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Once a Cheater...

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

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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.

Comments Comments

Kelly Adams said on Jul 31, 2012
I feel like it's extremely difficult to compartmentalize honesty in one area of your life and not have it affect any other areas. While Cory might not be a "bad person" but merely a guy making poor choices, I feel that once someone is dishonest with something (such as academics), it is much easier to be dishonest about everything else (like the basketball situation, in this case). I think that Devon should honor his friendship with Cory and keep hanging out with him if he enjoys Cory?s company, but I think that he should definitely be wary and not encourage this behavior by allowing Cory to ?look over? his paper because I believe that you continuously build (or tear down) your character with your actions. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Ben Chinoy said on Jul 31, 2012
Devon is not being paranoid! Cory?s attitude will carry over from one situation to another. If Cory can get away with cheating in one facet of his life, he will think he can in another. Devon should recognize that Cory has a different perspective than he does on how serious cheating is. While Devon should be concerned that Cory is cheating, he should not let it hurt his friendship. Devon has a real opportunity to help Cory improve his mindset and try and put him on the right path. Cory may not recognize that he needs help, but as Kirk Hanson, the executive director of the Markula Center for Applied Ethics, said in a recent NPR interview, ?"Unfortunately, if you adopt that kind of convenience rationalization when you're in college, [The mindset Cory has] it will carry over as part of your character into later life." Although Cory has cheated in the past, he is not beyond help. If Devon can set a good example for him and talk to him about cheating and the serious ramifications that come with it, he might be able to help Cory. As Gandhi once said, ?You must be the change you wish to see in the world.? There are many different motivations for cheating, and often times, cheaters are good people who make bad decisions. While someone may cheat on a test, they might do it because they need the grade to keep a scholarship they earned. They might actually have the right intentions. While that definitively is not a justification for cheating, there is often more than meets the eye. That is why Devon needs to sit down with Cory and explain to him the benefits of producing his own work and not copying on tests or cutting corners in every way he can. That way, Devon can be the example for Cory to follow. When Cory sees what his best friend is trying to tell him, and show him through his actions, Cory might reconsider how he acts. - Like - 43 people like this.
Timothy Hsiao said on Aug 1, 2012
Given the widespread moral confusion in contemporary culture, it is helpful first to give a brief account of why cheating is immoral. It's wrongness is found chiefly in the fact that it perverts the good of justice. In cheating, one attempts to take credit for that which is not rightfully is. Whatever personal benefits that may come out of cheating are stolen, as their acquisition was not legitimate. Hence cheating is wrong regardless of the consequences. People are integrated wholes, there are no inherent divisions between conduct in the different areas of life. Since it is the same person who performs all of life's various activities, misconduct in one activity will naturally flow to others. One may attempt to erect his own artificial barrier between his virtues and vices, but such divisions put enormous strain on the individual and interfere with his flourishing and divide his thinking. Given that Cory's cheating extends not only to his academics but also to his extra-curricular life, this is inevitable. It's quite clear that Cory's compulsive cheating evidences a habitual disposition to act wrongly. Devon's suspicions are well-founded, as habits are extremely hard to break. He has two options before him: confront Cory about his wrongdoing or break off the friendship. Charity demands that he attempt the former, as the chief purpose of friendship is to advance the well-being of each other through mutual interaction. If Cory refuses to heed Devon's warnings and corrections, then Devon is justified in breaking off the friendship, for Cory has perverted their relationship into a means to his own success. Does that mean that Devon should be weary to trust others? Perhaps, perhaps not. On the one hand, he shouldn't be overly accepting of anyone be meets. On the other, he shouldn't exhibit cynicism that corrupts his relations with his fellow man. What he should do is judge individually based on the character of the individual. This is a task that requires extreme discernment on his part. He should pick his friends wisely instead of selecting them *merely* on the basis of their common interests. - Like - 3 people like this.
Lauren said on Aug 2, 2012
