October 24, 2011
Remember your freshman year, when you walked into the Sir Christopher Wren Building to pledge on your honor that you would not lie, cheat or steal as seriously as if you were about to sell your soul or swear your involvement in some grand, ancient ritual? Or the nights when you traveled to Morton Hall for those Extended Orientation sessions featuring the various videos about student conduct and Honor Code violations? Starting with Orientation, the College of William and Mary reiterates the Honor Pledge and Honor Code with blue books and syllabi stamped with the disclaimer, “On my honor…” But according to the recently released Honor Council case summaries, we often forget the severity of breaching the Honor Code even though we all go through these experiences as students. We may joke about it, but we, as students of the College, still value the Honor Code, and it is not being treated with the integrity that it should.
The released information states that there were 11 plagiarism cases and a total of 13 cases. Out of the 11 plagiarism cases, ten students were found guilty. Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct David Gilbert has said that he believes that the underlying reason for plagiarism is not laziness or a complete disregard of the code, but the pressures students at the College put on themselves. This makes absolute sense, and we completely agree. We all have friends who stress over every assignment. From staying up three days straight to complete a research paper to memorizing an entire textbook in order to make an A on an exam, some students would be willing to chew off their arms — or in this case plagiarize — to get to that dream GPA. After all, summa cum laude is for slackers and cum laude is failing, right?
This mindset is having a negative impact on students’ ability to uphold the Honor Code system. While students are capable of doing their work, they often panic when faced with approaching deadlines. In the late hours of the night, these students would rather plagiarize than receive a low grade or ask the professor for an extension on the assignment. Students frequently forget that their professors are here to help them and that their professors were once college students as well.
The pressures to succeed can be overwhelming and, in some instances, unwarranted. We do understand, however, that some pressure is good. In the real world, we will have deadlines to meet with very little time to accomplish our work. We have to push through. You may end up having that moment of horror, which ends in a mental breakdown, but afterward, you have an epiphany and you realize: I know my breaking point. I will work to that breaking point, and then I will stop.
Students are responsible for learning to push themselves in order to gain from their academic experience. At the same time, it is always better to do your own work and fail than to be expelled. Seeking help from professors or the Dean of Students Office is a better alternative to cheating. The College is a challenging school, but students should never be driven to plagiarism as the result of extreme academic pressure.