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Cheating: NMSU students and faculty weigh in on academic misconduct

Is cheating as big an issue as people make it out to be?

Cheating is nothing new at any college campus. Here at NMSU, it’s debatable whether academic misconduct is a serious issue. Many students confess to cheating without hesitation, but is the problem truly widespread?

(Photo illustration by Angel Hernandez/Kokopelli)

When NMSU students were asked if they have ever cheated on an assignment or a test, many admitted to the misconduct. The students claimed that everyone does it, but often only as a last resort.

So what does “cheating” actually look like? Academic misconduct, as it’s formally known, can be described as more than students just looking over their shoulders and peeking at the Scantron next to them. The ways in which students cheat also vary between colleges and majors at NMSU.

Cheating: Is it Really a Problem?

How would you characterize academic misconduct at NMSU? More specifically, how widespread is cheating on exams/quizzes and plagiarism? (All voting is 100% anonymous.)

One student from the Creative Media Institute stated that when it comes to animation, it can be hard sometimes to come up with creative and original material. The student didn’t confess to taking original designs and using them as his/her own, but viewed them as inspirational.

“If a student truly doesn’t understand how to cite something, it is our job to teach them. However, if a student knowingly takes the work of someone else, the problem is the same.”

The student explained that not everything is going to be 100% original and that everything is based on something else. This student, along with others, understands that plagiarism of any kind is wrong, but raised questions about what exactly counts as plagiarism.

Based on conversations with NMSU students, plagiarism is perhaps the most common form of academic misconduct. While plagiarism is clearly defined as academic misconduct in the NMSU Student Handbook, some NMSU faculty members seem to suggest there are varying degrees of severity when it comes to plagiarism.

DACC faculty member Becky Corran said that intentionality plays a big part when it comes to plagiarism. “If a student truly doesn’t understand how to cite something, it is our job to teach them. However, if a student knowingly takes the work of someone else, the problem is the same.”

Corran also described some of the situations in which she has encountered students cheating in her class.

“I have had a few students cheat in my classes. In those cases, it was typically something that the students did as a result of pressures to perform, and not something they thought about for any amount of time,” Corran said. “I’m much more concerned for students who want to be here, don’t want to cheat and are still struggling to learn.”

Ricky Araiza, a graduate student who teaches a course titled “Writing in the Humanities and Social Sciences,” has encountered a few cases of plagiarism in his class. Araiza stated that he isn’t one to create conflict and is forgiving toward his students so long as they are aware of the error of their ways.

Cheating: Plagiarism

Have you ever handed in plagiarized work at NMSU?

He believes there are many aspects to be mindful of in a student’s personal life that could encourage a student to turn in someone else’s work.

“It’s a lot of speculation, but maybe the student didn’t have time, maybe they’re working two jobs while also being a full-time student and they had this assignment that is due in two hours and that could encourage them to just copy and paste something together,” Araiza said.

One thing Araiza also pointed out was that students may be worried they do not have the ability to meet their teachers’ expectations and that may compel them to cheat.

“They are trying to perform to the standard that is set for them, but they don’t know how to reach it,” Araiza said.

Araiza also stated he is willing to look past students’ academic misconduct so long as it’s something he as the instructor can handle and fix.

It is suggested that when students commit academic misconduct, not only are they robbing other people of their work, they are also robbing themselves of learning the course material.

Cheating: Exams and Quizzes

Have you ever cheated on an exam or quiz at NMSU?

The NMSU dean of students, Ann Goodman, states that misconduct not only exists in the academic world, but throughout all industries. Goodman maintains cheating culture has evolved and changed in large part due to technological developments. More specifically, while technology has made it easier for people to cheat, Goodman points out it’s also made it easier to catch misconduct.

“Academic integrity issues have always existed. The concept of cheating in class or trying to utilize somebody else’s work as your own has been around forever. With technology it’s been much easier to identify. As things are more available on the internet, you can do all kinds of things to cross reference,” Goodman said.

During the 2017-2018 academic school year, the NMSU faculty senate made a proposal to substantively revise the Student Academic Code of Conduct. The revision provides consensus-based definitions of academic integrity and examples of academic misconduct. Misconduct includes cheating or the assisting of cheating, misrepresentation, plagiarism and unauthorized access to or alteration of academic records, and unauthorized possession of academic material. The code also lists the procedures and processes for responding to suspected academic misconduct, investigating and evaluating facts and determining sanction levels.

Cheating: Ever Caught Someone Else Doing It?

Students: Have you ever witnessed another student cheating? Faculty: Have you ever caught one of your students cheating?

Even with the code of conduct and technological resources in place, there is the possibility minor cases of cheating will continue to be dealt with in the classroom. Becky Corran indicated faculty may also take steps to try and prevent students from cheating in the first place.

“I don’t think it’s solvable necessarily, but I believe we should design our assignments in ways that reduce cheating to a minimum,” Corran said.

Some of the ways Corran tries to prevent cheating in her classes include creating assignments that are built on individual learning and research, eliminating high-stakes testing, and providing more diverse modalities for students to demonstrate their knowledge.

How about you? Have you ever cheated? Do you think cheating is a widespread problem at NMSU? The Kokpelli staff would love to hear from you. Participation in the surveys above is 100% anonymous.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included multiple misspellings of both Ricky Araiza’s last name and Becky Corran’s last name. Our sincere apologies for these errors. 

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