Students’ ethics dependent on stress

Share This:

Students are finding creative ways to make college easier, but it may not always be the ethical choice.

Dixie State University has an academic integrity policy that clearly explains different violations. However, it is helpful to know why students sometimes feel inclined to be dishonest.

A memorable experience I had with academic integrity happened during a previous semester when I found out a classmate was cheating on a final exam. It made me angry that this classmate would get a good grade while I kept my integrity and struggled through the entire test. I was also upset that the professors created an environment that made cheating easy. 

After following the directions in the academic integrity policy to the best of my ability, I began wondering what drives certain students to compromise their honesty.

Although the terms “student ethics” and “academic integrity” may inspire an afternoon nap, the psychology behind why students feel pressure to lie is truly fascinating.

Assistant Professor John Wolfe, who has a doctorate in philosophy, explained why cheating in the classroom happens. 

“A lot of it has to do with stress, but it also has a lot to do with students’ opinions of their own talents and abilities,” Wolfe said. “ That stress can lead to feelings of self-doubt.”

The sad truth is, if you put enough stress on any person their ethical perspective will change and become more susceptible to dishonest behaviors. Individuals often wouldn’t consider doing something unethical until they are desperate.

Wolfe pointed out that choosing to be dishonest on assignments and exams can deeply affect the perceived success of how a class is taught, having a big impact on future students.

“Our wants and needs are not in a vacuum,” Wolfe said. “An individual’s single bad choice can have ripples beyond what they may realize years down the road.”

We are human. We are all capable of slipping up. However, taking preventative measures like nurturing self-confidence and managing stress can help. Staying organized and preparing for assignments and tests ensures students don’t ever feel backed up against a wall.

“I tell all my students, ‘You are stronger than you think you are,'” Wolfe said. “Part of going to school and what we do is making you realize who you are. People often sell themselves short as to what their abilities are.”

A common complaint heard from students is that they feel general education courses are a waste of time and money. This attitude nurtures a mentality that justifies cheating.

Wolfe explained that general education classes are important because a university education is more than just learning a skill. 

“There is a difference between a university and a trade school,” Wolfe said. “If all we are trying to do is give you skills to do a job you could get on the job training and get beneficial skills. The university experience is more than just classes. It is beginning to understand the intricacies and inter-connectivity of all of these [subjects]. It’s learning how these things relate to each other.”

College is a struggle. If it were easy, everyone would have a degree. Sacrificing your academic integrity totally defeats the purpose of going to a university. If we take preventative measures we can avoid the temptation to be dishonest and make the most of our academic experience.