Cheating Will Result In Failure, And Should Be Avoided At All Costs, But What Is It?

FCLC Students and Faculty Attempt to Pinpoint the Answer to an Ambiguous and Controversial Question


Published: November 5, 2009

It’s already 2 a.m. and you haven’t even begun your paper on industrialization in developing countries. You know your professor wants a thorough bibliography and tons of great information, but you seriously do not have the time to explore transportation technology in Japan when you also have to figure out what Kant’s deal is for a quiz in seven hours. So what if you frantically call your friend and have them e-mail you their paper from last year for suggestions? And now that you think of it, didn’t your roommate have the same philosophy teacher last semester? Studying her test will definitely give you a heads up on your own. What’s the big deal with getting a little homework help?

Fordham College at Lincoln Center’s (FCLC) small class sizes foster a collaborative environment, where individuals share ideas and questions with each other. While this comfortable and relaxed atmosphere is one of the campus’ strengths, working this closely with peers can at times put students in a sticky situation. With the increasing development in technology, as well as harsher competition in the job market, resorting to cheating may be more appealing to students. Some FCLC professors reported seeing cheating once or twice a semester, while others have seen it only once or twice during their entire career.

Which leads us to ask, what exactly is cheating? Is it plagiarism or is it sharing homework problems? Is it texting answers during an exam or is it reading a friend’s work from the previous semester? Is it buying a paper or is it failing to provide a bibliography?

According to the FCLC Code of Conduct, which outlines the standards of academic integrity supported by the school, there are four main modes of cheating that are considered unacceptable. First is plagiarism, taking someone else’s work and presenting it as one’s own. Second is cheating, which includes using unauthorized tools like cell phones and calculators during an exam, copying someone’s work, getting information from another student, etc. The third academic standard is falsification, lies told to mislead people such as making up sources or data. The last standard is known as unapproved collaboration. This is when students work as a team to complete homework, tests, projects or papers when a professor does not explicitly authorize it.

Although a direct definition of cheating is clearly outlined in the Student Handbook, students and professors have their own views concerning the topic.

Karen Williams, adjunct professor of communication and media studies at FCLC, noted the effect of technology on cheating.

“Within the last few years, students use the Internet so much, it is an extension of how they think and process information,” Williams said. “It is easier for me to make assignments that don’t welcome cheating easily. I make papers specific to each class.”

Aristotle Papanikolao, associate chair of theology at FCLC, feels that plagiarism is not a challenge to catch.

“Plagiarizing is something that professors develop a knack for uncovering. By virtue of their training, professors have a good sense of things. A professor can discern from various pieces of writing if one piece of writing matches with another—we are trained to see differences in styles of texts.”

It is no surprise that professors do not approach the discussion of cheating lightly. However, some students seem to have a more nonchalant attitude.

“I think cheating is sometimes blown out of proportion,” said Rob Coglitore, FCLC ’12. “If someone wants to help me with a paper, they should be able to.”

“It’s unrealistic for a professor to expect anyone to do any type of work without help,” said Neil Reyes, FCLC ’12. “We should take advantage of resources provided. We gain knowledge from other people. A teacher tells us something and we regurgitate it on a test; this is how we learn and teachers need to accept that. Everything I learned was from someone else, so shouldn’t teachers everywhere be cited on tests?”

Other students saw a distinct line between getting help and cheating.

“I think cheating is something we should be beyond in college. However, helping a friend with homework is fine as long as you don’t do it for them,” Peter Muller, FCLC ’10. “I tutor several students so I know the importance of students needing help, but there are ways to get help without cheating.”

While some students feel Fordham’s cheating policy is taken to the extreme, others do feel strongly that cheating is wrong and shouldn’t be tolerated.

“If you are taking an exam or writing a paper and receive information that you know you did not obtain on your own, it is cheating, plain and simple,” said Ryan Murphy, FCLC ’11. “If you can’t pass on your own, it is your own fault, not an excuse to cheat.”

“Cheating may appear beneficial because it may secure an easy A, but that paper you’re supposed to write is designed to help you learn and better your knowledge in that subject,” said Kevin Quaratino, FCLC ’13. “Essentially, cheating on a paper is cheating yourself and putting all your tuition to waste.”

“Academic dishonesty has become so accepted to the point that students don’t recognize or even care when they do violate the policy,” said Richard Scott, FCLC ’11. “Although it is a serious issue, we shouldn’t act like it’s taboo.”

As a Jesuit University, Fordham is committed to honesty and trust among students and faculty. A result of this dedication is the University’s Academic Integrity Committee, implemented this year to handle specific student cases that involve cheating. This committee is composed of three faculty members, three students and one academic administrator.

Dr. Mark Mattson, Chair of the Academic Integrity Committee at FCLC, said, “It’s the evolution of what we have been doing for a number of years. Now there’s a unified policy on academic integrity for all four undergraduate schools.”

Nikolai Chowdhury, FCLC ’11, a council member on the Academic Integrity Committee said, “This is a new change from the previous system [as] now students are directly involved in the process of dealing with plagiarism and academic integrity. It gives the students more of a voice rather than just dealing with staff and upper levels of administration.”

It seems that the term cheating may be more elusive than previously thought, unable to be captured in a simple definition. Whether simply glancing at a neighbor’s paper or buying research from the Internet, cheating is something that is taken seriously at Fordham. While some students strive to uphold a standard of academic integrity, others take a different approach, especially when it comes to collaborating with their peers. This rift in opinion will continue to perpetuate ambiguity surrounding the definition of cheating.