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'Bottom line': business students more likely to cheat

Surrounded by a faltering economy with job loss and controversies originating from Wall Street, some business students may be more inclined to cheat than others to get ahead.

Rutgers Business School Professor Donald McCabe conducted a study to help understand the issue of student dishonesty and how faculty, along with student institutions, influence student decisions to cheat or to not cheat.

"Data I have gathered suggests a significant issue is the belief held by some students that in business, only the bottom line counts," said McCabe, a professor of management and global business. "How you achieve that bottom line is less important."

McCabe said the study, which has yet to be published, began in Fall 2002 where students from more than a hundred campuses participated.

He said the study is a web-based survey in which students are asked to complete via an e-mail message, covering questions about the general environment on campus, their own behavior on a couple dozen activities that might be considered cheating and questions about how their school prevents cheating.

Rutgers Business School Senior Associate Dean Martin Markowitz said students who cheat tend to focus on the assessment mechanism rather than the learning.

"Cheating occurs in business programs, but no educator likes cheating because it defeats the purpose of education," Markowitz said.

Some students may think getting good grades and a degree are all they need to enter the profession, McCabe said. How they get the degree is insignificant compared to having a high enough grade point average to get recruited by better companies, he said.

"It could be true that business students are more likely to cheat than other students because there is a big reward if they do better," said Livingston College junior Tom Danielsen. "Personally, I don't see any cheating going on here at the business school."

McCabe said the study seems to relate to students' perception of how business really gets done in the real world.

"Some students feel [cheating] is an advantage, but certainly very few businesses are likely to knowingly promote cheating," McCabe said.

Markowitz said if a student finds a way to simply make their assessments look good, independent of their development, they have not learned. He said as students are required to use those skills in their jobs, they will fall short to those who have actually studied.

"I'm not sure why business students would cheat more than any other students," said Rutgers College junior Ahmed Ali. "Perhaps because we're more competitive in the business world, but I would say a vast majority of students don't cheat in the business school."

Markowitz said several measures have been taken to prevent cheating such as having faculty actively proctor exams, using alternative versions of exams in classes and asking faculty to read each paper with respect to style, as well as content.

"Cheating is bad in business because if you watch what happens when people cheat in the real business world, it comes back to punish them such as in the Enron and Madoff cases," Danielsen said.

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