Surge in Cheating Reported at Stanford

Computer science students lead pack of investigated academic abuse

By Jackson West
|  Monday, Feb 8, 2010  |  Updated 12:49 PM PDT
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Surge in Cheating Reported at Stanford

Johnath / Flickr

Google was alerted to someone in China snooping in on the Gmail account of a student activist on the bucolic Stanford campus.

Leland Stanford Junior University asks students to abide by an "honor code" not to cheat, and then rigidly enforces voluntary loyalty to that code by asking fellow students to snitch and running work through automated plagiarism-detection systems.

And it's the latter that might explain why the annual number of incidents investigated by the university have risen by 236 percent, from 52 to 123, over the last ten years.

A number of companies now offer software which will quickly scan documents, compare to examples submitted by other students or available online, and produce a score to indicate the likelihood that a student copied another's work.

It's particularly bad amongst computer science students, who account for only 6.5 percent of students on campus by 23 percent of violations.

Because, as the San Jose Mercury News correctly points out, in the world of programming, there is generally only one accepted right answer, and arriving at it independently can be a torturous intellectual process.

Especially in a highly-competitive field, where only the top grade-grubbers will go on to Ph.D.s and jobs at Google, while the rest go on to jobs programming things as mundane as improved cheating-detection algorithms for the educational market.

Jackson West went to art school, where it was nearly impossible to cheat even if you had wanted to.

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