Cheating vs. ethical laziness

There’s no arguing that the Wash. U. undergraduate population is driven. We’re driven to be doctors, driven to make it to the East Coast for graduate school and driven to get straight A’s. Unfortunately, though, there are too many of us who are driven to do whatever it takes to make our transcripts impeccable.

At Monday’s Controversy n’ Coffee forum, “Am I cheating? A special forum on academic integrity,” Dean Dirk Killen said that every year the College of Arts & Sciences hears about 20-25 honor code violations.

As students, we know that this number is likely lower than the actual number of cheating occurrences. And when we take into account the number of students who loiter in the murky gray area in between cheating and unethical study habits, this number is sure to skyrocket.

We all came to college wanting to learn, excited about the prospect to study with thousands of students who shared our same interests and passions. Once we became inundated with full course loads, activities and social lives, though, we inevitably found shortcuts to take.

These shortcuts may not be explicitly labeled “cheating,” but strategies such as using back files, taking Adderall not prescribed to us and using Wikipedia for our papers lurk somewhere beneath the surface of genuine intellectual exploration and true academic integrity.

Oftentimes, we begin to use these strategies when we find ourselves in a time crunch. In doing so, we forget that the true purpose of our education is to learn how to think, not to obliquely memorize someone else’s notes or to frantically piece together summaries of what philosophers said.

Moreover, we inhabit an environment of pervasive competition—a campus full of type-A personalities eager to get top jobs and get into graduate school. Stacking ourselves up against our fellow students, we are often tempted to use whatever means necessary to ensure that we can stay in the game.

However, in doing this, we neglect the fact that we pay $40,000 a year for an education. Whether punished by the University or not, cheating and unethical study habits detract from the real value of what we’ve bought.

It speaks volumes about the student body that $160,000 isn’t as strong a deterrent to cheating as a threatened F.

In spite of the fact that only 20 to 25 honor code violations are heard per year, we all know that more cheating goes on than those instances that we record. The question is not as much if the University cares, but rather if we care. Integrity is, by definition, the state of being whole, entire and undiminished. When we cheat, we take away portions of our moral and personal identity, and we detract from the academic identity that we pay so much to earn.

Unlike some high schools, the University does not excessively force the honor code on students, but that is no reason to cut corners. Getting caught should not be a deterrent factor; being a Wash. U. student who came here to learn should provide the motivation not to cheat.

Despite the low number of recorded violoations, we feel that the events sponsored by Academic Integrity Week deliver messages that all students can—and should—take into consideration.

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