I studied really hard for a test and while taking it, I noticed that one of my classmates was using a cheat sheet in her sock. It bothered me, but I didn’t want to be a snitch about it to my teacher. But we just got the test back. I got a B and the student who was cheating got an A. What should I do?
Bothered by Cheating
There are two different routes to approaching this situation. You can choose to either do nothing or to take action. When considering an ethical choice, it is helpful to consider both principles and practicality. The principle considers the importance of being honest. But, from the practical lens, turning in your friend can be really socially awkward. It helps to remember that you and the cheater are not the only two people involved here— all of the other people in the class are indirectly harmed by the cheating, it’s a slap in the face to the teacher, and it undermines the mutual respect that we try to cultivate in the Archer community. When you side with the cheater, you perhaps believe you are being a friend to that person. But, in siding with them you are actually failing to be a friend to the rest of your peers who are inherently at a disadvantage when cheating is permitted.
Choosing to take action opens the door to a resolution that shows both good principles and is practically better for the majority. The first option when addressing the cheating is to confront the student. Either the student may take responsibility for the cheating, or unfortunately may be defensive and resist your efforts. Will this be an uncomfortable situation? Sure. But, being ethical often requires courage. At the very least, bringing up your friend’s actions might convince her to think twice before cheating again. Another action you could take would be to alert your teacher or Ms. Warner. This option allows you to avoid the awkward confrontation and also assures that the student will be held accountable. This might feel like a pretty serious step to take, but it helps protect the integrity of our community and it sets a standard for the community.
When students are unwilling to call their peers out or expect their peers to work at a higher standard, they effectively negate the purpose of an Honor Code— to foster a healthy ethical environment. An improvement of ethics, while a difficult and dynamic process, creates a positive environment that benefits everyone.
When you have confidence that your peers are honest, you are prompted to hold yourself to a similar standard. When you can trust those around you, you are more likely to collaborate with them. When you operate with the knowledge that ethics are respected, you feel safe and free to support others and be more compassionate. When we stand by and watch others cheat, it essentially is the same thing as not having an Honor Code at all. Without that, we lose accountability for ourselves, our peers, and the comfort and support that develops within a strong ethical community.