The underreported problem: Muskies cheating


Peter Ludolph, Staff Reporter

In fall of 2006, a Lakeland psychology class instructed by Elizabeth Stroot, chair of the social sciences division and professor of psychology, conducted an experiment with a class of hers that surveyed Lakeland College students about their tendencies toward or against cheating.

The survey was anonymous and consisted of 267 participants. According to Stroot, out of the 267 participants, 19 percent said they had not cheated at all in the past year, 11 percent admitted to having cheated once and 70 percent admitted to cheating more than once.

Stroot said that “the study showed that students who felt that cheating was not a serious issue were more likely to cheat, while students who had high academic self-confidence were less likely to cheat.”

Even though the statistics from that study are nearly 10 years old, they may still display an accurate trend among Lakeland students.

Four current students from Lakeland were asked if they had ever witnessed cheating.

Matthew Derse, senior criminal justice major said, “Yeah, I was in a class where someone was busted with a cheat sheet on a test.”

Christian Gillaspie, junior business major said, “Not within the classroom environment. However, I have heard people pay money for other students to do their homework for them.” Gillaspie continued, “it might be harder to cheat at Lakeland” within the classroom “because the class sizes are smaller so it is easily seen in a classroom if someone is cheating.”

Timothy Fruit, senior chemistry major said, “I have not ever witnessed cheating at Lakeland. I have had exams where the professor walks out and nobody goes for their phone.”

Brady Bunjovac, junior computer science major said, “I haven’t witnessed it, but I do know of a class where the instructor wasn’t there during a quiz and the entire class was on their phones during it.”

The problem also exists outside of the classroom. Bunjovac said, “I know that a lot of people will sit around someone taking a Blackboard quiz and then the rest will have the answers from the other person’s quiz.”

According to Meg Albrinck, vice president for academic affairs, dean of the college and professor of literature and writing, “90 percent of cheating incidents that are reported are involving plagiarism, maybe 10 percent are using a device or inappropriately using a website during an online assessment.”

The amount of incidents reported throughout Lakeland each year is surprisingly low.

Albrinck said, “We really don’t get that many incident reports, maybe 20 to 25 a year among all of our programs.” Albrinck continued, “We certainly don’t have that many reports, it’s an interesting conundrum because the number of reports we get versus the number of students that report having cheated are pretty different.”

The discrepancy may best be explained by Albrinck who said, “That is probably because many teachers see the incidents as an opportunity to sit down with somebody and handle the matter internally.”

Out of the students that do admit to cheating, there exists a discrepancy in who it is that cheats the most.

According to Stroot, “It was also found that the least likely group of students to cheat was freshmen, while seniors were the most likely group to be academically dishonest.”

She explained that “it has to do with cheating norms. When students first come here they are more likely to think that it is serious and they don’t know that everybody is doing it. Over time when students are socialized and they see that people are cheating they are more likely to engage in cheating.”

Students that fall into the trap of cheating usually have similar circumstances. Albrinck said, “In most cases it happens because a student panics.”

Students who don’t leave enough time or run out of time to do an assignment often fall prey to cheating. Stroot explained that cheating is influenced by what is prioritized by students. If a student is prioritizing socializing or sports over academics, the likelihood of cheating increases. Students who prioritize academics are less likely to feel the pressure to cheat because they will have allotted the necessary amount of time toward studies that the need to cut corners is not present.

Albrinck said, “The best students are the ones that know when it is time to go and seek help” from an instructor.

There are different standards as to what constitutes cheating depending on the class. Albrinck said, “We want to be sure that we provide the instruction that supports appropriate academic conduct, and that’s going to differ from class to class.”

Albrinck said “In many classes there are opportunities during the drafting and revising phases of a paper for a teachable moment about documenting sources properly.”

However, unknowingly cheating is not an excuse for cheating. Albrinck said, “It’s always the student’s responsibility to know the information in the syllabus and know that something is cheating even if it is not stated by the instructor.”

A passage that Albrinck includes in her syllabi to help distinguish plagiarism is “it’s plagiarism whether you intend to do it or not, but if you couldn’t write the passage without the framework, order or content of an outside source, even if you change a few words, it’s plagiarism.”

Some universities have turned to the idea of honor codes as an answer to the problem of cheating.

Albrinck said, “I respect the honor code, it’s a process that other schools have found helpful in terms of building awareness of expectations.”

Stroot said, “the schools with the lowest rates of cheating are the schools with honor codes.”

However, Lakeland does not have its students sign honor codes.

Stroot said, “Data was gathered before the study at Lakeland was conducted that showed that many people thought that cheating was not a problem.” Stroot continued, “I heard over and over that our students don’t cheat but they do and they cheat about the same level as other colleges without honor codes.”

Despite Lakeland’s approach to cheating and the believed prevalence, there are differences in the ways that some colleges deal with the problem of cheating that can prove more effective in getting a handle on the problem of academic dishonesty.


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