Prof says Cheat don’t get caught

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, CHFI, PI, MBA,MA Educational Psychology

Professors promoting unethical, fraudulent and even criminal behavior? Yes, you read it right. Sam Hoisington’s article appearing in the Chronicle of Higher Education surveyed a few professors willing to discuss anonymously their personal acts of cheating while students. They also divulged whether they tolerate cheating and plagiarism among their students as professors now.

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Here is a horrifying quote from one professor, “I tell them… If you want to cheat, that’s fine as long as I don’t catch you. Because if I catch you, of course, I have to fail you. If you’re smart enough or lucky enough for you to cheat and me not catch you, then more power to you.” [emphasis added]  (para 34).

Well, duh. Wake up old school readers, get with the program. Are you woke yet?

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Educators as role models

Incidentally, the educator quoted was employed at a community college. Not to let four-year university professors off the hook. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, “community colleges are the gateway to postsecondary education for many minority, low income, and first-generation postsecondary education students.“ The Association elaborates “more than half of all community college students have been women. In addition, the majority of Black and Hispanic undergraduate students in this country study at these colleges.” (para 2, lines 3-5).

Negative influence on minorities, women and the poor

Teaching social acceptance of deviant behavior to students is wrong on a number of fronts. I will present two below. For instance, I write in my book:

  1. Educators as positive role models, are vital to character building particularly in minority and poor communities. “Students, particularly minorities and the poor, benefit. Gore et al (2007) conducted a longitudinal study of 3,000 students during a three-year period and found that minority students from lower socio-economic backgrounds benefited the most from instructors who held high expectations based upon ethical and moral principles” (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 36).

So, the antithesis? Communicating messages to support cheating, fraud, plagiarism, and dishonesty is never a good thing.

  1. “Demographic mismatches between educators and public school students can have a negative effect on learning” (citing Ingersoll and May 2011).” (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 51).

Demographic characteristics of a segment of the population can include in addition to age, gender, race, and income; also ideas of right and wrong, criminology, political ideology, moral constructs, religion and the like. Educators who teach the acceptance of unethical behaviors among a class of law-abiding, ethically inclined students can create cognitive dissonance (which may lead to incivility and insufficient mutual respect in the classroom,see Opotow, 1990). This environment can, in turn, hinder learning. (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 52).

Fraud and crime

Concerning the risk of fraud and crime, in my book, I referred to Jeffrey (1965) (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 45). Jeffrey “ added role modeling to Sutherland’s association hypothesis as factors for criminality. Jeffrey theorized that there are incidents of crime, fraud, and misconduct in schools, in part, because crime-ridden schools lack positive social reinforcers and role modeling for students and educators to do what is right in comparison to similarly situated schools.

Schools with comparable student populations, educator workforce, and urban challenges experience reduced risk for crime because they actively use positive social pressures and role modeling for deterrence.” (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 86).

Similarly, “Trevino (1999) found that effective organizations use social reinforcers for exerting positive social pressures and crime deterrents” (Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer, page 104).

Public schools, criminality and school violence

Maybe you think I’ve stretched things a bit, no? Collectively, one’s individual attitudes about crime greatly impacts the attitudes of others situated in one’s living, working and study space. Please consider that “in 2012, there were 1,183,700 violent crimes committed at public schools, but to discuss specifics now is not the subject of this article.

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The point being, what? Educators must realize that when in the classroom, they will “assume social and intellectual authority over children [their students of any age].” It is a shame that some take their responsibility all too lightly.

Thanks Sam Hoisington for shedding light on this distressing attitude and kudos to the editors of the Chronicle of Higher Education for publishing his piece.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, CHFI, PI, MBA, MA, Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC