Friday, August 14, 2009

Cheating Cheaters who Cheat.

There's an increasing commotion, a hullabaloo if you will, about cheating at universities.

First, I completely understand the position of the schools. They are a business producing a product. They produce graduates. Granted, this is an imperfect analogy since the product in this case has its own motivations, but from the university's perspective, that's all they do.

To maintain their stability and viability, they must ensure the quality of said product. That's why universities fight over high-performing students and professors. The students will more likely go on to a degree of fame and fortune, which the university can then advertise, and the professors are more likely to attract those students likely to go from college on to fame and fortune. As such, maintaining the integrity of their product is critical.

But from the student's perspective, it's a non-issue. Much like the logic of risk in athletic doping, the risk of cheating is finite, while the possible benefits are theoretically infinite. In any competitive field, cheating is a given and will always happen, likely in greater amounts than the governing bodies of those competitive fields would like to admit. If we assume widespread cheating, and if sports has shown it's there whether we can detect it or not, and the world has not fallen apart yet, why is there such concern?

Moreover, the risks of not catching the students are, in my opinion, low.
  • For a student's cheating to fly under the radar of common sense, the cheating cannot exceed their normal level of performance by too great a margin. And if they're already high-performing, there's low concern for the school.

  • If their usually high level of performance is the result of cheating, they're already so good at it as to not get caught.

  • An isolated incident of cheating for whatever reason is of low concern, since this doesn't have much bearing on the student's overall performance.
While a school cannot take a relaxed attitude towards cheating, the general acknowledgment that if you do get caught, you're up shit's creek is enough to dissuade most cheats, and the mere nature of college itself will keep the really problematic cheats out. The cheats who are good enough to dodge all of these safety measures suffer a low likelihood of ever getting caught, thus posing no threat to the school's image. Hell, they might even cheat their way to fame.

University Offers New Grade For Cheating Students: FD (

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