Survey shows that business students tend to be more dishonest

The Yale School of Management did not take part in plagiarism week, which ended Tuesday after a flurry of discussions on academic integrity. But according to nationwide statistics, the business school community would be wise to do some soul-searching of its own.

While the results of a recent survey indicate that graduate business students are more likely to cheat than their non-business peers, SOM faculty and administators said academic dishonesty has not been a problem at the school. The survey, which was published in the latest issue of the Academy of Management Learning & Education Journal, asked students in graduate school programs to report whether they had engaged in thirteen specific cheating behaviors relating to exam settings and individual written work. Other questions in the survey examined the students’ perceptions of peer behaviors, the severity of the consequences if they were caught cheating and the general acceptance of academic integrity policies.

While 56 percent of business students reported that they had cheated in some manner in the last academic year, only 47 percent of non-business students reported that they engaged in academic dishonesty within that time. But at Yale’s School of Management, most faculty and students said their experiences do not correlate with the findings of the report.

Members of the SOM community pointed to the school’s smaller size, grading policy and sense of community as factors that deter dishonest behavior.

Professor Nat Keohane, who is currently serving his second year on the school’s Honor Committee, said SOM fosters an environment that supports academic integrity.

“We have a very different culture than most business schools,” he said. “It’s smaller, with a greater sense of community.”

Spencer Hutchins SOM ’07 said that a standard of honesty is implicit in the practices of the school, and that he believes each student takes the honor code to heart even though it is not discussed on a regular basis.

Donald McCabe, the study’s primary author and professor of management and global business at Rutgers Business School, said he was not surprised by the findings based on his past analysis of undergraduate cheating trends.

“It replicated the pattern I have seen in undergraduate business programs,” he said.

But McCabe said there are important distinctions between the undergraduate and graduate survey populations that should make it easier to rectify issues related to cheating.

“There is less self-reported cheating at the graduate level than at the undergraduate level,” he said. “There is a narrowing of the types of people that want to be there. It should be easier to develop and implement policy at the graduate level because people are more mature, and because people are more interested in what they’re learning.”

The School of Management’s Honor Committee consists of four students and three faculty members who review and vote on cases in which the integrity of work is in question. But Keohane said cases brought to the committee are usually resolved before coming to an official vote.

“The four-to-three composition is designed so that the faculty couldn’t impose something on their own, but that isn’t an issue,” he said. “It has always been by consensus.”

Roger Ibbotson, the head of the Honor Committee, said the panel’s function is not limited to hearing particular cases. The Committee educates new students about academic integrity during their orientation, and periodically sends out refresher e-mails to students before exams and due dates for major papers, he said.

Jeffrey Gaffney SOM ’08 said the school has done a good job of preventing the widespread problems at business schools that were revealed in the study.

“I think what they’ve done is pretty comprehensive,” he said.

McCabe said he is planning a survey of nursing students to examine the incidence of academic dishonesty at nursing schools as well as the prevalence of clinical shortcuts they may take to fulfill requirements.

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