Rising Number of Cheating Cases Being Reported At UC Berkeley

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Record numbers of cheating and plagiarism incidents are being reported at UC Berkeley as professors crack down on student misconduct, officials said yesterday.

The number of reported cases of cheating jumped from 68 to 85 last semester, an increase that Director of Judicial Affairs Neal Rajmaira said is "not evidence that more cheating is going on."

The Office of the Student Advocate, which assists students in disputes with the university, saw a 275 percent increase in the number of student misconduct cases it handled last fall compared to the previous fall semester. It handled 60 cases ranging from violent and sex-related crimes to plagiarism. Twenty-three of the cases were related to cheating, according to a report released last month.

But Student Judicial Affairs Case Administrator Wayne Creager said the numbers reflect increased faculty action and more efficient Internet tracking devices for plagiarism.

"We're working really hard with the faculty to resolve matters when they come up," Creager said.

In recent semesters, the Student Judicial Affairs Office has been striving to educate faculty members on what qualifies as cheating and what role they can play in stopping it.

Outreach efforts have included distributing handbooks to faculty members and upgrading Web sites designed to streamline the process by which professors report cheating.

The program also stresses that professors should make their cheating policies clear at the start of each course.

"I make a big deal in the beginning of the year so people will know that cheating is not allowed and the consequences it will hold," said Alan Smith, a computer science professor.

Statistics Professor Philip Stark said cheating often occurs in impacted majors in which some students "feel the need" to do anything possible to get the best grade.

Brian Harvey, a computer science professor who threw out his class midterm last semester because of mass cheating, said there is a lot of pressure on students.

"With all the pressure on these kids to get into their majors, I'm surprised there's not more cheating than there is," he said.

But Creager said the effort is also aimed at students and provides time management information and tips on communication with professors. The campaign offers seminars and distributes handbooks on cheating.

"A lot of students don't know what counts as cheating as far as citing sources," said Karen Kenney, dean of students. "The more education we can do, the better."

While Stark said he wishes there was "more of an honor code" on campus, he said a student who cheats is above all being dishonest with himself.

"I wish we placed more emphasis on doing the right thing than getting the best grade," he said. "But is anything worth compromising your soul? Is that how you want to live your life?"

Although new Internet technology makes it easy for students to plagiarize papers posted online by simply copying and pasting text into documents, it has also made tracking cheaters easier for professors.

"The computer and Internet is a double-edged sword," said Creager. "It offers a tool for students to get papers off the internet, but it is also a great tool for administration and staff to find them."

While it is agreed across campus that cheating should be punished, there is no unified campus policy for penalizing cheaters.

"The punishment is up to the professor, who can do anything ranging from giving the student a slap on the wrist to expelling him," Smith said. "It wouldn't hurt if there were guidelines."


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