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TAs denounce cheating

By Michele Companion, James Cook, Melissa Fry, Mark Konty, Kris McIlwaine and Kristie Taylor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 5, 1999
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To the editor:

To say that we are concerned with the Catalyst article on the techniques and justifications for cheating would be an understatement. We believe that the editor's decision to print the Feb. 25 article "The Art of Cheating" undermines the very mission of the university. We are concerned and offended by the article for the following reasons:

The purpose of a university education is for students to learn to think for themselves, to express themselves and to understand a body of knowledge. Whether or not that specific body of knowledge is ultimately useful in "real" life, the ability to absorb it, to understand it and to express it is important and can be applied to multiple arenas of life outside the university. These are the ultimate gifts that a college bestows on its graduates and the ultimate skills that students are here to learn in class after class, test after test.

While the college experience is partially about learning to live in a community with others and about gaining important social skills for doing so, students' primary responsibility while they are here is to be students: To attend classes and to perform academically. The Catalyst article suggested that classes are simply something to do in students' "free time" and that studying is an infringement upon one's social life. If that is their attitude toward their university education, then it is no surprise that students need to develop methods for cheating their way to their degree.

The Wildcat cannot abdicate responsibility for creating an "ethic" of cheating simply by citing the academic code of conduct. The feature included 69 paragraphs. Of these, only one cited the code of conduct, and only one discussed the consequences of cheating. Three others discussed why not to cheat. The remainder of the story included instructions on how to cheat, reasons to cheat and anecdotes of students' cheating. The preponderance of the article focused on how to cheat, and even on relieving student anxiety about doing so! We understand that the university is not perfect, and that it could serve students better. However, the Wildcat should suggest positive change. It should not encourage cheating.

Contrary to the views of the Catalyst writer, cheating is never "necessary" and it is always wrong. Cheating is a disservice to every student who works hard to get the most out of his or her education. Every time a student cheats he or she devalues his or her hard-earned degree and those of other students, damaging the integrity of the university. If students were to spend as much time studying as they do thinking about ways to get out of it, they might just learn something and get better grades.

Finally, the article is an affront to all of the instructors and professors who spend hours designing courses, writing and giving lectures, helping students in and out of class, and yes, making and grading exams.

In sum, we feel that the article sends the wrong message. In publishing it, the Wildcat staff displays a disappointing lack of judgment and a shameful lack of journalistic ethics.

Given the culture of cheating reported and promoted by the Wildcat, we call on all instructors and faculty members to take effective action against academic dishonesty. Furthermore, we call on the university administration to support instructors and faculty in efforts to eliminate this scourge from our institution.

Michele Companion
James Cook
Melissa Fry
Mark Konty
Kris McIlwaine
Kristie Taylor
Sociology Teaching Assistants and graduate students