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Recent survey says most college students cheat

By Stephanie Corns
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 21, 1998
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Katherine K. Gardiner
Arizona Daily Wildcat

First year music doctoral student Giselle Wyers proctors a quiz for MUS 231, History of Jazz, Wednesday in Harvill Building Room 150. Wyers had been instructed to watch for students displaying "excessive pondering" or "stretching" as possible signs of cheating.

There's nothing worse than a lousy, rotten cheater.

But according to recent surveys, most undergraduate students are in no position to judge.

A nationwide study conducted in 1995 by Bowling Green State University revealed that 70 percent of undergraduate students surveyed admitted to cheating in class.

The survey also found that business and engineering majors attract the highest percentage of cheaters, at 89 percent and 78 percent respectively.

On a local level, the University of Arizona reported 113 cases of alleged academic integrity violations last year, said Alexis Hernandez, associate dean of students.

Unlike the national study, which found that both men and women cheat an equal amount, Hernandez said 65 percent of the UA cases were brought against males and 35 percent against females.

He said the majority of cheating occurs during midterm and final exams.

According to the Bowling Green study, many students blame faculty for the high incidence of cheating.

Those surveyed said professors provide easy opportunities by using the same test year after year and are too lenient with students who get caught.

But at the UA, some said it is wrong for students to pin their cheating ways on the teachers.

"I think that's silly," undeclared sophomore Madeleine Thompson said. "It's the student's responsibility not to cheat."

Still, Hernandez said instructors have an obligation to minimize the probability that cheating will occur.

"Faculty members are responsible for their classrooms," he said. "Part of their duties include being aware of what's going o in the classroom. If they see anything improper in terms of cheating, it is their responsibility to review the case."

Different measures such as spacing students apart during exams, collecting and redistributing blue books and giving different test versions help reduce the chances of cheating, Hernandez said.

UA jazz history professor James Karge-Taylor said he is concerned about catching those who plagiarize papers.

"I would like more help reading papers," he said.

A survey given to Karge-Taylor's jazz history class indicated that of the 368 enrolled in the course, 25 percent cheated on a quiz given Sept. 16.

Of the students in the class, about 46 percent said they would like to see more preventative steps taken to curb cheating.

"I know that I'm not catching everyone out there," Karge-Taylor said.

Research done by Joe Kerkvliet, an economics professor at Oregon State University, indicated that the percentage of students who cheat could be as low as 0.02 percent if professors took stronger preventative measures.

Kerkvliet's study found that the biggest factor affecting whether or not students cheat is who is present at the time the exams are given. If teaching assistants monitor tests, it is 31 percent more likely that student will cheat than if a professor is in the room.

Psychology department Head Lynn Nadel said that proximity is the biggest problem in preventing students from cheating.

"If students are sitting 6 feet apart from each other, it makes it difficult to cheat," he said.

Although Nadel reported few incidents of cheating in the psychology department, he said most occurred in larger classrooms.

"It's really easy to cheat," said a junior who wishes to remain anonymous. "Kids in my sociology class cheat all the time."

The University of Arizona Code of Academic Integrity prohibits "all forms of academic dishonesty, including, but not limited to: cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, and plagiarism."

Students caught cheating are required to follow a process outlined by the school's code, which states that "a student has the right to be advised but not represented in any proceeding under the Code."

The first step in the procedure is to have a faculty-student conference.

If the faculty member finds the student in violation of the code, the faculty member "may impose any one or combination of the following sanctions: a written warning, disciplinary probation for a specified period of time not to exceed one year, loss of credit for the work involved, reduction in grade, or a failing grade for the course."

The student then has the option of appealing to the department head. That process can be repeated up to three times until the student reaches the highest level of the hearing board, which consists of three faculty members chosen by Faculty Senate and two students chosen by the Associated Students of the UA.

About 1 percent of all incidents ever reach the hearing board, Hernandez said. Hernandez said that although students have been expelled after reaching the level of the hearing board, most cases end with the faculty-student conference.

The board still has four cases from last year to be heard.

Despite the measures taken to prevent cheating and the prospect of harsh punishment, students continue to cheat, he said.

Stephanie Corns can be reached via e-mail at Stephanie.Corns@wildcat.arizona.edu.