DALLAS – Students at the Texas A&M University (search) have a motto: “Any Aggie does not lie, cheat or steal — or tolerate those who do.”
But faculty members and administration officials have learned that most of their students don’t live by the code.
According to a university survey, 75 percent of responders admitted to having cheated in the past year. The figures are similar to those on other college campuses, according to a study cited by Duke’s Center for Academic Integrity (search).
More than one third of Aggies also said they had plagiarized material from the Internet or elsewhere.
“We know that students do cheat,” said Texas A&M professor Dr. Marty Loudder (search), “and we need for students to understand that there is zero tolerance for it.”
The university is striking back, using high-tech tools.
“A lot of people feel like the Internet — anything up there is free, good and can be taken and cut and pasted or recorded for your own use,” Loudder said, adding that the university has turned to computer software called “Turnitin.com” to battle the problem.
The software scans student papers to see if material has been copied from the Internet or other papers in its massive database.
About 1,500 other universities are also using the software. A yearlong institute-wide subscription costs 60 cents per student — approximately $16,000 for Texas A&M alone.
Some experts raise questions about the computer hunt. Is the cat and mouse game over plagiarism a good idea? Do services that detect plagiarism breed an atmosphere of mistrust? Should universities spend more time promoting integrity than policing cheating?
“I think honor codes are extremely valuable,” said Eugene H. Levy (search), the provost of Rice University in Houston. “Particularly, I think they work if they are enforced by those to whom they are applied.”
And, according to a study cited by Duke’s Center for Academic Integrity, they do.
Surveys taken in 1990, 1995 and 1995 involving more than 12,000 students on 48 campuses found that cheating at schools with honor codes is one-third to one-half lower than at those without honor codes.
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