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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.


Comments Comments

Adan said on Aug 1, 2011
I believe Francesca should not say anything to the professor. This is a daily occurence happening in middle school, high school, college, and so on. It happens and sometime us as students have to live with it. I have been angered personally seeing things like this as I see those students prosper with a good grade and i get an OKAY grade. It sucks, it really does but who ends up hurting at the end? The student that cheated will not prosper at the end and those who EARNED their grade will. I learn the material and although my grades may not show it, my work will. While those who cheat may have higher grades, later on when they are on the work force they will fail. Karma works in mysteries ways. She is better off letting nature takes it course because everything always catches up to people - Like - 16 people like this.
April said on Jul 16, 2014
You draw a good point, but what if the students were taking an exam for heart surgery or other critical care functions, and those that passed were then allowed to go straight to the ER and start to work on patients that are in the ECU. would it then be morally okay to not report the cheaters? to be accepted and "live" with your fellow students, must you comprimise your ethics? - Like
JP said on Aug 3, 2011
Francesca should probably not tell the professor about the cheating. It happens and we have to live with it. Eventually, the cheating will deliver its consequences. However, if she really felt obligated to, she could tell the professor anonymously. By not doing something about the cheating is also considered irresponsible. For example, watching someone get in a fight and not tell someone about it, can get the viewers in trouble. That's why filming a fight is considered illegal in some jurisdictions. While filming a fight, that person should have sought help for the situation, instead of being there to 'promote it'. In this case, Francesca should probably tell her friends that she saw them cheating and tell them that it was wrong. Cheating in the end will hurt the cheater. The person who cheated will not prosper at the end, and those who learned the material will. Those who cheat will eventually find it hard to work in the real world. It will eventually catch up the cheater in the end. - Like - 19 people like this.
Adan said on Aug 3, 2011
There is honestly no way to anonymously tell a professor about cheating and I also do not see that changing anything throughout the course. We have all done it. Everyone cheats once or twice in their life, but to have your professor state "I was tipped by someone that you were cheating" is all wrong. Plus it is just an accusation for the student. The professor will have no proof of actual cheating, but just word of mouth. This type of situation would just make the whole class at fault and he could drop the test/lower everyone's grade/ or something to that point. Tipping the professor will affect everyone not just the cheater. She is better just staying quiet. And also there is a huge difference between cheating and recording a brawl in public. You cannot compare both, they are just to different. - Like - 12 people like this.
HB said on Aug 4, 2011
The sad truth is that were this a real life situation, she probably would not tell her professor. What she ought to do though, is put it down in the evaluation. Praise the professor for whatever s/he did well in evaluations and mention as a side-note "In the future, you may want to be careful about stepping out of the room during large tests," this allows Francesca to stay anonymous in that particular class, but her teacher will probably make the changes in future courses. Not to mention, since department heads read evaluations they will warn other professors to be more careful about leaving classrooms unattended. Although, in that particular class Francesca may receive an A- rather than an A due to her peer's cheating, at least in the future, she'll be in a fairer environment and that one grade won't matter. The real problem here is temptation. The professor tempted the students by giving them a chance to cheat by walking out of the classroom. Students (in my experience witnessing in-class cheating - which differs from cheating on term papers) cheat less when the teacher gives them less opportunity to do so. I would not advocate installing cameras in every classroom to "monitor" cheating, but I would advocate teachers creating an environment that removes some temptation and one that makes students recognize that they do not have to cheat. There are other options. Taking advantage of those other options does not make you "stupider" or "unable to handle the quarter system", it makes you a human being. And more than that, it's why you pay to attend a university with professors as great as the ones at SCU. Cheating is unfortunately something that happens very often in the academic world. Teachers need to be flexible with their students (as they often are at SCU), if students are struggling to complete a paper on time, teachers will almost always extend the deadline for that particular student or class. And with respect to in class tests, teachers should offer multiple test dates to students, "Feel free to take this test either this day in office hours or in class on Friday". This way, if students want to party on Thursday, they have the opportunity to complete their test early and go out and party. When giving an in class test, teachers should not leave the classroom unless necessary. This does not encourage cheating, but it tempts cheaters. The goal of college (the reason that we pay so much money) is to learn. Cheaters cheat themselves out of this experience. That said though, in order to be fit to learn, everyone must have free time and fun time with friends. Francesca should not have felt as though she had to choose between studying and spending time with her friends. Everyone should have be able to do both. Other interesting things to think about: The recent NYU cheating scandal. My own personal feelings about cheating: An unfortunate reality is that cheating does in fact happen at great universities, by students who probably were capable of the work. I have never cheated on any test in my life, and the reason is that I have an extremely guilty conscious. I could not handle the stress involved with cheating. Peers have asked me, "Would you cheat if you knew you wouldn't get caught?" The answer is "No" because _I'd_ know and I'd always feel as though everyone else would know. That said - I've been frustrated by my peers that do cheat, especially when they seem to get into better universities than me. I believe that SCU really does a decent job thwarting cheating. I've never felt pressure at the university level to cheat. The main reason being that professors here will work with students to reschedule tests or do whatever is necessary so long as they can see that the student truly is trying and does care about their class. - Like - 2 people like this.
