Academic journal article Community College Review

An Examination of Student Cheating in the Two-Year College

Academic journal article Community College Review

An Examination of Student Cheating in the Two-Year College

Article excerpt

This study statistically analyzes the experiences of two-year college students with cheating, the predominant unethical student behavior in the college environment. Males in this survey are more likely than are females to admit to collegiate cheating, and males and dorm residents report a greater willingness to assist others in cheating. Although most respondents believe cheating is ethically wrong, nearly half say it is socially acceptable. Males find cheating more socially acceptable than do females, sophomores more so than do freshmen, and dorm residents more so than do off campus students. Also, academic major and cheating are not independent variables.


The marketplace model that is the foundation of modern economics is inherently dependent upon the presumption that a standard of professional ethics exists that allows all participants in the free enterprise system to have confidence in that system. During 2001 and 2002, however, the public has been exposed by the media to a steady stream of reports that there are significant problems in the business practices of a number of major U.S. corporations. Most notably, the debacle at Enron cost many of its stockholders their investments, caused the values of many of its employees' retirement funds to disappear, and decisively contributed to the demise of Arthur Andersen, one of the five largest accounting firms in the world.

The widely publicized problems at Enron and other corporations such as WorldCom and Global Crossing have all contributed to a climate in which many individuals now doubt the integrity of the corporate and financial environments in the United States. In the wake of these disclosures there have been calls for Congress to create legislation that would prohibit some of the more deceptive business practices, and there have been questions raised as to the appropriate role of regulatory agencies in this arena.

Perhaps one of the more disturbing observations about this series of corporate revelations is that so many individuals employed by these corporations and by their auditors must have made, independent of each other, decision after decision that allowed these questionable practices to continue unabated for such a relatively lengthy period of time. These decisions range from workers simply ignoring the situations in their own workplaces to employees assisting others in these practices and actively participating in unethical behavior, including the coverup and destruction of potentially incriminating evidence. Thus the issue is raised of whether there has been a significant deterioration of ethical standards in the workplace and whether the next generation of workers, regardless of acts of Congress or tougher regulations and enforcement, will be any more likely to exhibit basic ethical decision making. Since today's college students will be the educated workers of tomorrow, it is worthwhile to examine their current experiences with academic cheating, a predominant expression of unethical student behavior in the college environment.


Cheating may be defined as fraudulent behavior involving some form of deception in which one's own efforts or the efforts of others are misrepresented (Prescot, 1989). Academic cheating may be as simple as using crib notes in class or plagiarizing others in written assignments, or it may be as extreme as utilizing unauthorized sources for take-home exams or even hiring professionals to write papers and prepare case reports. Certainly the continued growth of the Internet makes the more flagrant forms of cheating widely accessible to an increasing number of students.

Research on differences in students' backgrounds, which naturally create alternative perceptions and ethical judgments, is important to the understanding of how students behave in certain situations. Hunt and Vitell's (1993) proposed model of environmental factors that affect ethical perceptions and judgments listed cultural, professional, industrial, and organizational environments as the attributes that contribute to the recognition of ethical problems. …

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