Good luck (and good decisions) during finals!
Most schools are winding down with finals either this week or next which means *stress.* We all do silly things to make ourselves more anxious during high stress times, but for most of us that anxiety will not translate to any real problems. There are times, however, when our bad habits cause us to respond to manageable situations as if they were hopeless. It is then that we do things that we would not do otherwise like plagiarize, cheat, or take other shortcuts that can get you suspended or expelled from school. Most students I deal with that get caught cheating are not habitual cheaters. They are good people and good students who were overwhelmed and acted without thinking things through. By taking a deep breath and asking yourself the following questions you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road:
- What will happen if you get caught? For most academic misconduct you should assume that you will, at a minimum, fail the class. In addition, faculty and TAs are actively looking for academic misconduct during the last couple of weeks of school and during finals. Because of this, you will probably also be referred to the judicial office and if you are found responsible you will be suspended. Even if you would fail the final or the last paper without cheating, there is a HUGE difference between an earned F and an assigned 0.
- How much will cheating help you even if you get away with it? Going back to the above example, let’s assume that the final is half your grade. If you have a D going into the final that means you have at least 30 points (60% of 50 points=30). If you cheat and get an A, that would add 45 points to your grade which would give you a C. So if you cheat and succeed you’re getting a C, if you don’t and you get a D you’re getting a D, and if you get caught you’re getting an F and likely getting suspended. The potential reward is not worth it. You’d be better off not studying and spending that time on other classes. (Note: the math works if you have a B going into the final as well.)
- How easy is it to catch plagiarism? The answer to this is “easy.” Professors and TAs know to Google phrases that sound “off” to them and they will likely find the source you used and didn’t credit, or the book you pretended to use and cited. If you don’t have time to finish a paper without plagiarizing, talk to your professor ASAP. Even if she will not give you extra time, you will likely only lose a set amount of points by handing it in late, and that’s much better than a zero.
- Why would someone I care about ask me to risk everything so they can cheat? Many academic misconduct cases are when one student cheats of another student who is doing well in the class. In most systems, especially those with an honor code, both students are accountable for that even if one student receives no benefit from the misconduct. I understand that if your friend, that girl you like, or your boyfriend asks that it is really hard to say no because you want to help them. However, this is the academic misconduct equivalent of them asking you to smuggle their drugs through the airport and I bet all of you would be too smart to do that.
- Have I tried everything else? Your school has academic support resources, policies for getting an “Incomplete,” and other options to get help with academic situations that seem hopeless. Even more importantly, most of your faculty want you to succeed and if you approach them they may have options for you. If none of these actually help you then at least you tried to do everything you could and you can feel better about your actual grade.
Of course, if you decided to cheat anyway and get caught, we’re here to help.
What other strategies do you have to get out of trouble without cheating? If you’re faculty at a school what have you done to help students in crisis? Any tips?