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Perceptions of ND cheating problem vary

Maddie Hanna | Friday, November 5, 2004

Impressions of the amount and degree of cheating that occurs at Notre Dame are largely in the eye of the beholder.

Professor and faculty perceptions on the amount of cheating

“It is my strong impression than there isn’t a heck of a lot going on in terms of cheating,” math professor Alexander Hahn said. “But if you’re sitting there like a bunch of sardines, it’s hard to avoid.”

Some professors and faculty are more skeptical.

“I’m sure [cheating] is wildly underreported,” said Dan Myers, chair of the sociology department. “[And] even if there’s a small percentage of people cheating, there’s a big problem … Cheating abuses those putting the work in and is a bad practice all around.”

While Myers said he hadn’t encountered a lot of cheating in his classes, he noted this could be skewed by his attempts to remove temptation with preventative measures. Chemistry professor Xavier Creary also discussed the possibility of cheating being more widespread.

“Cheating at prestigious institutions is well-documented, and how much of it goes on, students have a much better idea than faculty,” Creary said.

Expressing his fear of increasing student desensitization towards cheating, Creary said he has heard students talk openly about the topic.

“One of the things that concerns us is so many students know about cheating, sometimes it’s not even considered that serious,” he said.

Student perceptions on the amount of cheating

Junior Molly Hogan said cheating is more widespread when it comes to daily papers and homework assignments than it is during exams.

“Personally, I haven’t had any encounter with people breaking the Honor Code at Notre Dame,” she said. “I know that I definitely take it seriously. For me, the possible consequences aren’t worth the risk.”

Regarding the severity of the cheating problem at Notre Dame, senior Petula Fernandes said, “I’ve never heard of anyone being caught cheating or noticed cheating, so it’s hard for me to say really.”

Although she was unaware of its major revisions, Fernandes said the Honor code is useful.

“The Honor Code makes sense because you don’t want cheating at this high a level of education,” she said.

Sophomore Andrea Oliverio said the procedure of conducting large exams in Stepan Center likely prevents cheating.

“I don’t see cheating as a huge problem, especially because of the way Notre Dame makes it difficult to cheat on tests,” she said. “I think the scare tactic of the program works really well.”

In his opinion, many students cheat less at Notre Dame than they did before coming to the University, freshman Pat Lyons said.

“I think that cheating was a bigger problem in high school than it is in college, when it was all about keeping the GPA up,” he said. “In college, there’s a different perspective on things.”

The distinction between cheating and help is also important, Lyons said.

“You can call it help when there’s something you don’t understand and you ask a friend to help you gain that understanding,” he said. “Cheating is when you understand perfectly well but are not willing to expend the time, energy or effort.”

Technology and cheating

Although advanced technology such as picture cell phones and handheld devices like Blackberrys can contribute to the cheating problem, faculty members said only the Internet seems to be a real issue at Notre Dame.

“The Internet makes it so easy – you just cut and paste,” Dorothy Pratt, assistant dean in the College of Arts and Letters, said. “It’s got to be tempting when you’re tired, up late, and there’s something due that you don’t know how to attack.”

Apart from the Internet, Myers said he has observed more “low-tech” cheating.

Using cell phones is “a bit of a stretch,” he said. “The thing you see most often in an exam is people looking around.”

But while he hasn’t personally witnessed this type of cheating, Creary said he has heard of students using text messaging and electronic communication devices to share answers during tests.