The Great University Cheating Scandal

Have you seen the latest issue of Macleans? The cover blares “U FRAUD: With more than half of Canadian Students cheating, all degrees are tainted. It’s a national scandal. Why aren’t schools doing more about it?” (read article here)

This article reeks of revenge, aimed at the University system that so openly confronted it last summer over the annual ranking of schools. Though this article points to overworked students with a heavy sense of entitlement, in the end it comes down to a “failure” of University professionals who just aren’t doing enough to curb cheating.

Universities — home to the teachers who produce our healers, our bridge-builders and the CEOs who generate our wealth — are failing to demonstrate that responsibility by permitting widespread cheating among students. And we will all pay.

Even though they mention the highly sophisticated measures that students are employing to cheat the system, many of which are simply undetectable, it still falls on the back of professors.

I don’t think so.

No one is going to argue that things are fine. As many of my cohort will tell you, dealing with this current generation of undergrads can be a living nightmare. The culture of entitlement runs high; this is especially when students don’t automatically get an “A” (regardless of, you know, attending class, studying). When we suspect plagiary, there is little we can do that doesn’t cost hours in extra work.

Ultimately, we have little to say in this issue.

This is the end result of the increading “businessification” that the Universities have been going through in Canada over the last few years. Wouldn’t want to lose a “client” when all they did was a little copy/paste, no?


10 thoughts on “The Great University Cheating Scandal

  1. De-lurking to say “Amen to that!”.

    Really, it’s the sense of entitlement that’s driving it. These kids are spoiled by schools that constantly say “oh, it’s ok honey, you tried, have an A” and “you can do anything you want” without the necessary caveat of “if you work hard and put your mind to it”.

    This leads to university students (supposedly entering adulthood here people) who say things like:

    “I’m going to get my daddy to get you fired!” (after going over the paper in detail with the marking scheme and explaining that the original mark stands)

    and another student, nearly in tears: “but.. but… I did the best I could!” (after having student agree that the answer WAS actually wrong, and still wanting more marks).

    I think it’s unfortunate for the system, and very unfortuante for them. When will they learn that life won’t just be handed to them?? Better they get it in the school system or at least University, rather than out in the working world where this attitude may cost them their living.

    (sorry for the long comment… I’ve been TA-ing too long… I’ve seen too much!)

  2. My favourite rationale for an increased grade? “But I voted for you … twice!”


    It always amazes me how hard it is to do anything about the cheating students. I usually include a note on the offending papers saying that it looks suspicious and that I’ll be watching the next round of assignments because that’s all I can do. What’s more surprising is the students who I suspected of cheating, but gave different grades as they didn’t copy each other quite word for word enough and one of them happened to capture the answer more completely … they get SO indignant! They admit to cheating and want that to boost their grade!

    I don’t miss TAing. It’s bound to be worse actually teaching the class though. :S

  3. it’s unfortunate, but i think it’s a product of our society. everything is ‘now’ – papers and university work take time. university isn’t what it was 20 even 10 years ago, now it’s just an extension of high school. everyone needs a degree now to make any sort of decent living, so university is just another set of mandatory classes that students have to sit through to get to the next stage of their life.

    i think this also speaks to the content of what’s being learned in universities today. there is still so much focus on the theoretical, and very little on the practical – even in faculties like engineering. basically, you finish your degree and require practical training to be a teacher, engineer,lawyer, etc. not to justify cheating, but i can see why students feel the whole process is an exercise and hoop-jumping.

    i think it’s a shame that people put so little emphasis on moral integrity, once you lose that you really are nothing.

  4. What’s ridiculous is that it’s the members of university adminstration who are consistently leading students to believe that they’re ‘customers,’ and are therefore completely entitled to whatever they want, whenever they want it, and then, when they act like that in the context of their courses, the onus falls on the faculty–not the administration–to sort it out.

    I worked at the registrar’s office for 3 years while I was doing my undergrad, and I saw this constantly. Students–particularly ones from upper middle class families–can be (and there’s my disclaimer: CAN be) some of the whiniest, most misguided, entitled shitheads I’ve ever encountered in my life. They don’t understand that the government is subsidizing an enormous chunk of their educational costs (hence our $5000/year versus the U.S. $40000/year tuition), and that, therefore, they are not a ‘customer’ so much as they are a member of a publically funded program. If they recognized this, perhaps they’d take on more responsibility for their success within their programs. Case in point, this was especially evident when a colleague and I observed–through many, many encounters–that students who’d attended posh private schools tended to 1) treat us like servers rather than knowledgeable staff members who should bow to their every whim; and 2) perform far, far worse than their public-schooled counterparts in terms of GPA. Does this reflect their inability to ‘make it’ in the big, 400-person, nobody gives a shit about your success environment, largely because they’re expecting tailored service from a prof and a TA who are completely overworked and underpaid (particularly the TA doing all the marking)? While I haven’t seen conclusive ‘data’ on the topic, I’d venture a ‘yes.’

