Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Scholastic dishonesty: Has cheating become a UTSA epidemic?


“If you’re going to cheat, cheat properly,” said a 2011 UTSA alumnus who supplemented his college income by writing essays for other students.

The alumnus majored in English but didn’t have trouble writing essays on subjects for which he had little knowledge.

“The English language has enough wiggle room where you can say anything without being untruthful,” he said.

His skills in writing essays stemmed from his major. “If you have an English degree, you know how to put an idea concisely down on paper.”

According to the American Psychological Association, a surveyed sample of college graduates found that 82 percent admitted to cheating while in school.

“If you look at your degree from UTSA and you got an A and someone says, ‘Oh, but they cheat a lot there,’ it’s not really an A — it’s a C. Other colleges and employers know that,” said Professor Dale Clark from the College of Business.

Because professors often use pre-made tests provided by textbook publishers, students often have no problem finding the necessary answer banks. By simply searching the specific edition of a textbook, students can purchase test banks for $40 on average.

Tests are circulated among groups of students. Clark knows that students in his business ethics classes cheat. He takes preventative measures to mitigate this behavior but feels responsibility not to cheat lies with students, rather than with professors.

“I didn’t become a professor so that I could act like a police officer,” said Clark. “I’m more concerned with teaching moral reasoning.”

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed that even if a professor did not use publisher provided tests students were able to cheat by taking copies of a test and saving them for a friend. “Professors hardly ever change the test,” said the student.

Sites such as sell test answer banks that directly correlate to a test that may be given in class — if the professor purchased the test from the textbook publisher. With some professors teaching hundreds of students, it may not be feasible for them to implement more cheat-proof tests.

“I teach close to 800 students. If I didn’t have so many students, I would just have them turn in papers,” said Clark. Some professors construct their tests themselves, but even this only slows cheaters. “I make the tests myself so it just makes it hard for them — but not that much.”

Students have even come up with creative ways to cheat — from writing the answers on erasers to printing out fake soda labels with answers printed on them. According to the essay writing alumnus, one female student wrote the answers on her thigh, “and then she wore a short skirt so if the professor thought she was cheating, he would have to ask her to lift her skirt up,” he said.

“There’s cheating and then there’s ‘cheating,’” said the alumnus. He rarely felt guilty about writing other students’ essays. “If writing is your weakness and you outsource your writing, that makes sense.”

The alumnus also rarely felt nervous about being accused of cheating. “I structured the agreement so that I shifted the blame away from me.”

His agreement with clients disguised him as a tutor who offered three service options. The first and cheapest option entailed editing a paper for grammatical errors. For a slightly higher price he would sit down with students and work with them while they wrote.

The third option consisted of writing a “demo” paper, which was a fully formed version of what each client needed. After he was paid, generally $25 per page, he then told his clients that the paper was their intellectual property to do with what they wished.

“They always chose option three,” said the alumnus. He claimed that it was an unspoken mutually understood agreement between him and his clients that they were cheating.

A culture of cheating may likely be the cause for why so many students cheat. Scott Carrell, who holds a doctorate in economics from the University of California at Davis, conducted a study on why students feel motivated to cheat.

“This knowledge (of cheating) causes students — particularly those who would not have otherwise — to cheat because they feel like they need to stay competitive and because it creates a social norm of cheating,” said Carrell in his paper, “Peer Effects in Academic Cheating.”

His study also found cheating increases among students who are less interested or invested in class, and, therefore, a majority of cheating occurs in core classes.

The UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures defines scholastic dishonesty as “cheating, plagiarism, collusion, submission of work that is attributable to another person, taking an exam for another person or any act designed to give unfair advantage.”

Once a student is accused of cheating, an instructor has four options. The student may be asked to retake or redo the exam or assignment, the student may fail the course and receive no credit, or most severely, he or she may be recommended for a harsher punishment — jeopardizing his or her enrollment status.

If a professor does choose to submit a case of scholastic dishonesty to Student Conduct and Community Standards, a formal hearing may be required depending on whether the student admits to cheating. If the student is convicted in a formal hearing, he or she reserves the right to appeal the decision.

“If you’re hiring someone to write your essay, you’re figuring out how to solve your problem,” said the alumn. He no longer writes essays for students but sees no harm in sharing work.

He and many other students hold a similar mindset while professors, such as Clark, look down on intellectual dishonesty. While student and professor opinions on cheating may differ, both sides agree that it is prevalent.

Clark, an ethicist by profession, concluded that “If you find cheating in an ethics class, you’re going to find it everywhere.”

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