Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Investigation of Academic Dishonesty among Business Students at Public and Private United States Universities

Academic journal article International Journal of Management

A Investigation of Academic Dishonesty among Business Students at Public and Private United States Universities

Article excerpt

A questionnaire on academic dishonesty was administered to management majors at a public and a private, Catholic university. Students were asked their extent of participation in 16 dishonest academic practices, their ratings of the ethical levels of the practices, their ratings of the likelihood of reasons for participation in the practices, and their gender and grade point average (GPA). Though more emphasis was placed on ethics and values at the Catholic university, the two groups of students reported very similar levels of academic dishonesty. Possible reasons for the absence of a relationship between the type of school attended and students' behavior are discussed.

The problem of unethical and dishonest behavior in the workplace has recently been emphasized by highly publicized scandals involving several large U. S. corporations. College and university faculty and administrators have been concerned about this type of behavior among students for several decades. Surveys of college and university students have shown that academic dishonesty, or cheating, occurs at alarmingly high rates on the nation's campuses. Furthermore, there is evidence that rates have tended to increase over time (Singhal, 1982; Sisson &Todd-McMancillas, 1984; Greene& Saxe, 1992; Meade, 1992; Brown & Abramson, 1999; Brown & Mclnerney, 2001). While the relationship between time and the reported level of dishonesty is not perfect, the general trend has been upward. Other factors such as different definitions of dishonesty and different questionnaires have contributed to the variation found in the level of academic dishonesty.

Concern over dishonest behavior at our institutions of higher learning should extend beyond campus boundaries. Dishonesty on the campus is likely a result of students' ethics and values that they will take with them when they graduate and move into the workplace. Several studies have found correlations between unethical behavior in college and on the job. Sierles, Hendrickx, and Circle (1980) found students who cheated in academic classes in medical school were more likely to falsify patient records in a clinical setting. Hubert (1985) found a significant correlation between classroom dishonesty and unethical clinical behavior among nursing students. Sims (1993) found significant correlations between the number and severity of dishonest acts respondents engaged in as students and as employees. Though these studies do not establish a causal relationship between dishonesty in the classroom and on the job, Ferrell and Daniel (1995) argue that a student who does not respect ethical behavior in college cannot be expected to respect it in future personal and professional relationships.

One of the factors affecting a person's moral decision-making process is the person's moral philosophy. Moral philosophy can be learned through formal education as well as from religion, family members, and social contacts (McAllister, Ferrell, & Ferrell, 2003, p. 140). Therefore, one possible solution to the problem of unethical behavior on the campus and in the workplace is to expose students to a higher level of ethical and moral education during their college careers. This study provides some evidence as to the effectiveness of this strategy among undergraduate management majors, who are future business leaders, by comparing the academic dishonesty of the management majors at a secular, public university and a private, Catholic university, the latter offering a more values-oriented education than the former. The results will be of value to faculty and administrators in management programs in evaluating whether adding more ethics and values oriented content to their programs is likely to bring about more ethical behavior among their students.

Literature Review

The results of an extensive search of several electronic data bases are presented in Table 1. The table shows the last name of the first author of the study, its year of publication, and whether a relationship was found between the independent and dependent variables. …

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