Deepti said on Aug 4, 2011
If I were Francesca, I'd tell the professor about Nick and Chloe cheating on the exam. This is not because I consider myself some kind of guardian of other people's morals. I view what Nick and Chloe did as completely unethical, but if the test wasn't being graded on a curve, I might just ignore the cheating because it wasn't hurting me or anyone else in the class. If the teacher didn't grade on the curve, I would only be competing against myself: I'd be scored on my own merit. While Nick's and Chloe's actions might be frustrating, given the fact that I had spent the previous night studying while they partied, they wouldn't directly affect the grades of the rest of the class. The fact is, however, that the test is being graded on a curve. This means that Francesca's grade is relative to everyone else's. It would be completely unfair if Francesca or some other innocent person in the class got a lower grade because cheaters threw off the scale. I would understand if Francesca chose not to tell, since it's tough being viewed as the snitch. But I don't think Nick and Chloe deserve any kind of protection from the consequences of their blatant and purposeful dishonesty. Maybe Francesca could convey the message to her professor anonymously as suggested above, or else request that he/she keep quiet about who reported the cheating. - Like - 6 people like this.
vanessa said on Aug 4, 2011
I think it is definitely true that what you put in is what you get back. Students who elect to cheat are shooting themselves in the foot; their transcript will contradict their actual ability and it's only a matter of time before it shows. Even so, I don't think I could just "let it be". In this scenario, I wouldn't say anything. I would take out my phone and snap a picture of them cheating. When it's said and done I'll give them a choice between putting away the device or me submitting the proof to the professor as soon as he returns. Whatever transpires is up to them. Of course I would like to not have enemies, but if my roommates end up loathing me for it I am willing to accept that. If you let people step all over you they will. What's the point of having principles if you can't adhere to them? In the real world I don't want to be looked on as a coward or a follower. Good leaders have to be able to take initiative, even if the consequences are uncertain. - Like - 4 people like this.
Adan said on Aug 4, 2011
In all seriousness. She is better off keeping her mouth shut. She does not want any issues with her peers because telling the teacher will not benefit anyone. Karma. What goes around comes around. The cheaters will end up hurting at the end. - Like - 11 people like this.
Cameron said on Aug 5, 2011
Though what Nick and Chloe were doing is quite obviously wrong, I don't think Francesca should tell the professor. Of course, she has every right to do so since her grade may be affected if the curve is ruined by a couple of cheaters. But if I were Francesca, I would leave it alone. I've never been one to tell on someone else. I know that it might be ethical to report the cheating to the professor so the rest of the class doesn't suffer, but I cannot get past the guilt I would feel for causing someone else to fail a test. Also, the potential backlash from snitching is just not worth it. The cheater may fail the test, but you are going to lose a lot of respect and trust from other students. Let the professor do the policing and focus on your own work. Besides, I've found that cheaters usually get what they deserve. Sometimes a professor catches them and they are publicly called out, embarrassed, and dismissed. Even more often, if the students are unable to succeed in the class without cheating, they will eventually encounter an assignment or test that they cannot cheat on and will end up failing anyway. You can only get so far with crib sheets; they never compare to true understanding. - Like - 2 people like this.
Amando said on Aug 7, 2011
Francesca would practically be lying to the professor if she doesn't inform him that there was cheating during the test. However, I don't think she should name anybody, because depending on the schools honor code, they could be expelled and their lives potentially ruined, which usually you don't want to do to friends. Instead she should talk to her friends about what she saw, tell them that she is absolutely not okay with it, and explain the possible outcome of their actions.  If she wants, she could even help her friends get back on track, For example study together or something of the like, so that next time her friends won't even be tempted to cheat. - Like - 9 people like this.
