Monday, November 10, 2008

'Til I die (or am minorly inconvenienced) I will not remove mine integrity from me

I've worked to ensure academic integrity for a long time now. As an academic counselor at UoP for a few years, it was my job to talk to students about plagiarism, make sure they understood exactly what it meant to have academic integrity, encourage them to do their work honestly, and report them to academic affairs if they were dishonest. Before I did that, I worked in the testing office at UofA, where among my many duties, I had to catch cheaters. And I caught a few. I was never so surprised as when we found 30 pages of notes being used by a girl wearing next to no clothing. Where in the world was she keeping them? Part of me wanted to wear gloves when we confiscated them, just in case it was somewhere gross.
After years of working my tail off in school to earn my own grades in addition to all my work experience, you could safely say that academic integrity is one of my pet causes. I despise cheating. Loathe it. I've seen every trick in the book--some of which border on beyond desperate like actually making yourself throw up to get to your stash of notes in the bathroom, and some of which are painfully uncreative--writing on your arm, really? I've heard every excuse in the known world. "If I fail, my dad won't pay for my Beamer." Oh, yeah, buddy, I'm crying with you on that one, I'll feel bad for you on my whole walk home. "I'll lose my athletic scholarship." Tough beans, and maybe a little more studying on the bus next time. "I was holding these for a friend." Uh huh. During your test, while she waited outside? I'm sure she'll appreciate the gesture. "My daughter had to write my essay because my internet was down." Excuse me? Are those two things even related?
Call me a Nazi, but I have no sympathy whatsoever. As a student, I didn't work for four years to get the same exact diploma as someone who switched places with their twin so they could pass their Biology final (I wish I was joking about that). As a representative for the university, I'm not going to allow a few bad apples to cheapen degrees from our institution for everyone else. Period. I'm hardcore and passionate about this.
The point of all this is that, never, not once in my entire life, did I encounter a cheater who didn't think they were the exception to the rule. Not one person who didn't think their reason was good enough to justify what they had done. Not one.
I bring it up at all because people who know me obviously need to know how I feel about this. Because lately, I've had more and more people mention or even brag to me that they do their spouse's homework. i.e. "John's final essay turned out great, if I do say so myself, I wrote it after all." It would be rude of me to launch into them then and there, so I'm posting my opinion on the blog without mentioning anyone specifically so they can read it and know unequivocally how I feel about this practice before they mouth off to me and get a stunned look and truncated conversation in return. Please, read how I feel before you say something that makes me lose a huge chunk of respect for you.
This is wrong. Wrong. Positively, absolutely wrong. Are we crystal clear about my stance?
I am even more upset by the fact that most (okay, all) of these people are LDS. We are supposed to be "honest in all our dealings," people. Do you think school doesn't qualify? What happened to "Til I die, I will not remove mine integrity from me." Hey, for you younger crowd, "I believe in being honest, I believe in being true." These are not just sayings, they are a way of life. Consistent integrity is the only way to build a good name in this world, and I might add, the next.
I know that nobody is perfect and makes mistakes, but why in the world are we bragging about said mistakes? Simply put, because none of the people I talk to seem to think it is a mistake. Most of the people that have mentioned it to me feel fully justified to cheat like this because they are supporting their spouse and allowing him to support their family. Excuse me, but I just heard "my dad won't pay for my beamer." Sorry, it's all lies and cheating to me, no matter how you couch it.
Don't get me wrong. I understand the temptation. I have never been so frustrated in my life as trying to tutor Daniel in Mendelian genetics for his Bio 101 class last month. I had a degree in this stuff, I could have done the assignments in 30 minutes instead of beating my head against the wall and answering endless "whys?" from my husband. Man, that guy is thorough. Drive me crazy! But I tutored him instead of writing it for him, because it was the right thing to do. And if I felt like I was starting to feed him answers word for word, I would walk away and he would continue by himself. Because it was right. And, no, it doesn't make me an unsupportive wife to expect ultimate integrity from the man I've pledged eternity to. He expects the same from me, and would be disappointed if I expected anything less. He wouldn't allow me to do homework for him , even if I would, and only requested I teach him. It's unbelievably hard to sit watching TV, bored, while my husband dragged home from a long day at the office and sat down to a long night of hitting the books. Especially when it's a topic that interests me and I know I could help with. Daniel got his reward on Saturday, however, when he walked in his graduation ceremony with a completely clear conscience knowing without a doubt that he earned that degree. The blood, sweat, and tears were all his, and he can hold his head high knowing that. Way to go, Baby! It was worth it, every last late night, to know he didn't lie to anyone, least of all himself.
Putting a name on a paper other than the author themselves is just that. A big fat lie.
The most common justifications I hear for this are that 1)it's not a class that matters, just a gen-ed or something, and 2) he/she really needs to get into medical/dental/law school, so he needs good grades.
To address this first one, I have to say this: There is no such thing as a class that doesn't matter. Because every last course, even if you will never use the material, is required for a reason. Maybe the reason is only to test your patience and integrity, but ultimately, that is the most important test of all, more important than course material If you're cheating, you're failing that test. Every class is an opportunity to be honest with yourself and prove that you have what it takes to be a good student and earn your degree. Take it for what it is. This is coming from a non-Spanish speaker who had to take Mexican folk music and learn songs phonetically, so don't even tell me I don't know what I'm talking about.
At the risk of sounding completely heartless about the next point, if you can't pass your basic classes of your undergrad singlehandedly, I don't want you as my doctor/dentist/lawyer anyway. To put it more bluntly, if you have to cheat to get into the program you want, you are unqualified for the program. If you can't do the work yourself, you DO NOT have what it takes, and I will not put my life or my child's life in your hands. I really shiver at the thought of going to a doctor who says "hmm, your child is congested, but my husband did that chapter, so let me call him and get back to you." Uh, can you say lawsuit?
It's not just the "important" jobs that need integrity. I don't want my mechanic, phlebotomist, pizza delivery guy, or cashier for that matter, to not have met the requirements for their job before doing it. For those of you going on to advanced degrees, hello, the undergraduate degree work is a job requirement. Do it. Yourself.
It's just a good rule of thumb that if a behavior can get you expelled, it's probably not the right course of action. Let's all remember that for future reference. Let's remember that we are asked to be honest in our dealings, not honest in our dealings unless we really really feel like we have a good reason not to be.
That's just one Nazi's opinion, though, take your chances with dishonesty if you wish. Just keep quiet about it around me, because now you know I hate cheating.


Megan Lewis said...

Hey Carly, I couldn't help but jump onto your blog when I saw it. I totally agree with you though. I hated it when I was in school and girls would be bragging about typing their husbands paper up. I always wondered how they could be proud to have a totally helpless husband.

Megan Lewis said...

PS I love your random thoughts!!

Alison said...

I only remember two students being caught cheating while I worked at testing, they must have come out of the woodwork after I graduated.

Natalie said...

Oh my gosh, I love that post!!I laughed out loud when I read this:
I really shiver at the thought of going to a doctor who says "hmm, your child is congested, but my husband did that chapter, so let me call him and get back to you."
You are funny. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
p.s. I hate cheating too!