Importance of Maintaining Academic Honesty

Abstract
In reading and researching the topic of academic honesty and integrity I have found that there are varying views on what is considered cheating, and that cheating occurs in all academic levels and fields of study. Interestingly business students do not believe that cheating is as serious as students in other fields. I also found that there are many parties that are responsible for teaching students why academic honesty and integrity are so important. The key to teaching this important value is to start when children enter the educational system and for higher education learning institutions to continue the expectation and education of honesty and integrity.

Importance of Maintaining Academic Honesty
An important factor when looking at academic honesty is its reflection of the person. Honesty and integrity help define who you are. They outline what kind of person you will be. What kind of employee you will be and what kind of contributions you will make to society. These are two character traits whose lines are crossed or blurred so that one can quickly or easily reach goals that have been set.

Although people claim to be honest or have high integrity, they will cross the
boundary when it comes to self preservation or furthering their career or education. According to Klein, Levenburg, McKendall, and Mothersell (2007), “In a study of employed MBA students, Sims (1993) found a high degree of correlation between cheating in school and unethical behaviors at work.”(p.197) society pushes people to be the best of the best, no matter what the
cost. Everyone is trying to outdo those around them, whether it’s the best grade on a paper, getting a job promotion, even having the biggest house on the block. Everyone wants to be number one. Even children in elementary school are feeling extreme pressure to succeed.

This push to be the best has changed how people really view honesty and integrity. I don’t think students today have the same values regarding academic honesty as perhaps their grandparents did when they were students.

If you steal something from someone, they become a victim. If you cheat off of a peers paper, who is the victim? It is assumed that there is no victim. I believe it is this assumption that there is no victim, along with the need to succeed at all costs, that has caused an increase in the amount of students that cheat or attempt to cheat and the feeling that it is not that really a big deal. According to Staats, Hupp, & Hagley (2008) “the experience or anticipation of guilty feelings is a deterrent to misconduct.”(p.359). And yet cheating and plagiarizing continues in academic settings.

Many students take online classes and visit chat rooms to discuss and collaborate on assignments. Students need to be careful that they are only using their thoughts and input and not those of the group. It seems students do not think that cheating is really dishonest. And peers that cheat are not thought of any less than peers that do not cheat. We are told in school not to copy our neighbor’s paper, to do our own work and be proud of what we’ve done. This seems to go by the way side the older we get. At the college level the pressure to succeed is more so. Society however, gives too many opportunities for
cheating and short cuts. Anyone can go online and buy a term paper, book report, or any other information that might be needed.

This sends conflicting messages to students, young and old. Don’t cheat, but if you have to, here is any easy way to do it. All you need is money. No wonder many students don’t think much of copying an answer or two from their neighbor, can’t be too wrong if you can legally buy a term paper and turn it in as your own.Guilt about any misdeed comes directly from the person themselves. Each student has their own belief system. This comes from their family. The values and beliefs they were taught as a child. One has to wonder if religious students are less likely to cheat than non-religious students. Religion based colleges and universities have a Code of Conduct that students are expected to adhere to. They are required to take religion classes. Maybe they
have better moral values than students at secular universities and colleges.

So a key question regarding academic honesty and integrity is, whose job is it to
teach honesty and integrity in an academic setting? Hall and Kuth (1998) suggest that “an academic honor code will not have the intended effect without the endorsement of and widespread support by the faculty.” (p.13). Research by Hall and Kuth (1998) also indicates it is the responsibility of the institution to “promote the importance of academic integrity, clearly articulate their academic integrity policies, disseminate these policies widely, discuss the policies
frequently, and have systematic procedures in place for addressing related issues (McCabe & Trevino, 1993).” (p.13)

I do not believe it is the colleges and universities alone that need to teach honesty and integrity. They need to implement courses and policies and codes. They need to expect students to follow these codes and policies, and should have a clear cut system to make sure they are being abided by. The consequences of breaking these rules of honest conduct should be
dealt with immediately and fairly. But teaching an important characteristic like honesty needs to start before one goes to college. Parents need to start when their children are young. They need to teach them the value of honesty and integrity. They need to place value on hard work and persistence.

They need to accept them for who they are and what they can achieve without putting added pressure on them. Parents should teach children how to do things for themselves and take pride in what they accomplish. One of the worst things a parent can do is to do everything for a child, especially their homework. This will not teach them anything positive and in fact will hinder them in the future.

In conclusion I find that I believe that ultimately academic honesty and integrity is the responsibility of the student. They must fight the urge for a quick fix, the easy way out, and take responsibility for themselves and their actions. And I also believe that there is a victim in cheating. The cheater. They have robbed themselves of the opportunity to truly learn and to better themselves. Life is not always easy, but cheating and dishonesty certainly will not make it easier in the end.

References
Klein, H. A., Levenburg, N. M., McKendall, M., Mothersell, W.(2007) Business majors integrity
and dishonesty is reported to be at an all time high compared to other fields of education.
Journal of Business Ethics.(2007). 72:197-206. Retrieved September 15, 2008, from
EBSCOhost database.

Staats, S., Hupp, J., M., Hagley, A. M. (2008). Honesty and Heroes: A positive psychology view
of heroism and academic honesty. Journal of Psychology (2008), 142:357-372. Retrieved
September 15, 2008 from EBSCOhost database.

Hall, T. L., Kuh, G. D., (1998). Honor among students: academic integrity and honor codes at
state-assisted universities. NASPA Journal (1998) 36:1-17. Retrieved September 15,
2008, from http://publications.naspa.org.

McCabe, D.L., & Trevino, L.K. (1993). Academic dishonesty: honor codes and other contextual
influences. Journal of Higher Education (1993) 64:522-537. Retrieved September 15,
2008, from http://publications.naspa.org.

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