David DeCosse said on Aug 8, 2011
David Callahan, author of the book "The Cheating Culture," has said that we might combat cheating better if we emphasized integrity less and fairness more. Of course, there's no more lasting and challenging argument to cheaters like Nick and Chloe than to ask: "How do you maintain your integrity when you consult a crib sheet on an iPod during an exam? But too often, the challenge of integrity can be avoided, especially in our privatizing culture. "Sure, I may have used a crib sheet," a student will say. "But I had to. And, anyhow, it doesn't hurt anyone else." And here, Callahan says, the argument from fairness needs to be used more. Cheating, he argues, almost always does hurt someone else. On a curved exam, like the one Nick and Chloe are taking, cheaters affect the distribution of grades. On an un-curved exam, cheaters de-value the efforts of those who take the test honestly. Cheaters also affect the value of the degree of every student at a school. Finally, thinking of fairness - with its suggestion that others are always affected by cheating - helps us to see that cheating is always an issue of culture and community. Colleges should push hard to create a culture against cheating, in part by requiring a zero tolerance attitude by all on campus. And so, for the sake of the curve and the campus culture, Francesca should report Nick and Chloe, who are both harming others and the entire school. - Like - 3 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Aug 8, 2011
This was a hard one to judge because there were several interesting comments. In the end, the nod goes to Vanessa for her "out of the box" thinking about how to handle the situation. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Jule said on Aug 18, 2011
I am struck by the many commenters here who advocate for silence reasoning that karma will "get" the cheaters at some point. Hmmm, I wish I could believe that but I've seen too many cheaters get away with it only to prosper and thrive. For integrity's sake call them out... - Like - 1 person likes this.
Amanda said on Aug 21, 2011
No one commenting seems to give the professor any credit in dealing with the cheaters tactfully. I would most definitely inform my professor, during office hours or immediately after class or via email that there were people cheating and I would give him/her their names. Keeping quiet and waiting for Karma to come is ineffective. People cheat all the way through college then get great jobs because of their amazing GPAs and just learn to cheat the system there too. A college professor is NOT going to be a retard and name drop when confronting people about cheating. Give the professor some credit. The cheaters would probably be dropped from the course, maybe even expelled (they do it for plagiarism, a type of cheating) so worrying about "Oh I have to live with these people" shouldn't be an issue. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Student said on Aug 23, 2011
To Jule: I think it's good you take a stand for integrity. Also, I think the idea that something like this happens all the time is used a reason to just deal with it and not call out the cheater. So what. Yes, bad things do happen everyday, but that doesn't mean they can't be changed. This is a peer purposefully choosing to cheat - it's not lightening striking at random - it's a choice. If we don't hold each other accountable for our choices, bad things happen. Turning a blind eye leads to so many negative situations from major corporate fraud, to petty theft, to dozens of people hearing cries for help, but doing nothing. Sure.. it's just a test, just a grade - but it's not fair and accountability is lost if nothing is done. Amanda - I agree and hope the professor would do more. Also, "not to be a retard" is offensive. There's a lot of negative impact with that word. Just saying. - Like
Disappointed student said on Dec 3, 2011
Although we usually think that we will always follow ethics and if a situation arises, we will report it to the appropriate authority as it is our responsibility. In reality, we would ususally not do it! I experienced a similar situation in which a co-student told me that she had a copy of a quiz that another friend in common had given to her, since she had taken that class previusly with the same teacher, and that she will give me, and to other two students, a copy of it (and others). I said "no thank you, is that what you learned in the ethics class? I would rather study and get the grade I deserve." But that was it. I did not report the incident. I thought about them as of what would happen to them if I reported them. Anyway, I think the teacher did not use the same quizzes from last class, as they expected. They got very bad grades, and I got an A in the class. - Like
Dave said on Jun 3, 2015
I am in a very similar predicament right now. I will wait until before the final exam. If I know am going to pass for sure, I wont say anything. But if I am not going to pass, bkz the cheaters grades threw off the curve, I am bringing everyone down with me. This is how its done in the real world. I also may black mail the cheaters if they give me any grief before then. - Like
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Tags: academic integrity, cheating, college