Higher education sees rise in dishonesty
Universities are seeing a sharp increase in plagiarism, cheating
There were historic breakthroughs, such as the selection of Harvard's first woman president, and there was tragedy - the horrific shooting spree at Virginia Tech.
But if the academic year now winding down had a theme, it was a more subtle one: dishonesty.
Perhaps, but scholars say there is still reason to be concerned.
``Yes, we ought to hold people to those kinds of standards, and higher education ought to be scrutinized around that agenda,'' said Marvin Kaiser, dean of liberal arts and sciences at Portland State University in Oregon and executive director of the Society for Values in Higher Education.
Because colleges are the training ground for future leaders, ``we have to be role models ourselves,'' said Kaiser. ``We have to create expectations about what it means to be ethical and honest. It's about our behavior and how we run our own institutions, but also what kind of a populace we're creating for the future.''
Even cases of simple human failings - like the Rutgers senior class president who was recently charged in a string of dorm burglaries - are an embarrassment.
Kaiser said many colleges are talking seriously about the teaching of values. But he acknowledges there is a big difference between talking about values in a curriculum and instilling them in students.
Cheating is a case in point. While a number of colleges have instilled honor codes in recent years, overall there is little instruction about cheating or systematic attempt to combat it. It is very difficult to measure, but clearly widespread, with one study reporting as many as 70 percent of undergraduates admit at least one instance of cheating.
``I think the ... more frightening figure is the fact that 20 (percent) to 25 percent admit to five or more (instances of cheating),'' said Tim Dodd, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity, which is based at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, USA.
``The fact that we have a quarter or more of our students admitting they've engaged in serial cheating does not inspire a lot of confidence about the credibility of their degrees.''
After the Enron scandals, business schools in particular rushed into the curriculum and heavily publicized a wave of courses designed to prepare students for the ethical dilemmas of the business world. But students don't seem to be getting the message about ethics while they're still in the classroom.
A study published last fall by Donald McCabe, a Rutgers professor who has studied cheating for decades, and two co-authors found 56 percent of MBA students admitted cheating, along with 54 percent of graduate students in engineering, 48 percent in education, and 45 percent in law.
McCabe emphasizes the difficulties of measuring trends in cheating, but the undergraduate numbers at the same 32 universities he studied appear even worse: 74 percent of business students, and 68 percent in non-business fields admitted to some form of cheating.
``I'm past the `epidemic' language,'' McCabe said in a telephone interview. ``I've been looking at this so long I'm used to it.''
The concern is that some schools are used to it, too. Aggressive action against cheating stirs up lawsuits, bad publicity, and _ if a student is expelled _ costs money in lost revenue. Tuition for the nine students facing expulsion at Duke amounts to about $370,000 (12,159,000 baht) per year.
That's why McCabe and Dodd both commended Duke for its response. MIT and Texas also took tough stands, insisting that two veteran administrators lose their jobs.
But Dodd wants a much wider range of college leaders to stop tiptoeing around issues of honor and honesty on campus.
``It has to happen at the presidential level,'' he said. ``You don't see presidents gathering at their conference and their symposia, saying, `We need to take a hard look at this.' The way they embraced multiculturalism years ago, the way they embraced internationalism, they need to come together and embrace integrity.'' AP
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Last modified: May 25, 2007