I feel that the topic of cheating creates a wall between students and “learning facilitator” (me) – a wall that I feel impedes learning and harmony; a wall that I make great effort to disassemble. I think part of the tension involved in “academic honesty” is the moral emphasis. I mean to make no moral judgement – people have different ways of responding to an authoritarian learning system imposed upon them. What we call “cheating” might be an act of desperation, or rebellion against the hierarchy of education/success/wealth/status that a student may feel they don’t buy into. And the tension is cultural. I spent my senior year in Austria, where we spent the entire day in a single classroom with the same group of students. We became close friends and cheating was standard… “team work”. It was “us” against “them”.
So, I recognize the mere discussion of cheating damaging and counter productive. I know some instructors that disregard cheating as a way to prioritize relationship within the class.
However, it is also important for me to be transparent about what you might expect based on what I have seen myself do. I saw a student look on another’s final exam. I looked at the exams and concluded that this student had taken a significant amount of information from the other student, and would not have passed this exam if they had not taken this information. Consistent with university policy, I assigned an “F” and reported the event to the university. I requested that the student be spoken with, but that no disciplinary action be taken. The student is no longer at Cal Poly.
Was the student expelled? Would I bet my life that they cheated? This haunts me a little.
While I don’t wish to talk about cheating, I think that the very least I should do is report to you what I have seen myself do. However, if you have concerns about academic integrity, I will gladly discuss it and help where I can. My interest is to work with you, not against you.
Please go to this website if you want more information on my thoughts about academic honesty.