    If the media ‘watchdogs’ want to eradicate cheating within universities, they should stop pointing to the profs and TA’s, and instead focus their efforts on uprooting the culture of entitlement amongst the children of these classes, an enormous task that likely encompasses far too much complexity for a 1 page article in that shitty magazine.

  5. Here is an example of where some of this attitude is coming from: my nephew decided that he didn’t really feel like working in grade 7 and so he stayed home more than 50% of his school days and had a – get this – 5% average in math and a 15% average in science (his best subject the year before). The rest of his grades were not much better. Now aside from his parent’s concerns (who were hoping he would learn something from failing) one would think the school would do something about this like, oh I don’t know, FAIL HIM? Heck no. They passed him on to grade 8!!! With a math average of 5%!!! And what did this teach him? That he was entitled to pass no matter how little personal responsibility he takes for his grades. Just imagine what he will be like as an undergrad. Or as your coworker. I shudder to think even though I love him dearly.

    And the TA’ing experiences show it isn’t the university’s fault. I see profs working super hard to try and educate these kids and they have no gratitude for these efforts and refuse to make any sort of efforts of their own. Just like other people have posted, I see them cheat and then complain if the person they copied off of gets a better mark. I’m fascinated that someone would actually come to me and admit that and complain! Apparently someone well before the university never taught them right from wrong. Silly me – I always thought that grown-ups came to university! It was an eye opening expereince recently to help out with invigilating an exam for 395. It took 7 TA’s and 1 prof to do this – all of us watching like hawks for cheaters. Just a couple of years ago I sat in an exam with 412 students and there was 1 TA and 1 prof. What has changed so dramatically so fast? There certainly is a discernable difference between the 24 year olds and the 20-21 years olds. Very scary.

    Of course the other thing I find amusing is that the cheaters ALWAYS seem to cheat off someone who got it wrong to begin with. I find it flat out hilarious to see someone who starts off with the right answers, get lazy, copy the rest of the answers, and actually go from having it right to wrong without noticing what they have done to themselves. OF course inevitabley these will be the ones who complain about the grade.

  6. Interesting that I was just thinking of this today…
    I have spent most of the day marking papers for a third year undergrad class and am absolutley blown away by the direct copy and pasting. I mean don’t even change the font in an attempt to make it all look the same.
    As an undergrad and even before that I was not only scared of what would have happened but just didn’t have the nerve.
    What I see now is students just going through the motions, completing assignments half heartedly, there because they have to be not because of any desire to take something from the experience.
    I don’t think there are any easy answers to this problem but am just in shock after my first experience marking papers with such obvious copying.

  7. Maybe because they pay tuition students think that good grades are the free gift with purchase. And that our job is more service oriented than education oriented.
    When I get students complaining about how I don’t bring extra pencil’s or how unfair it was that I didn’t remind them to hand in their assignment I wonder if this is what other professors or other T.A’s are doing. I hope not! My reply to those complaints are “I’m not your mom”

  8. I have to say that everyone needs to realize how hard it is for these poor students to get the grades. You of all people should understand how Overworked they are, not just you. Maybe if everybody wasn’t so selfish and self-centred we wouldn’t be having this problem in our society today. So find a way to deal with it and stop complaining about the students that are paying a pretty darn high tuition and will be in debt for years after. is there really any point in going to university in the first place? its all a joke. I do not agree that cheating is the solution, i definitely do not do it, but have some compassion for the fellow person.

  9. Maybe professors should actually prime people for exams rather than… oh … teach a bunch of nonsense? Come on, folks. You haven’t been to a lecture where the professor repeats everything from the book only to insert a few comments here and there within 20 seconds out of the whole 50-minute period? It seems like professors are interested in wasting students’ time. Period. If I could recollect all the time I would have spent from sitting in lectures, I would have read and studied. These days, I turn on my voice recorder, mentally give the professor the middle finger, and study in the lecture hall.

  10. Cheating is pervasive in American culture and there is no place where high class cheating is greater than the university. Its at the university where one learns to become a hard-core sophisticated cheater. Reiss (2010) claims that cheating on exams and term papers are at epidemic levels. Many universities use Turnitin as a device to detect cheating on submitted papers but these clever students can get around any detection system. But there is another phenomenon at play. Reiss (2010) states “The universities have reacted by accommodating the cheats. When I was an undergraduate, my college expelled students caught cheating or plagiarizing. When I was an assistant professor, students caught cheating automatically flunked the course. When I was an associate professor, students caught cheating flunked the test. When I was a professor, students caught cheating threatened to sue the professor for accusing them. Nobody wanted to deal with cheating; everybody wanted to look the other way.” If MBA’s make up only 38 percent of CEO’s but 60 to 70 percent of the greedy CEO’s this implies that business schools are indeed leading the way in preparing our executives for a life of cheating.

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