Cheating endangers students

There is one section of the syllabi we receive each semester that instructors never forget to stress — academic integrity.

Reactions from reading those two words can range from indifference to uneasiness. Those students who flicker their eyes and bite their lips ultimately reassure themselves that after graduation, they won’t cheat anymore.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

But these words of consolation are not necessarily true.

An investigation released Monday by the Justice Department revealed that FBI agents, including supervisors, cheated on an exam on departmental policy by collaborating with others and using an answer key.

These agents were being tested on counterterrorism and surveillance procedures.

It is a scary reality that these protectors of our nation might be unqualified, leaving us sitting at home wondering how our government plans to shield us from terrorism or any number of other threats. Their decision to cheat forces us to reflect on our campus’ own issues with cheating and what it means for students’ futures.

Students don’t usually cheat to put others in harm’s way. They do so to pass, to bridge that gap between an “A” and a “B.” They convince themselves that cheating will end once their professional lives begin because then a report card doesn’t matter anymore.

Information gathered by Point Loma University gives some of the primary reasons for academic dishonesty, including pressures dealing with workload, inadequate instruction or parental guidance, laziness in attending class, and a convenient opportunity to cheat.

Still, one could argue that students cheat to their own benefit — or detriment — alone, and not intentionally at the expense of others.

During the last decade, studies by the Ethics Resource Center show that cheating and misconduct in the workplace are still common problems, though research from last year does indicate an improvement in business ethics, corresponding with the recession.

Taking the economic decline into account, the study says that “improvements tend to be temporary and that management needs to stay alert.”

Managers of professional organizations — just like our professors — are inclined to watch out for those taking advantage, lying to make it to the top.

A student cheating on an exam might not endanger any one individual or group. Blue-collar workers slacking off on the job or flirting their way to promotions might not either. An FBI agent cheating his way through a basic exam on protective measure, however, might.

And there it is: a real-life example that illustrates how cheating is dangerous. This is what students need to consider.

The issue isn’t about developing innovative ways to combat cheating; it is to make students aware of the repercussions this addiction might have on their future professional lives.

If students can hardly remain afloat in the academic pool without copying and plagiarizing, their ability to think in terms of academia is not the only problem. They lose sight of what it means to think critically and also become incapable of individually completing or learning a task in the workplace.

The Ethics Resource Center study showed that cheating in the workplace is bound to be on the rise again after the recession. One cannot help but think: that students transitioning into the professional market will be the ones studied this time.

Desperately claiming that cheating never meant to be dangerous to an individual or group should be reassessed. Cheating is dangerous — to the one who committed the act, to his academic reputation in school, to his future success as a worker, even to his country.

So don’t let cheating become an addiction and form of lifestyle, don’t let it seep into the professional atmosphere and prove the Ethnics Resource Center’s predictions false.

This time around, don’t let the words “academic integrity” cause you to flinch — instead, bear in mind that, like all things worth pursuing, it just takes a little extra effort.

Alice Wen is a freshman majoring in print and digital journalism.