Honor Council survey reveals cheating’s prevalence at HC
By biconews On 1 Feb, 2000 At 05:00 AM | Categorized As Archives | With 0 Comments

By Tom Goodhue

Haverford Honor Council recently compiled and presented the results of a survey taken to assess the type and extent of cheating at the college. Over 40 percent of the student body responded to the survey and 8.2 percent of the respondents admit to cheating at some time during their academic career at the college.

Four hundred 82 [sic] students returned the questionnaire circulated by Honor Council including 139 freshman, 130 sophomores, 80 juniors, 99 seniors and 24 students that did not list their year. In all over 40 percent of Haverford’s student body participated. Another 7.3 percent were unsure if they had cheated. The results indicated that take-home exams are the most common source of cheating. More than seventy percent of those who faithfully abided by the Honor Code listed one particular factor: their conscience.

Student perceptions of cheating were also gauged by the survey. Approximately 83 percent of those surveyed believe that less than 20 percent of Haverford students cheat. 38 percent of students estimate that less than five percent of their fellow classmates cheat. The complete survey results are posted in the mailroom at Haverford’s Whitehead Campus Center.

There has been some speculation surrounding the survey. Honor Council Chair Maura Purcell thought that the survey failed to accurately represent the attitudes and experience of all Haverford students. “I think that we do not have a representative sample of the student body,” she said. “I honestly thought that we would have a higher percentage of students cheating at Haverford.”

Honor Council member Mike Ranen, who tabulated the results of the survey, questioned the reliability of the procedure used. “This survey was very unscientific,” he said. “I’m not sure how much weight we should place on it. Only about half the students responded.”

Nevertheless, Ranen was disturbed by some of the results of the survey. “The most disturbing result of the survey was that so many people know of specific incidents of cheating.” he said. “The Honor Code plainly states that we have a responsibility to confront others when we know about a violation. I know this is almost impossible to do but it’s also a vital part of our community and Honor Code. If so many people know about incidents of cheating, then where are the confrontations?”

Professor Duane Kight was disheartened by the cheating rate: “I’m surprised the cheating rate was so high. Most Haverford students can earn the grade they want. I don’t understand why people are so insecure that they have to cheat.”

In addition, Professor Kight was also surprised that so many students cited their personal conscience and not the Honor Code as the reason that they didn’t cheat. Kight observed that “reasons for cheating have gone through a shift.” He noted that in the past it seemed that the Honor Code was the most important tool for keeping students from cheating.

Purcell agrees, but says. “I don’t think that the Honor Code is as important as it once was. That is disheartening. If nothing else, my time on Honor Council has eliminated any illusions I had about the importance of the Honor Code.”

The survey results were also positive in some respects, according to Ranen. “Even though there was a higher percentage of people who cheated than I thought the majority of these incidents [involved] taking too much time on a quiz or exam,” he said. “It’s not like eight percent of the students are running around plagiarizing.”

Professor Kight doesn’t worry about students cheating in his class. “I’ve never seen any evidence of cheating in my classes at Haverford. …I have great respect for Haverford students and great faith in the Code.”

Haverford has also maintained its reputation for honesty in academic circles. The Templeton Guide to College and Character recently selected it as one of the 35 most academically honest institutions for higher learning in the United States.

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