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Friday, April 7, 2023

Dishonor Code: What Happens When Cheating Becomes the Norm?

Suzy Weiss
The Free Press
Originally posted 16 MAR 23

Here are two excerpts:

Amy Kind, a philosophy professor at Claremont McKenna, said that, at the prestigious liberal arts college just east of Los Angeles, “Cheating is a big concern among the faculty.”

Nor do students have much incentive to turn back the clock: they’re getting better grades for less work than ever. 

Exhibit A: Greye Dunn, a recent Boston University graduate who majored in international relations and minored in Spanish. Dunn said he never cheated per se, but he benefited handsomely from the new, lower standards. His pre-Covid GPA was just north of 3.0; during Covid, he averaged a 3.5. And he knows plenty of students who flouted the rules.

“Many students want the credential, and they just want the easiest way to get that,” Gabriel Rossman, a sociology professor at UCLA, told me. 

A sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious business school, who declined to give me her name, said: “They’re here for the Wharton brand, a 4.0 GPA, and to party.”

“The students see school as a stepping stone,” Beyda told me. He meant they went on to graduate school or to jobs at consulting firms like McKinsey or Bain or in finance at Goldman Sachs, and then a spouse, a house, children, private school, vacations in Provence—all the nice things in life. 


Professors describe feeling demoralized—“I didn’t get into academia to be a cop,” a CUNY professor in the English department told me. Faculty at other schools likewise describe feeling helpless when it comes to calling out cheating, or even catching it. There’s always another app, another workaround. 

Plus, it’s not necessarily smart to report bad behavior. 

“Nontenured faculty have no real choice but to compromise their professional standards and the quality of the students’ own education to take a customer’s-always-right approach,” Gabriel Rossman at UCLA told me. 

That’s because lower level courses, where cheating is more rampant, tend to be taught by nontenured faculty with little job security—the kind of people who fear getting negative student evaluations. “Students can be tyrants,” the CUNY English professor said. “It’s like Yelp. The only four people who are going to review the restaurant are the people who are mad.”