C

    Monday, May. 9, 2011

    Tell us what you think.  Best student response wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

    Melissa is a pre-med student at a large university. She prefers taking classes that relate directly to her emphasis. However, Melissa knows that she has to take general education requirements to graduate. She decides to take "An Introduction to Art History," an easy class, to balance out the hard science classes she must take this quarter.

    It turns out that Art History has weekly homework assignments--nothing difficult, but Melissa never seems to have time to do them. She reasons that she shouldn't waste her energy on class content that she will never use. Still, the teacher does grade the homework and Melissa cannot afford do poorly in the class because medical schools will care about her GPA. She ends up copying a classmate's homework on a weekly basis. Does Melissa really need to spend time on this gen-ed when she has more important classes to worry about?

    Here are some resources that may help:

    Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research

    Fundamental Values Project--Center for Academic Integrity

    A Framework for Ethical Decision Making



    Photo by Dany Sakugawa available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

  •  Group Project

    Monday, May. 2, 2011

    Kyle, Mia, Raymond, and Jasmine have been friends since they started college as communication majors three years ago. This semester, they're all taking the quantitative research methods class, which requires a group project instead of a final exam. The four of them decide to work together on the project, which includes designing and carrying out a survey, and writing a report on their findings.

    Problems crop up pretty quickly. Mia is also taking a TV production class at the same time, which is enormously time consuming. She misses the meeting where the group finalizes the wording of the survey and divvies up the responsibilities for administering it. When she learns what her group has assigned her, she tells them right away that there's no way she can complete so many surveys by the deadline because of all the work she has for TV production. Instead, she offers to take on more of the writing when the time comes to do the report.

    Although the others aren't thrilled with this arrangement, they cover part of her assigned surveys so that they can stay on schedule. Mia makes good on her promise to do extra writing for the final report, but she's really pressed for time, and the rest of the team is very unhappy with the quality of her work. Should they hand the report in as is or rewrite it? If they rewrite it, should they tell the professor that Mia did not do her share?

    Best student comment wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.  Comments must be posted by May 8, 2011, at midnight.

    Here are some resources:

    Group Project Tips for College Students

    Ethics of Team Work

    Framework for Ethical Decision Making


    Photo by hackNY available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.