On Cheating

When I was a college student, I was one of those honest idiots who just took the grade I got.  I just figured the amount of work I put into a class would reflect in the grade I got at the end of the semester.  I did a fair amount of work, but I wasn’t a stellar student who hit the books hard and always  got good grades.  The truth is I didn’t become a good student until my junior year of college — that’s when things started to change in terms of my motivation level toward school and my grades.

Freshman and sophomore years of college were a time when (except for my film, TV, acting, and humanities classes) my grades languished in the B to C range.  I was just “average” to “above average” in my classes, and never really put in anything extra in terms of effort unless it had to do with a creative field.  My chemistry class was taken “credit/no credit” (I got “no credit” because I don’t think I ever studied for that class), biology was completed with a C, and somehow I avoided math classes until my senior year.

I wasn’t the kind of guy who aspired to great academic heights (ironic, since I actually graduated from a school that was pretty impressive in terms of academic heights), but I was also a guy who never bothered with cheating (And really, it’s kind of hard to cheat on a film final when your “final exam” is the film project you’ve been working on for weeks). 

Anyway, all this has to do with a “grade for cash” scandal at the junior college I attended my first two years of college.  At Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA, 34 students (and former students) have been arrested because they either changed or paid someone to change their grades on the college computers that store grade transcripts. 

According to the SF Chronicle: “The charges range from felony conspiracy and fraudulent computer access to false use of a diploma, a misdemeanor. The suspects face up to three years in prison for each felony count…Court documents say the grade changes enabled some students to graduate or transfer from the community college to four-year universities, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC Davis, San Francisco State University, San Jose State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and San Diego State.

College officials believe as many as 400 grades were changed from 2000 to 2006 in deals that sometimes involved payments of thousands of dollars to at least four students who had worked in the admissions office and had access to change computerized transcripts.”

Regarding cheating in school, I would say that I’m very strict when it comes students trying to pull a fast one.  I used to structure my classes so the tests on what the students knew about a particular subject were challenging but fair.  Students who did the work (i.e., reading the books, taking notes, participating in the discussions) did well.  Students who slacked, never really came to class, or bothered to crack a book, failed — or they dropped the course. If you got an A in my class, you did the work and you earn it. It all seems simple and expected, right?  You do excellent work, your grade should reflect your efforts.  You half-ass it and your grade should reflect what little effort you put into the class.

Okay, I’m stepping off my soapbox now, but I’m curious, would you consider the following cheating?

1.  Someone wrote a paper for you — but you didn’t pay them.

2.  Someone told you what was going to be on a test — but didn’t give you the answers.

3.  You “recycle” a paper you wrote for one class and turn it in for another.

4.  A lab partner gives you the results of an experiment that you didn’t do a lick of work on.

5.  You catch a glimpse of a professor’s final exam question 2 weeks before the test, but only see a snippet that mentions a book you didn’t bother to read.

 –PK

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