Devon has legitimate reasons to be concerned about his new friend Cory. He is noticing these things for a reason, and chances are his other friend might be noticing them too (at least the incidences outside the classroom). Because it has only been a few weeks, Devon shouldn?t accuse Corey or break off the friendship right away?after all, they are just getting to know each other and jumping to conclusions is never good for healthy peer relationships. Devon should give Corey the chance to prove himself in a better manner. Perhaps Devon should be forward with Corey, telling him that he doesn?t support Corey?s decision to cheat on tests and whatnot, and that he won?t be involved with that. However, they can still be friendly to each other. By having a conversation with Corey about the topic, they are opening the door to conversation that could be very beneficial. Maybe Corey wishes he could talk about it with someone, but he doesn?t know how to initiate. Maybe Corey has a learning disability and he doesn?t know how to cope with it. There are many possible situations he could be in. If Corey has a habit of cheating, it is a reflection of his character and the type of person he is; since Devon is so uneasy about the situation, it is obvious that Devon?s morals do not align with Corey?s, and maybe it is for the better that they aren?t best friends. It is going to be difficult for Devon to trust Corey since he won?t know when Corey is being honest or not. This is a perfect opportunity for Devon to set a great example to Corey. Devon can show him how it is possible to do well in school without cheating, when you work hard; it is possible to have fun playing games without cheating to win; life is so much better when you aren?t worried about getting caught too! In the academic world today, there is such competition and such desire to ?be the best.? This puts so much pressure on students to be perfect, creative, and a stand-out. Perhaps Corey cannot deal with this pressure in an effective and helpful manner, and that?s why he cheats (to feel better about himself). Devon can be a good peer and friend to Corey, helping him to see his strong characteristics and helping to give him confidence to succeed on his own in school. All in all, Devon needs to stand strong in his convictions, but he can still help Corey and be the friend that Corey needs. - Like - 54 people like this.
Chandni Bheeman said on Aug 5, 2012
Devon has accumulated a lot of ?data points? to make an assessment about the trajectory of Cory?s behavior to assess whether or not he should trust Cory. By sharing his paper with Cory, Devon can arguably make the conclusion that Cory will plagiarize. If Cory does plagiarize, we can use a common good, distributive justice, and even a utilitarian approach to make the argument that plagiarism is unethical. 1. It sets a poor standard for his friend Cory, 2. It harms the integrity of the grading/education system, 3. Cheating harms resulting from Cory?s behavior continue to go unchecked if Devon does not halt the unethical behavior. 4. Promotion of greatest good as understood as common good requires all students to be honest and truthful in their work. Furthermore, if the tables were turned, would Cory allow Devon to see his paper knowing that Devon has such a reputation? Would Cory be happy knowing that his close friends never bothered to help him improve his character? It is possible that this behavior is so psychologically engrained that Cory himself may not be aware of it. Overtime the cheating issue may become so problematic that it damages all of their future interactions. It is not only in Cory?s best interest, but it is in the best interest of their friendship, and for the people around them that Cory come to terms with his cheating problem. Finally, there are several scenarios that should be considered bey Devon. 1. If Devon shares his paper and Cory does cheat and no one gets caught, Devon has set an ethical and virtue standard for Cory. Cory's unethical behavior is endorsed and perpetuated by a close friend which may lend further legitimacy to his actions, in his (Cory's) eyes. 2. If Devon cheats and the professor finds out, they will be both penalized, and much harm will result to the both of them. Greatest good is not achieved. 3. If Devon does not cheat, Devon misses a potential virtue teaching moment and Cory's previous and arguably future cheating habit goes unchecked or stopped. Devons responsibility to his friend is not fulfilled. In sum, Devon should be skeptical about his friend but that skepticism should translate into a caring conversation with Cory about the observed behaviors, which are grounds for an assessment of one's character outside of the classroom. - Like - 59 people like this.
Nasiha Rashid said on Aug 5, 2012
This is a prime moment for Devon to engage Cory in dialogue about Cory's consistent behavior that is clearly against Devon's morals. Devon's situation can easily turn into a win/win situation in that 1.) Devon should indeed bring up to Cory about how he is aware of Cory's cheating and creating an environment which is conducive to imparting knowledge on how this is deemed as morally wrong and to also allow Cory to walk away with acknowledging his own behavior and to prevent it in the future 2.) If for some reason, the friendship is affected...there should be no hard feelings since Devon would be pushing himself away from someone who does not hold the same standards in morals as him. Devon has a right to be paranoid, since he's been observing the same behavior from Cory...time and time again. A repetitive behavior in one aspect of life (academic in this case) can in many cases overarch into another (personal life). It's observation and behavioral consistency through association. If Cory is not confronted, it's very likely that he could take up this same 'cheating' behavior and apply to situations outside of his academic realm. Devon in this case, again...has the right to feel a sense of doubt of his friend Cory and his behavior. Devon shouldn't also feel the need to trust someone else more, it's more about trusting himself and making the right decision in what he should say and how to confront Cory for the better good of society. - Like - 51 people like this.
Big Q said on Aug 20, 2012
Congratulations to Chandni, the winner of our contest for "Once a Cheater...!" Thanks to all for your thoughtful responses, and please continue to check out our bi-weekly posts for another chance to win! - Like - 1 person likes this.
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Tags: academic integrity, cheating, plagiarism