College teaches cheating


Katie Brobst, Assistant Life Editor

A quick glance at a neighbor’s scantron can seem like an easy way to check answers, but many students go a step beyond when it comes to cheating.

Cheating, plaigarization, and fabrication of data are prevalent in academic communities across the US, Vermont included, but students at UVM do not condone these practices.

In a 2015 survey done by Donald McCabe, PhD, 14,000 undergraduates were asked if they had cheated on tests. Roughly two thirds of them admitted to cheating on exams.

“People will want to get ahead if they can, that’s just a human thing,” junior Ryan Bettie said. “Try and get the best results with the least amount of effort.”

An August 2013 Boston Globe article states that the nature of college courses leads to such high rates of cheating.

Universities teach students to be motivated by “praise from the teacher, good grades, honors and rewards,” rather than seeking “to understand the course material for its own sake,” according to the article.

Bettie has witnessed cheating three or four times in his college career, usually in large lecture halls, he said.

“It sucks to be someone who puts in a lot of work and see the same outcome, grades-wise, as someone who puts in little work and ends up cheating,” Bettie said.

According to UVM’s Code of Academic Integrity if a student is accused of cheating they may face a closed hearing with the Academic Integrity Council.

If the student is found guilty they will receive a zero on the assignment in question and must go through some level of academic discipline.

The Code of Academic Integrity also states that students may work cooperatively, but not collude.

“With take-home assignments, I don’t think cheating is bad because most of the time you are just collaborating with other classmates,” sophomore Cameron Smith said.

Though Smith criticizes cheating on exams as a demonstration of a larger problem in student comprehension or teaching, it shouldn’t stop students from working together in other ways, he said.

“If someone needs help on an assignment, I’m not going to back off because it might be cheating,” he said.

Collaborating on homework may not be seen as a serious case of cheating, but a 2011 Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study suggest ways students and professors can try to prevent more serious cases of misdemeanor.

The study found that even when students knew that cheating is wrong, they would still look to their peers for behavioral cues to form their final conclusions.

The presence of cheating can also reflect on a school’s grading system and assessment methods.

“If you’re able to peek over at someone else’s test and get the answer immediately I don’t think the testing is as in-depth as it should be,” Bettie said.

In 1972, William E. Sanders introduced the first Scantron scanner, an assessment solution that allowed educators to use an automated grading system, the Scantron website states.

Now, 94 percent of the top 100 US universities use Scantron, the website states. UVM also puts this technology to use.

“It might just be ease of grading for them,” Bettie said, “but I think that the point of college is to really challenge students.”

According to a March 2015 Washington Post article, tests based off of memorization yield short-term benefits. Students can memorize the correct answer without understanding the material.

Testing in this way does not promote critical thinking or questioning, the article states. It begs the question of whether students are at college to learn material or to learn how to think.

“You go to college to learn and explore and freely think,” Bettie said. “If you’re not willing to put in the effort towards that then you’re more likely to cheat, and then it just becomes a cycle of not learning.”