Ethic Focus
Grappling for ways to halt the spread of plagiarism and other cheating in
college, professors often get stuck on the idea that it's too late to change
students' behavior by the time they reach college. But a growing number of
campuses, backed by new research, are out to prove otherwise. "Student
behavior is affected by the communities we build," said Gary Pavela, the

University of Maryland's director of judicial programs and student ethical
conduct. Students cheat in high school in part because the think everyone else
does. But students can change their ways if colleges clearly demand honesty,
engage students in ethical issues and put them in charge of enforcement, said

Pavela and his colleagues at such schools as UC Davis and Kansas State

University, which are in the vanguard of a new movement to change the academic
culture. A new large-scale study suggests they may be right. Although a
startling 68% of college students admitted in an anonymous survey last fall that
they engaged in some form of serious cheating, self-reported cheating was 10
percentage points lower on campuses that simply make a big fuss about academic
integrity. The rates dipped even lower at colleges with formal honor codes. The
survey results, which are to be released this week, are the first indication
that anti-cheating campaigns are making inroads at the large public universities
where many professors fear a spreading epidemic of academic dishonesty.
"The results directly challenge the broad view that a kid's ethical views
at age 17 or 18 are set by their parents for good or ill," Pavela said.

Administrators and student leaders have cribbed ideas from smaller colleges with
traditional honor codes and modified them to work on large campuses. At UC

Davis, the topic of academic integrity is everywhere, brought up by the students
themselves. As final exams approach each term, students give their peers free
cards stamped, "Honesty is the only policy," and free No. 2 pencils
with the inscription: "Fill in your own bubble or be in trouble."

Older students do skits to show incoming freshmen what can happen if they
violate the code of academic conduct. Professors and their teaching assistants
regularly turn in undergraduates for the smallest of infractions. In case
students somehow miss the point, every Wednesday the campus newspaper's judicial
report reveals all the embarrassing details--except for names--of what one
sophomore calls "a parade of unbelievably stupid acts" of plagiarism,
improper collaboration and wandering eyes. All this attention on cheating seems
to make a difference. "I would never want to cheat here--it's just too
scary," said Tina Valenzuela, a UC Davis senior who wants to go to
veterinary school. "Just the fact that if you get caught, you'd read about
it in the paper." At UC Davis, only 31% of students reported that they got
the questions or answers from someone else who had already taken a test before
they did--one of the most common forms of cheating. By comparison, on campuses
that place less emphasis on academic integrity or ignore the issue altogether,

54% of students reported getting questions or answers. A skeptic might ask if
students at schools with honor codes are simply less likely to admit--even
anonymously--that they have violated the rules. Donald L. McCabe, the Rutgers

University management professor who conducted the newest study, part of a decade
of research on the subject of cheating, thinks not. Lower cheating rates at
honor code schools are validated by surveys of faculty and by students who have
attended both kinds of institutions, McCabe said. McCabe's latest survey, which
last fall collected the responses of 2,100 students and 1,000 faculty members at

21 campuses across the country, showed that: * Nationwide, most forms of
cheating remain at or near record levels. * Men admit to more cheating than
women, fraternity and sorority members more than nonmembers; students with lower
grade-point averages say they cheat more than those with high GPAs. * Students
pursuing degrees in journalism and communications, business and engineering
reported cheating more than those in the sciences, social sciences or
humanities. * Only 9.7% of students reported "plagiarizing a paper in any
way using the Internet," suggesting that such cheating is not as rampant as
some fear. * Nearly 88% of faculty reported that they observed some form of
serious cheating, yet 32% never did anything about it. When asked why they
ignored the problem, professors routinely told McCabe that they feared they
wouldn't be backed by administrators and could end up facing legal liability. A
typical fear, he said, is expressed this way: "I accuse someone of cheating
and the next thing I know I'm sitting