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Drawing the Line

Sharing answers, plagiarizing, sneaking a peek at  your notes during a test: we all know what cheating is, and that it comes in a variety of forms. However, it seems that the lines of what cheating precisely means are unclear. Even the most academically elite are confused about this issue of cheating.

In a recent scandal at Harvard, 125 students were accused of cheating on a final exam. It appears cut and dry, but being accused of cheating is serious, and it seems that some students do not view what they did as cheating. One student in particular was truly puzzled by the situation, claiming to The New York Times that they only shared notes.

Why are students confused about what cheating means? Do they simply ignore the rules and regulations of the school, or is it something bigger than that? Have schools not made it clear to students the meaning of cheating?

Since we were young we have been told that it is wrong to lie, and that cheating is bad. We know that it is wrong to have a cheat sheet hidden under our desks during a test and that we should not pass something off as our work when it is not. However, is sharing notes cheating? Was it an open test where each individual could have their notes and book, but could not confer with their neighbor? How could that be considered cheating if the test is already open? Even if that was not the case, that the students shared notes when they were not supposed to, did the professor make it absolutely clear what was not allowed during the exam?

We should assume that when a professor does not state that a test is open, that anything aiding us constitutes cheating. However, sometimes students need to know explicitly what is allowed and what is not. If there is any confusion among students then that tells you there is some vital piece of information that has not been communicated, or not communicated properly.

The best thing for schools to do is to clearly state what cheating means so students are no longer confused about this issue. It is important for students to know exactly where their school stands on what it means to cheat. If schools do not make this clear, then they should not be surprised when students cheat. This epidemic of cheating will keep occurring unless these rules are communicated plainly.

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