The Student Newspaper of Highline College

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Pandemic pressures push more students to cheat

Kaili Nakaya Staff Reporter Jun 09, 2022

Students cheat. Some get caught, some don’t.  

Either way, more of them have been cheating during the Covid pandemic. 

Estimates of how much students cheat are wildly varied, with various reports claiming anywhere from 30 to 98 percent.  High school students are sometimes reported as cheating more often than college students. 

Some Highline students say that cheating is quite common, but people don’t get caught.

“Most people I know that cheated got away with it,” said student Samuel Gritzke. 

“I have seen people at school cheat, but I have never seen anyone get caught for it,” Skye Moser said.

“I knew a lot of people that cheated, but they knew how to hide and cover it up,” Tamilo Talo said.

Professors, on the other hand, say cheating, such as plagiarism, is relatively easy to spot. 

“I had a student once write a personal reflection paper and turn in a duplicate with her friend’s name on it,” said Teri Tomatich, Human Sexuality professor. 

Reflection papers are based on personal experience, so she said that it’s difficult to cheat on them, but even then, she still sees it.

Lawrence White, an English teacher, sees plagiarism too often and grades accordingly.

“If I find copied words in a writing, I will give a failing grade for that writing,” he said.

Tomatich also has protocol when she finds cheating.

“Student received a zero on the assignment and then reported to the dean,” she said. “Anyone who has helped someone cheat attendance (by signing them in) loses their attendance credit for the day.”

Cheating cases at Highline are referred to Isabelle Wroblewski, student conduct manager.

“The last three years, we have averaged about 155 referrals per year,” she said.

The ways students cheat can vary, she said.

“Using online resources when not permitted on tests, quizzes, or assignments; copying information from articles, websites, and claiming that work as their own original work; and putting test or quiz questions into ‘homework assistance’ sites during the time of the test,” Wroblewski said. 

Cheating has increased during the pandemic, Wroblewski said. 

“Throughout the pandemic, Highline has seen similar trends to our peer colleges in the increasing patterns of academic integrity issues,” she said. “During the pandemic, we have seen around a 160 percent increase in academic integrity cases referred to the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct since mid-March 2020.”

Wroblewski said the increase has been a result of stress in students’ personal lives, or just students who are having trouble understanding the material. 

Each case for cheating is different, and the consequences for it can be severe or minor depending on the situation, she said.

“If it is their first time being referred, they may have an informal conversation about how to change their behavior,” she said. “If they engage in higher level behavior or have been referred before, they may engage in the formal process.”

Wroblewski said that the formal process consists of multiple parts. It starts with an investigation, a meeting about discipline, the findings of cheating, an educational assignment, and then ends with a sanction on the students record.

A sanction is a penalty given to those who break the rules. Depending on the severity of the case, it can range from a warning, probation, or even the suspension for more extreme cases.

All of this is to help students learn better, said Wroblewski.

“Each case is unique, and we try to focus on the impact of the behavior,” she said. “I try to help students explore the root causes of their choices and clarify expectations, so they avoid this behavior in the future.”

The point of doing this is to provide students with an understanding of their actions to improve themselves for the future, she said.

“In the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct (OCSSC) we base our practice in the mission of educating and developing students through a process of accountability,” Wroblewski said.