Monday, September 26, 2011

College students and the dilemma of reporting cheating incidents...

Imagine for a moment you are a college student and you witness a cheating incident in your class. You report it to your professor who later investigates it. 

Did you do the right thing by informing the instructor?


Believe it or not some would second guess themselves wondering if it was really that big a deal.

Never second-guess reporting a violation of the honor code. An honor code exists at the College/University for a reason. It is a set of principles which defines honorable behavior within the educational establishment. In order to maintain the integrity of the institution and the learning process, everyone must abide by the code and the person who witnesses a cheating incident and does not report it is just as guilty of violating the honor code as the person witnessed cheating.

Not everything in life is black and white, many times there are gray areas. I can understand where it might be difficult for a student to report unethical behavior among their peers for fear of repercussion. Think about the incident in terms of right or wrong. Do you believe what you witnessed was wrong? Do you believe letting it go unnoticed is right or wrong? If you tell the truth as you witnessed it, you have done nothing wrong. It is up to the powers that be higher up to determine whether or not what you witnessed supports what is deemed as unethical, dishonorable or inappropriate behavior. But at least you have done your duty and upheld the honor code, not to mention staying true to your own personal values and principles. 

Consider this: if cheating incidents go unpunished, students will lose faith in the disciplinary system altogether and it breaks down. If that happens, the honor code system is useless and everyone does what they want knowing there are no consequences for their actions. However, if incidents are dealt with appropriately, it means the system works, the students have faith, they are more likely to follow the rules as well as being an active part of enforcing them.

If your classmates or friends question your judgment for reporting an incident and if they shun you for your actions, then ask yourself if you really want to associate with people who think that it is acceptable to cheat and circumvent the system by taking shortcuts and engaging in unethical behavior? Would you want to have to rely on them in an emergency? Would you want to hire them in your company? Would you trust them with your children? I'm not saying that those who disagree with you are bad people, I'm simply saying that if they think cheating is no big deal, then it should tell you something.

If you witness a cheating incident or other unethical behavior in the classroom, stay true to your principles and be on the side of right. Being on the side of right is never wrong.

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