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University of Notre Dame Professor says cheating common on campuses

Businesses and colleges need stronger ethics codes, she says.

Published: Saturday, December 4, 2010

Updated: Saturday, December 4, 2010 11:12

Seventy-five percent of students say they have engaged in minor cheating such as copying or making up work, and about 50 percent say they have engaged in serious cheating including exams and major projects.

Dr. Carolyn Woo, dean of the business college at the University of Notre Dame, talked about the nation's ethical line slipping Nov. 11 in the Sky Room of the McCombs Center at the University of the Incarnate Word.

The findings of cheating were achieved through studies done within the business college.

She said cheating is one of the biggest problems on campuses around the nation, including the popular mindset that makes cheating acceptable.

"It's the whole idea of no harm done," she said. "The means of cheating becomes a noble end."

Woo explained how the illusion that everyone does it creates a when-in-Rome type of thinking that makes it OK to cheat if everyone else is.

"If there is a sort of self-agreement, it's OK" she said.

She said the problem with businesses ethics, and ethics in general, it that people know what is right and wrong but that does not mean they put that knowledge into practice.

"Knowing what's is right from wrong does not mean doing what's right from wrong," she said.

Not doing what is right is amplified because the chances of people getting caught cheating is low or goes unnoticed.

Woo explained how serious punishment such as expulsion or suspension rarely happens.

"Sometimes people cheat and there are no negative consequences," she said. "In a university study, only about 2 percent of cheating ever gets punished."

She said that there is always a need for stronger ethical codes whether in a business or college environment, including community colleges.

"I think that all environments have a need for ethics," she said. "Not that community colleges don't have ethics. The difference is the degree of explicitness."

Business sophomore Nikita Belousov, a student from Russia, said he thought Woo's lecture really emphasized the honesty dilemma in the U.S.

Belousov talked about the difference in honesty in the U.S. and in his home country.

"The example is in our friendship; here you speak in the well," he said. "In our country, we don't do it that much."

He explained how "speaking in the well" was how people greeted each other with politeness but were often unreliable.

"I find here, if you have a really big problem, the people who ask how you are, will probably not help you," he said. "But back home, we may not have that same respect, but we would help them."

For more on ethics, consider PHIL 130, Introduction to Philosophy; PHIL 2306, Introduction to Ethics; or PHIL 2371, Business Ethics.

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