Stanford University officials are investigating reports of an increased number of students engaging in cheating, according to a March 24 letter by Provost John Etchemendy to staff and faculty.
The Office of Community Standards received "an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty" at the end of winter quarter, he said.
"Among a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 percent of the students in one large introductory course," he wrote. The Office of Community Standards is investigating the allegations and students are being notified, he added.
The honor code was written by Stanford students in 1921 and is the university's statement on academic integrity, according to the Office of Community Standards. Violations include copying from another's examination paper or allowing another to copy from one's own paper; unpermitted collaboration; plagiarism; revising and resubmitting a quiz or exam for regrading, without the instructor's knowledge and consent; giving or receiving unpermitted aid on a take-home examination; representing as one's own work the work of another; giving or receiving aid on an academic assignment under circumstances in which a reasonable person should have known that such aid was not permitted.
Stanford freshmen are introduced to the university's honor code and agree to abide by it, Etchemendy said.
"But with the ease of technology and widespread sharing that is now part of a collaborative culture, students need to recognize and be reminded that it is dishonest to appropriate the work of others. In violating academic integrity, they are cheating themselves of the very core of our mission -- the process of learning and discovery -- as well as risking severe consequences," he said.
Stanford faculty has a significant responsibility to provide guidance to students and to articulate clearly the university's expectations for academic work, he said.
"Dishonesty is corrosive in an academic community. Our Honor Code commits students and faculty to 'work together to establish optimal conditions for honorable academic work,'" he noted.
Etchemendy did not name the class in which so many students are accused of dishonesty. But according to the Stanford Daily, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation identified the class as CS 106A: Programming Methodology. The class covers introductory computer programming and is one of the most popular classes at Stanford. Computer science is the largest major on campus, according to the Stanford Daily. This past winter quarter, 655 students enrolled in the class.
"This would mean that over 120 Honor Code cases related to CS 106A assignments would have been submitted to the Office of Community Standards (OCS)," the Stanford Daily noted. The computer science department has seen an increase in cheating allegations in recent years.
Most student disciplinary cases have involved honor code violations, according to the Office of Community Standards. The most frequent violations occur when a student submits another's work as his or her own, or gives or receives unpermitted aid. The standard penalty for a first offense includes a one-quarter suspension from the university and 40 hours of community service.
Most faculty members also issue a "No Pass" or "No Credit" for the course in which the violation occurred. Multiple violations would receive a penalty of a three-quarter suspension and 40 or more hours of community service.
Etchemendy thanked faculty for their ongoing work to foster a campus culture built on trust and integrity, and he asked faculty to discuss the importance of academic integrity frankly with students.
"When collaboration in a class is encouraged, as I do in my classes, do we make certain that the parameters for collaboration are clear to the students? Do we provide guidance for the use of technology? And are students aware that we really will seek to identify and report concerns that may arise?" he wrote.
Struggling students were more likely to cheat in the past, but today above-average students are cheating, according to the Educational Testing Service (ETS)/The Advertising Council Research Center Academic Cheating Fact Sheet.
While about 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940s, today between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school, the research center noted.
A profile of college students more likely to cheat includes business or engineering majors fraternity and sorority members, younger students and students with lower grade-point averages or those at the very top, according to the research center.
Increased academic pressure, and a culture that has decreased the stigma of cheating have contributed to the increase in academic dishonesty, according to the research center. Grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students, and cheating is seen by many students as a means to a profitable end.
And cheating doesn't end after college.
"Resume fraud is a serious issue for employers concerned about the level of integrity of new employees, the center noted.