Tracking cheaters to curtail misconduct

Although cheating is almost universally considered ethically wrong, according to a survey conducted by Rutgers University and the Duke Academic Integrity Organization, 75 percent of students surveyed admitted to doing it at least once in their college career. Responding to the prevalence of cheating among students — especially in light of last year’s basketball scandal — the University is creating a database containing the names of students who have been caught cheating.
As part of the new Office of Academic Integrity, which should be fully functional by January, the cheaters database is a necessary step the University was forced to take to salvage some sense of academic integrity after last year’s scandal. Although the actions of the men’s basketball program should by no means represent the ethics of the student body, the University’s latest measure is necessary to stifle cheating, promote academic integrity and to protect against similar future episodes.
Promoted primarily by University Provost and Executive Vice President Bob Bruininks, the new office will cost the University an estimated $120,000. Betty Hackett, the current director of the Student Judicial Affairs office, will serve as the academic integrity officer and will be the only person to have direct access to the database, thereby maintaining student privacy. Additionally, the academic integrity office is considering the implementation of a standardized method of dealing with issues of academic misconduct.
The new database will be a useful tool for many professors as the students’ right to privacy regarding their records prevents professors from sharing information about their suspicions of student cheating. Many do not share their report instances out of fear that suspicion will be perceived as a threat, which in turn brings the fear of litigation.
Professors still have the burden of proof, and the ease with which students can use the Internet to plagiarize makes meeting that burden a difficult task. The database would give professors a way to ensure that the same students do not continually receive only a slap on the wrist for academic misconduct.
It is unfortunate that the acts of a few dishonest University students are costing the entire University such an exorbitant amount of money. The new office, however, is a worthwhile investment to repair and promote the academic integrity of this University. The administration has taken a creative approach in battling academic misconduct by creating this office to address students as individuals. It is often easy to pigeonhole students, assuming that if given the opportunity they will all cheat.
The database promotes the idea of having good faith in students and will be used as sort of an honor system. If a student makes a not-too-serious mistake, he or she is treated with leniency. The incident is then put into the database. If the student continues to cheat with other professors, a pattern can then be established and further action can be taken. Handling a situation of this sort with such discretion and faith in the student body is refreshing and will not only aid professors, but students as well.