The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Cheating the System: Honor code violations decreased in 2012-2013

When Karyn Brown, instructor of communication, caught a student copying another student’s work and violating Mississippi State University’s Student Honor Code, not only did she feel like she was being taken advantage of, she felt disappointment.

“You feel that they are insulting your intelligence,” Brown said. “Once you calm down, you realize that you know they didn’t do it with the intention to hurt you. They found themselves in a bad situation and made a bad choice.”

Through recent years, a rising trend occurred as more cases of academic misconduct were reported. However, new statistics show in 2012 and 2013, the trend decreased by 9.8 percent.

Before the honor code was implemented in 2007, only 50 cases of academic misconduct were reported per year.

James Orr, director of the Student Honor Code Office, said a centralized location to report academic misconduct caused the previous increasing trend.

“When we implemented an honor code, every year the number of cases reported increased. That didn’t increase because more cheating was occurring,” he said.

To explain the trend change, Orr said within a six or seven-year period, reports will increase, but once the period ends, reports start to decrease.

“At some point, you’ll hit a leveling off point where we’ll have a consistent amount of cases reported,” Orr said.

He said students who violate the honor code do not try to cheat the system, they are just not aware they break the honor code.

Bill Kibler, vice president for Student Affairs, researched academic integrity and honor codes for 20 years before supervising the Student Honor Code Office. He said he wants to expand the test proctoring program the office has implemented in the past to reduce cheating.

“Slowly that has grown where we are having more and more faculty that are asked for trained proctors to come and help,” he said. “That reduces the temptation in the classroom.”
Orr gave a presentation to stress the importance of following the honor code on August 20, giving examples of types of academic misconduct like plagiarism, cheating, complicity and data or source fabrication.

Plagiarism constituted 54 percent of 2012-2013 cases reported, mainly because students did not follow rules of correctly attributing sources or paraphrasing.

In a demanding upper-level political science class, Trey Burke, alumnus, participated in a group project. All four members turned in their side of the work, and all seemed well, until the night before the assignment was due.

One group member copied and pasted information straight from the CIA World Fact Book, compromising the group’s efforts.

The next morning, Burke and two other members reported the plagiarism.

“He said we were responsible for the information, but we didn’t have it and still got A’s so I suppose he changed his mind,” Burke said.

To avoid plagiarism, Orr urged students not to procrastinate and to attend sessions at the MSU Writing Center.

MSU’s Student Honor Code handbook classifies cheating, at 37 percent of cases reported, as “intentionally using or attempting to use unauthorized materials, information, notes, study aids or other devices or materials in any academic exercise.” Orr gave an example during his presentation of a student violating the honor code because he borrowed past tests from an upperclassman to study.

Students can receive dismissal from the university, a lower course grade, a zero on the assignment or an XF on a transcript for violation of the honor code.

Orr said an XF shows potential employers or graduate schools that a student failed the course due to academic misconduct. To remove the X, students have to attend a two-hour seminar called the Academic Integrity Intervention Program and take a 16-hour online ethics course provided by the University of Maryland.

“If you do (the seminar and ethics course), you can get the X removed from your transcript, but the F is always there,” Orr said.

While some students become angry at the honor code system, Kibler said the majority praise the intervention program.

“They don’t necessarily come back and thank us, but it was a significant enough lesson for them that at least they leave the process with a commitment to not do that again,” he said.

Orr said cheating harms students because they do not receive the skill set that a degree implies.

“(Cheating) also harms your peers because the course instructor can’t evaluate the work if you’re doing it in a way that’s dishonest. Your peers may not have a higher grade than you,” he said.

In Kibler’s research, he found sociological literature that linked cheating in college, or being between the age of 18 and 24, to being dishonest in one’s profession. A study looked at physicians who developed patterns of dishonesty earlier in life. Because of these patterns, Kibler said some physicians cut corners.

“That’s a scary thought when you start thinking about the implications of a physician cutting some corner in terms of making more money or saving more time,” he said.

Students can educate themselves on the Student Honor Code by reading the Student Honor Code newsletter online or meeting with associates in the Student Honor Code office on the second floor of the YMCA building. By recognizing the importance of academic integrity, Orr said the honor code helps students build ethos of making the right decision.

“When I look at society, at the scandals and the cheating that is occurring, I think that society is looking for men and women of integrity and honesty. The honor code instills honesty in students,” he said.

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Cheating the System: Honor code violations decreased in 2012-2013