In the prestigious streets of Cambridge, Mass. , several students have cracked under the pressure inside the Ivy League environment during the spring of 2012.
About 125 students out of 279 students enrolled in a course shared answers on a final exam at Harvard University.
Although the names of the suspected students involved have not been released, many of the students enrolled in the course could face a one-year suspension from the university. This potentially includes members of the Harvard’s men’s basketball team.
In a statement released by Harvard University, the Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay Harris wrote, “We must all work together to build a community that fully embraces the ethos of integrity that is the foundation of all learning and discovery.”
Not just isolated to Harvard, cheating is a problem that affects every educational institution from grade school to graduate school, and Penn State is no exception.
“In terms of research, the main reason for students cheating is because they see other students doing it,” Professor of Organizational Behavior and Ethics at Penn State Linda Trevino , said. Trevino also authored “Cheating in College: Why Students Do It and What Educators Can Do about It.”
Trevino said if students are in an environment in which they see other students cheating, they will view cheating as “the norm.”
Each college at Penn State has its own process for dealing with academic dishonesty.
If a student is caught cheating, he or she may contact the Office of Student Conduct to get more information about the process the student will go through after receiving a citation.
“The overall goal is to help students through the Office of Student Conduct judicial process and to make sure they are comfortable with their situation,” staff coordinator for the UPUA Student Conduct Advisors Chloe Rommes (junior-philosophy) said.
In most situations, students will be directed to their individual college of study, which will then handle specific disciplinary action depending on the severity of the infraction.
According to the Office of Student Conduct, 300 cases of academic dishonesty were reported last year at University Park.
Of the 300 cases, 158 of them were due to improper citation/plagiarism. Penn State policy states that using a previous work of your own without alerting your professor is an example of a violation of the Code of Conduct.
“Many students violate such policies without even knowing they are doing so, and the faculty has a responsibility to make sure students understand what qualifies as academic dishonesty,” Associate Director of the Office of Student Conduct Karen Feldbaum said.
Penn State’s Code of Conduct defines academic integrity as “the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner.”
In March 2008, The Penn State Pulse released a report based on a survey of 1,232 students about academic integrity at Penn State.
About 55 percent of students who participated in the survey and admitted to participating in academic misconduct said they have provided or received information about a test to or from a student in a different section of the course.
Also according to the survey, 35 percent of students who participated in the Pulse report disagreed with the statement that having an Honor Code at Penn State would improve academic integrity at Penn State.
Feldbaum says she is not surprised by this statistic. She said that an honor code is only “one piece of the pie,” but other steps need to be taken to prevent academic dishonesty.
“We have to change the culture of how highly people value learning and knowledge at Penn State. We need to shift the conversation towards the role of integrity at Penn State in not only academics, but also as a whole,” Feldbaum said.
Currently, a Student Conduct Code Task Force is working to establishing a statement of integrity for Penn State as a whole.
Trevino, who is also a part of the task force, said that instating a statement of integrity is not simply a set of words; it is a cultural intervention aiming at changing beliefs and ideas.
Dean of the Schreyer Honors College Christian Brady , who is a part of the task force, said this will hopefully serve as a guiding statement for all members of Penn State, not just students.
“Penn State has to build a community in which excellence is expected,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.