Opinion: The vicious cycle of cheating in college

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(Illustration by Savannah Thaemert | The Collegian)

It’s a struggle college students live with every day: one day you have all the time on your hands, and the next you barely have a second to sit down.

But what happens when it’s 11:50 p.m. and you forgot you have an assignment due at midnight, or maybe you forgot you have a quiz in your next class that you didn’t study for? What do you do when the angel on your right shoulder is telling you to take responsibility for your actions, or lack thereof, and the demon on your left shoulder is telling you to cheat?

You go with your left shoulder, at least that’s what 75 percent of college students choose, according to James M. Lang’s Boston Globe article, “How college classes encourage cheating.”

Despite colleges hosting orientations and seminars on academic integrity in efforts to decrease cheating, students are continuing to find their greatest resource to be their classmates.

“In other words, it may be that cheating rates are so high because too many university curriculums and courses are designed for cheating,” Lang said. “Based on current trends in college education, the problem may be about to get worse.”

With the ever-evolving society we live in, I believe it is what is available to us at the time that determines how hard we are going to have to work.

Before technology, looking up the answer to a homework problem, emailing your friend your homework or sending pictures of the test you just took wasn’t possible, therefore, schoolwork required quite a bit more effort than it does now.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the handful of factors that contribute to a student’s decision to cheat.

The five most common reasons students cheat are ambiguous attitudes, competitive pressures, institutional apathy, lack of understanding and self-interest, according to Ralph Heibutzki’s Our Everyday Life article, “Statistics on why college students decide to cheat.”

“Students often view cheating as the only way to level the playing field, especially if they see peers behaving likewise,” Heibutzki said.

This vicious cycle of cheating in tandem with society’s mental approach to the situation seems like a clear reason why universities’ efforts to decrease cheating rates have failed, according to Bryce Buchmann’s Huffington Post article, “Cheating in college: Where it happens, why students do it and how to stop it.”

“Since cultural ideas may influence the prevalence of cheating, the best long-term solution may be to take a societal approach,” Buchmann said. “For cheating to be reduced, instead of seeing cheating as something that can’t be done, they must come to recognize that it should not be done.”

While I do agree with Buchmann in that there needs to be a moral standard we as college students hold ourselves to, I believe there needs to be a level of understanding on the universities’ part that cheating will happen.

Between classes, extracurriculars, work and constant life adjustments – just to keep your head above water – there comes a time when the only break you get is when your friend is nice enough to give you a couple answers on your homework.

I can’t pretend to be above cheating, because I understand how it can be the last resort sometimes. However, making this action a habit can turn bad quickly, according to professor Michael Bishop, Chair of the Iowa State University Department of Philosophy and Religion.

“Cheating cheapens the diploma,” Bishop said. “An Iowa State degree is a valuable commodity, only if people trust that it is a mark of excellence.”

Although Bishop was referring to Iowa State specifically, this is true for all universities and the diplomas students receive when they leave.

A college diploma is a sign of perseverance through those all-nighters, the professor you didn’t get along with and the seemingly endless hours of treading water to stay afloat. A college diploma is something to be proud of. Don’t rob yourself of that by cheating your way through college.

“The cheater cheats himself of an education,” Bishop said.

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Kaitlyn Cotton
Hi world! I'm Kaitlyn Cotton. I'm a junior studying English with hopes of going to law school one day. I spend my days writing, reading and working for the Collegian. I have had articles published in the Kansas City Star, the Collegian, and most importantly- my parent's refrigerator.