An anonymous essay by a guy who claims to make a living writing academic papers for students is kicking up some dust over at the Chronicle of Higher Ed — forty comments and counting over the course of the weekend.
What’s really dismaying to me about the kerfuffle is how quick many professors have been to disclaim responsibility for addressing this problem. Four of the first six commenters on the Chronicle essay are teachers who say it’s beyond their powers to put a stop to this kind of cheating in their classrooms, that because of their class sizes or their administrations’ policies, they’re just not able to do anything about the problem.
I just don’t believe it. I just don’t believe that there’s no way for them to address the issue, that they’ve tried everything there is to try and been stymied at every turn. That just doesn’t ring true to me — not on the basis of my own experience nor in light of the comments left by other aggressively anti-cheating professors in the thread.
Combatting cheating and plagiarism takes inventiveness. It takes dedication. It takes flexibility. But it absolutely can be done.
But let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say that some professors are teaching under circumstances in which they have no ability to resist certain kinds of cheating. There’s still a simple solution to the problem: Don’t use assignments that can be gamed. If you’re not competent to detect and address plagiarism in a term paper, don’t assign term papers. If you can’t stop students from cheating on quizzes, don’t give quizzes. It’s really that simple.
Because if you, as a college professor, create a classroom environment in which students are able to cheat without consequences, you’re rewarding cheating and punishing honest work. You can wring your hands all you like about declining ethical standards, but the situation you deplore is one that you’ve helped to create.
To put it another way, if you’re a teacher or a professor then finding and punishing cheaters is your job. It’s your job in the same way that grading is your job. It’s your job in the same way that facilitating class discussion is your job. It’s your job in the same way that crafting appropriate tests and assignments is your job.
It’s your job, professor. Do your job.