Cheating on the rise in '98-'99 school year

by Omer Ismail | 11/9/99 6:00am

The Committee on Standards saw 20 cases involving violations of the Academic Honor Principle last year -- the highest in 15 years, according to Marcia Kelly, the undergraduate judicial affairs officer.

In the past decade and a half, the COS has seen an average of 11 cases involving violations of the Honor Principle.

The 1998-99 COS report cites examples of cheating such as a student's copying portions of her friend's work and submitting it as her own as well as submitting a writing assignment containing unattributed quotations and a summary from a secondary source.

Punishment ranges from two to six terms of suspension, depending upon the severity of the case and the circumstances in which it occured. More serious cases can result in explusion from the College.

Students who show poor time-management skills and panic at the last minute are the ones mostly involved in such violations, Kelly said.

"I believe they make bad choices," Kelly said. However, she added, "There are reasons for these choices that make sense to them at the time."

While the number of cases have spiked last year, there is no clear increasing trend in the number of cases reported. Only one case involving cheating was brought before COS during the 1997-1998 academic year, according to Kelly.

The number of cheating cases COS deals with are spread evenly among departments -- in the sciences involving homework assignments, as well classes in the social sciences or humanities with written papers.

Even though last year's numbers do not indicate a trend, students interviewed by The Dartmouth said they thought cheating at the College was probably more rampant than the numbers suggested.

"I think is fairly easy to do it for those who want to, without getting caught," David Gacioch '00 said.

Lauren Hickey '00 said the number of cases are deceiving: "They are probably a lot higher than people think they are."

Mathematics Chair Dana Williams, said the department encounters two or three cases of cheating a year, though the problem has recently become a "little worse" in introductry level courses.

However, Associate Professor of the Government David Becker said in his classes, students generally respect the Honor Principle at Dartmouth.

Becker, who usually glances at the bibliographies that his students submit, said, "I expect my students to obey."

Last month, particpants at the ninth annual conference of the Center of Academic Intergity at Duke University concluded that the time constraints on students and the availaility of web-based resources encourage students to cheat on exams and papers.

Donald McCabe of Rutgers University also recently found that 75 percent of students admit to cheating at least once in their academic careers.

Kelly argued against McCabe's findings, saying that the number seemed too high for the College.

The Honor Principle encourages many students to come to the College, Kelly said.

Becker reiterated similar thoughts, saying he has heard of students elsewhere massively purchasing papers from other sources, but he has not encountered similar experiences at Dartmouth.

She said many Dartmouth students take their education very seriously, adding the Honor Principle means a great deal to most.

Defending the Honor Principle, Williams said the College should not even consider going to back to the proctoring system.

"Once you start proctoring, it becomes a war -- the administration against the students."

Although 20 is much higher than the annual average and Kelly expects this number to go down next year, she said, in general, few Dartmouth students are ever punished through COS.

"It really is a drop in the bucket of the undergrad population," Kelly said.

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