Academic Dishonesty: An Inherent Issue?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Academic dishonesty is a term often thrown around at Stuyvesant, and yet the definition is sometimes unclear. Stuyvesant has garnered an unfortunate reputation for it in recent years, largely based on the well-publicized 2012 Regents cheating scandal. Yet, many find the cheating environment at Stuyvesant to be normal or even expected of such an academically rigorous environment. Students, teachers, and administrators have vastly different opinions on what academic dishonesty entails, and when, if ever, it is even acceptable. An Academic Dishonesty Policy is distributed to students in the beginning of each school year, yet many students have no idea what the policy is.

The Spectator conducted an online survey, as well as interviews with various members of the Stuyvesant community, to explore the idea of academic dishonesty, and why and how it occurs at our school. 329 students responded to the survey. Here are the results:

Have you ever committed academic dishonesty?

Yes: 83.3%
No: 9.7%
I’m not sure: 7%

While at least half of the students in every grade bracket say they have committed academic dishonesty, it is most prevalent in those with a GPA ranging from 85-89, followed by a GPA ranging from 80-84. Academic dishonesty is least common among those with a GPA of 98 or higher.

Academic dishonesty is nearly equally prevalent between genders: 86 percent of male respondents and 80 percent of female respondents have cheated in some way.

It is most common in the junior class, where 97 percent of respondents have cheated. Junior year is often considered the most stressful and important year in terms of grades by students, which may explain the high number. Meanwhile, 56 percent of freshman respondents have committed academic dishonesty in their first four months at Stuyvesant.

On a scale of 1 to 5, how frequently do you think you cheat in comparison to the rest of the student body? (1=I never cheat, 5=I cheat much more often than most people I know)

1: 13.4%
2: 42.2%
3: 29.2%
4: 10.6%
5: 4.6%

Can you define academic dishonesty?

“Completing any assignment with work other than that completed completely by you. Academic dishonesty ranges from not paying attention in lab and scribbling down your partner’s answers to pulling out your phone during a test.”

“Academic dishonesty in my view is a more self-centered view than that described by the school. In my mind, letting someone copy off my answers on a test is fine. I would slide my paper into their view and that would be that. For me, it is not considered cheating. I am not gaining anything out of sharing answers. I do not gain unfair advantages by letting someone copy off my answers, thus I do not feel guilty at all. The converse of that situation, however, is cheating. If I do not know the answer and someone shares it to me, I consider that cheating as you are using information you would not have known. You are only academically dishonest if you are lying to yourself.”

“Any action meant to give a student or group of students an unfair advantage in any school assignment.”

“Using or sharing outside information (whether it be another student, the Internet, or even yourself) without citing and/or saying it's your own work.”

Have you ever cheated on a test? (Copied off someone, knew the answers beforehand, etc.)

Yes, more than once: 58.4%
Yes, once: 12.8%
Never: 28.9%

Have you ever copied someone else's homework for credit?

Yes, more than once: 72.6%
Yes, once: 10%
No: 17.3%

Do you consider copying homework cheating?

Yes: 48.6%
No: 51.4%

What subjects are you most likely to cheat on? Responders were allowed to pick more than one choice.

Science: 66%
Math: 42.6%
English: 16.1%
Social Studies: 40.1%
Drafting: 12.8%
Computer Science: 31.3%
Others (such as art and music appreciation): 26.1%
Language: 41.6%

Do you think the existence of the academic dishonesty contract has any impact on your decision to cheat?

Yes: 16.1%
No: 83.9%

Have any of your teachers taken measures to prevent cheating?

Yes: 76.1%
No: 7.5%
I’m not sure: 16.5%

Do you agree with the Stuyvesant administration's approach to cheating?

Yes: 29.2%
No: 25.7%
I'm not sure: 45.1%

Have you ever cheated on a standardized test such as the SHSAT, SAT, or ACT?

Yes: 9.4%
No: 90.6%

Have you ever cheated on the Regents?

Yes: 14.3%
No: 80.9%
No, I am a freshman: 4.9%

If you have committed academic dishonesty, do you feel guilty about it?

Yes, a lot: 8.8%
Yes, a little: 39.1%
No: 52.2%

Have you ever been caught cheating?

Yes: 10%
No: 79.6%
I have never cheated: 10.3%

If so, what was your punishment, if any?

“I let someone copy my homework during class and our teacher called the AP on us, who let us go with a warning.”

“Someone cheated off of me once. Teacher caught them, told me to cover my paper, and didn't do anything else.”

“Caught copying a homework; counted as a 0, phone call home.”

“0 on the assignment, academic dishonesty hearing.”

Has your opinion towards cheating changed since you got to Stuyvesant?

Yes, I have a more positive view towards cheating: 36.8%
Yes, I have a more negative view towards cheating: 15.2%
No: 48%

Would you say there is a cheating problem at Stuyvesant?

Yes: 57.4%
No: 42.6%

Do you think cheating is justifiable, ever?

Yes: 71.4%
No: 28.6%

Why or why not?

“Some teachers are very unreasonable when it comes to homework and tests, so it is expected that students won't try if they aren't taught material. Sometimes, we are burdened with a lot of work and can't study for a test or do homework. It shouldn't be a regular thing, but it's okay. Teachers can't expect us to be reasonable when they are unreasonable.”

“At Stuy, there’s so much pressure to perform, and there comes a point where you just can’t get a 95 on your fifth test that week. That’s what drives me to cheat. Same with homework. When you’re five hours into homework and haven’t even started the essay due tomorrow, you think, I guess I can ask my friend for the math answers.”

“Stuyvesant puts you in a situation where doing extraordinarily well isn't possible without sacrificing something.”

“We all are just helping each other out. Stuyvesant breeds a culture of cheating, and you’re honestly stupid to not take advantage of it.”

“The only reason we justify and do cheat is because the system we're in pressures us to care about grades and numbers, and not about our actual level of academic achievement.”

“Although I disagree with cheating on tests, I view cheating on homework assignments as justifiable. Many homework assignments are tedious and meaningless. Although some classes legitimately benefit from homework, some teachers assign homework for the sake of it, even if there is nothing to be gained from it. ”

“There is no reason to ever cheat. Study for your tests, do your homework. People should only get credit for work they do, so I don't think they should get a higher grade because they successfully cheated on a test compared to those who studied, but may have still got some questions wrong.”

“There is no honor in cheating. If anyone justifies Stuyvesant's atmosphere as the cause of their cheating, they don't deserve to even go here.”

“At the end of the day, cheating is still cheating, it should not be justifiable ever, period.”

Anything else you would like to say?

“There are many ambiguous territories within academic dishonesty—for instance, the first bullet point within Stuyvesant's own policy prohibits "presenting the ideas of others (either by paraphrasing or direct quotation) without credit to the source." I took APCS, and am currently taking another post-AP CS elective, and a big part of getting through assignments is simply googling how to use certain functions or understanding why you are getting an error, and using that code that you see to fix your own work. The very nature of computer science makes it impossible to do substantive work without some form of ‘academic dishonesty.’ Citing these sources would be meaningless, because none of us are ever the ‘first’ to write a particular line of code.”

"It's not academic dishonesty if you don't get caught."

“I think that students who cheat routinely will find themselves in serious trouble down the road, but students who cheat occasionally shouldn't feel terribly about it. If that's really the case, that specific grade doesn't define you, and neither does cheating.”