Hello. My name is Tina. And I am a cheater.

I just read unbalanced reactions post about cheaters who prosper, and the comments that it generated. It brought back memories for me; cheaters I have had to prosecute; cheaters who I saw ultimately get punished; cheaters who haven't gotten caught.

I gave a quiz the other day, and I am pretty sure I saw one of the students do the yawn- stretch- glance at neighbors paper maneuver. I glanced up to see the tail end of the movement and wasn't 100% sure, so my reaction was to get up and casually wander closer to his row to keep an eye on things. Unfortunately for him, the person he allegedly cheated from didn't study either; so neither of them did well. That is a tough situation to deal with, though, and if I had been sure of what I'd seen I would have had to do something… although I don't know what, exactly.

In graduate school I knew a few cheaters. I remember in the middle of one exam when the four of us were sitting alone in the classroom and one of the girls asked me- with no attempt to hide it- for one of the answers. I looked up, stunned, and caught the eyes of the other two, and then somehow shrugged her off. That kind of thing hadn't happened to me since high school, when I was a "hunch over your paper so others can't cheat off you" type. It didn't help my popularity in high school chemistry, but I didn't want those friends anyway. Not to mention that these were not short answer questions; it would have been obvious that something fishy was going on if two of us had given similar answers. A short time later she went to the bathroom, where she was seen looking through her notebook. We didn't report her- officially. But her actions were made known, and eventually she was asked to leave the program- she failed her qualifiers. Recently, other students have been caught plagiarizing their qualifying exams; it was an occurrence that stunned everyone. One doesn't expect such behavior, but the reality is that it happens. Such blatant cheating makes you wonder, though, if perhaps they wanted to be caught. Otherwise, how could they possible think that it was acceptable, or that they would get away with it?

The other memories that it brought back were of the times I, too, cheated. There are two. The first was in sixth grade; we had a test on which we had to label the fifty states and their capitals. I was convinced I was going to fail so I drew up a fancy cheat sheet and hid it right inside the lip of my desk. But then I was so guilty and afraid that I didn't actually use it. I got a 100 on that test: spending all that time making the cheat sheet helped me learn something. So did I actually cheat? No. But the intent was there.

The second time I cheated was in college. I went to a school with a very liberal attitude towards finals, in the sense that they were self scheduled. When you were ready, you went to pick the exam up at one of two (or three?) exam centers, took it to any one of the designated classrooms in any of the academic buildings, and brought it back within the time specified. The exam centers themselves were student run. This particular exam was my biochemistry final. It was open book and open notes, which is a hard exam to cheat on. The way I cheated was that, instead of taking it in a designated classroom, I took it back to my room. I was sure all sorts of alarm bells would go off, but I did it anyway, because I really wanted to be able to drink my coffee and sit in my own room while I sweated through the exam, without disturbing anyone else. I didn't cheat on the exam itself, and I didn't do that well on it either. Hence, I was a biology, and not a biochemistry, major. OK, it might not be the worst example of cheating you ever heard, but it would have been considered a violation of the academic honor code.

That's it. I have confessed. I still feel guilty even now as I type this. It makes me wonder: how could someone who does worse live with themselves?


chall said...

see, your map story - I have one exactly like that apart from my "map" was in my pocket of my pants.... never used it and got so scared that someone would ask to go through my pockets (why?).

I aced the test without help. After that I realised how good it was to write down essential stuff on a piece of paper when I studied ;)

What gets to me is that I would be so scared after the exam/test if I'd cheated since then I wouldn't know all the stuff that the test says I know.... and how would the next exam go then?! (not to mention my job that I get based on the fact that I passed my classes...)

Unbalanced Reaction said...

You know, your ending question is one I often wonder about. I think it's mostly due to the fact that students most often cheat out of sheer desperation, so they are just relived to be done with the test/assignment. But I also think there are plenty of people out there that truly believe that if they have gotten away with cheating, they are entitled to do it.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Your examples don't sound like cheating to me! An honor code shouldn't really be a set of rules necessarily, but rather a way of internally motivating oneself. Like, yeah, you went to your room instead of the special classroom, but you did what you were supposed to do. You may have violated on a technicality, but I don't think you cheated.

You're very honest! Want to be my money manager?