Cheating or ‘ratting’?

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During an exam for one of the three hardest courses in my program, a student sitting behind me dropped her iPhone. All three of the proctors didn’t even flinch. Moreover, neither I nor the classmates around me reported it.

The student code of conduct and discipline outlines the types of academic misconduct as copying from classmates during exams, plagiarism and self-plagiarism and even falsifying reasons to get deferral on an assignment or exam. The consequences of committing any offence that gives you an unfair academic advantage range from repeating the course or assignment, an automatic failure, suspension, expulsion and on certain occasions, nothing at all.

Another commonplace type of cheating is having your friends use your iClickers to earn participation marks. Not only is this academic misconduct, but you and your buddy are committing academic fraud. In spite of the severity of the offence, no one gives it a second thought, let alone go as far as reporting their fellow students for abusing participation marks.

By letting the “iPhone-in-exam” incident slide, I am allowing that individual to pass the course, complete their degree without holding the full qualifications and compete for the same jobs.

The internal conflict about not reporting the aforementioned incident arises because I don’t know where to draw the line within the different types of academic misconduct. I selfishly held my tongue to protect myself since I, like many fellow students, have participated in behaviours that constitutes as academic misconduct. If I spoke out, I would be dictating that my preferred method of cheating is more moral than the student’s.

Throughout my years at Laurier, I collaborated with fellow students on difficult online assignments, helped friends and had friends help me earn undeserved iClicker marks. I even witnessed friends obtaining a doctor’s note for nonexistent conditions to escape writing a midterm. I was responsible for reporting any suspicion of cheating during the exam and I failed because I was afraid I would become the “rat” or “snitch.” Furthermore, who am I to justify my cheating and report others’? There is also an obvious element of bias where I’m more inclined to protect myself and my friends but call out strangers.

With the advent of technology and the plethora of information, finding test banks, notes from former students, textbook solutions and online assistance has been easier than ever. I like to consider these actions as fair game because everything available online and is accessible by anyone.

Learning to find answers online reflects the “real world” where we are required to constantly look up updated information.

Wilfrid Laurier University defines academic misconduct as “an attempt to unfairly gain an academic advantage.” Since everyone can find past exams, assignments and textbook solutions or notes online, there is no unfair advantage in play.

Just a few years ago in 2013, Laurier shut down two websites that hosted test banks and textbook material on business, arts and science courses. There was also an infringement on copyright laws in addition to the breach of academic integrity. I argue that because this information was so easily accessible, it does not represent an unfair academic advantage.

Cheating during an exam would be going too far because the same access to data is denied.

Using your buddy’s iClickers seems too insignificant in the grand scheme of things and not enough people understand or care about the gravity of the act.

And using the Internet to guarantee your grades on assignments is so prevalent I am publishing my confession in a student newspaper.

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