Harvard University has long been the ultimate symbol of higher education. The elite university is the last place anyone would expect to find a cheating scandal. So when word of a widespread cheating scandal involving a take-home test broke last year, it became clear that even Harvard is not immune to cheating.

Harvard, of course, is not alone. Cheating scandals have been seen at many top universities. With the large student population at Stony Brook University, it is not surprise that we have some students accused of academic dishonesty.

Thanks to new applications such as SafeAssign, a tool on Blackboard that checks for plagiarism, professors are catching more cheating.

Also, Academic Integrity Officer Wanda Moore said that it is easier to cheat with resources such as the Internet (which students do not always properly cite), which makes it so easy to get information. “We don’t have cheaters,” Moore said. “We have students who make bad decisions.”

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Plagiarism is the most frequently reported offense. There were 24 cases of Internet plagiarism in the fall of 2010, 28 cases in the spring of 2011, 28 cases in the fall of 2011 and 37 cases in the spring of 2012.

While it appears from these figures that plagiarism is on the rise, these numbers frequently fluctuate. In the fall of 2012, for example, there were 24 cases of plagiarism involving labs, but there were no reported cases involving labs last semester.

The statistics for other cheating offenses also fluctuate. In the fall of 2010, for example, there were 12 cases of cheating on finals, midterms and quizzes. However, in the fall of 2011, there were only two cases.

The biology department has seen the most cases of cheating. In the fall of 2011, the department reported 48 cases. Moore says the reason for this is lab plagiarism. Students frequently “collaborate” on their lab reports and have the same introductions and conclusions.

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While many assume it is the underachievers who get caught cheating, Moore said this is often not the case.

“Students often think it is that student with the 1.9—no!” Moore said.

In the fall of 2011, there were only six cases of cheating involving students with a GPA of less than 2.0. For students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.4, there were 20 cases and for students with a GPA of 2.4 to 2.9, there were 28 cases.

There were 30 cases of cheating involving students with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4. For students with a 3.5 to 4.0, there were 13 cases of cheating.

Also, seniors are frequently reported cheating, especially right before graduation, Moore said, when things start to get really busy for them.  In the spring of 2011, 36 seniors were reported cheating and 44 seniors were reported in the fall of 2011.

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Chris Damiani, a junior biology major, said he felt some pressure to get ahead in biology courses such as BIO 203, 204 and 205 when professors are trying to weed out students, but he did not see it as an excuse to cheat.

“Although I’m sure people cheat, I do not. My friends and I try our hardest and study the old-fashioned way,” Damiani said. “I don’t think cheating is on the rise per se, but I’m sure cheating will always be there. It’s like crime in the world—there’s no way to get rid of it all.”

SBU students who do get caught cheating meet with Moore. From there, the students decide if they want to go to a hearing or just face the consequences.

Students who are not suspended or expelled for committing “egregious” acts, such as taking a test for another student, are given the option of taking a Q course. After taking this course, students are given a clean slate.

Moore, who runs the course, thinks of the course as a second chance, giving students resources so they do not cheat again.

It is rare for students to be reported for academic dishonesty more than once. In the spring of 2012, there were only six cases of such. Students reported more than once are not allowed to take the Q course and are typically suspended.

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