Jana is a typical Anglo-American University cheater. Like many of her classmates, she does it only when her grades are at stake – usually during demanding exams, unexpected quizzes, but also when she feels that she is safe to “get some help” from her neighbor or her phone.
Jana, who asked that her real name be withheld, is convinced that the majority of the students at AAU cheat, and she is sometimes shocked by their behavior. As she puts it, “ Yes, I cheat, but I still have my morals.” What bothers Jana are what she calls “tacky cheating techniques” that include plagiarizing essays, going to the bathroom, passing around tests or copying answers from people you don’t know.
According to a survey conducted by AAU’s Anti-Cheating Committee, a group of concerned students,an alarming 83 percent of students have witnessed the dishonest techniques during exams. Meanwhile, the number of students caught cheating has remained steady over the years. “I don’t see a strong trend in the numbers,” said Peter Bolcha, dean of the School of Business Administration. He estimates the number of such cases detected at one to five per semester.
Although the real numbers are likely more bleak, a 2009 study in Ethics & Behavior (Vol. 19, No. 1) declares that 82 percent of US college graduates admit having cheated during their undergraduate studies.
A recent ABC News story quoted several American students who justify cheating by arguing that it’s a way to succeed in life. Some cite Bill Clinton’s lies about his affair while in the White House while other give examples such as corruption at Enron or inconsistencies of the legal system that make cheating in school no big deal. One students justified cheating simply by declaring, “The real world is terrible.”
Unlike American students, the international student body at AAU does not see the problem as such a tragedy. Tomáš Kebort, a first-year business student, thinks his peers don’t want to make the effort to study because the material covered is too theoretical. “We can Google everything now,” he explained, adding that classes should be more focused on practical skills, such as teamwork and presenting.
But cheating is a major concern for the university and is being dealt with. “There is definitely an inconsistency among the faculty members because some of them are trying to go easy and be liked by the students,” said Roger Kachlik, university vice president. This inconsistency is further supported by the survey results, which show that 75 percent of students think that whether cheating is easy or not depends on the teacher.
In cooperation with the Anti-Cheating Committee, the university has started adopting new policies in order to eliminate any factors that would tempt students. “We try to train lectures to identify it and to report these cases,” said Peter Bolcha. Teachers are also stricter in following formal procedures, such as having students leave their bags at the front of the class, or walking around during exams and checking individual work.
While faculty enforcing policies is important, Gabriele Meissner, a lecturer at AAU thinks the initiative to stop cheating should originate from students themselves. “I’m not here to be a police officer,” she said. “You need to ask yourself – what the hell am I doing here?!”
Vojtěch Kotek, a member of the Anti-Cheating Committee, agrees. “We, the students, are interested in the quality of our education and the reputation of our school in the future,“ he said. Because cheating is harmful to the university’s reputation, in the long run, it is in everyone’s interest to work towards diminishing it, he believes.