Professor Melissa Beers said cheating tends to be a reflection of circumstances and not the person. Credit: Darby Clark | For the Lantern

When it came time for Jordan Miller to take open-book online exams, all he had with him was his laptop — and his classmates.

Miller, who graduated in 2018 with a degree in military history, routinely gathered with others to work through Carmen exams, at the end of which one victim — usually picked by flipping a coin — would submit and check the answers so the rest could correct theirs.   

“We were told to use our resources, and I take that very literally,” Miller said. “I never cheated in any of what I would say were crucial-to-my-major classes. I was more lazy about it and I was tired of doing the homework in my senior year and that’s how I got around it.”

He is not the only student who has worked around the rules. Although academic misconduct cases at Ohio State are on the rise — cases increased 31 percent in the past two academic years, from 2016-17 to 2017-18 according to an analysis by The Lantern — students continue to disregard what the Committee on Academic Misconduct considers inappropriate behavior.

According to COAM, academic misconduct is “any activity that tends to compromise the academic integrity of the University, or subvert the educational process.” Though there are many forms of misconduct, specific examples of subversion include giving and/or receiving information during an exam, possession and/or use of unauthorized materials during an exam or assignment, plagiarism, and tampering with course grades.

Melissa Beers, program director and course coordinator for Introduction to Psychology, said the reasoning behind students’ actions of misconduct is more nuanced than people might think.

Beers said psychology says that often people will examine behavior and attribute it to the personality of the person in question, when often behavior could stem from “situational pressures and influences.”

“But we see the person. We don’t see the situation,” Beers said. “I think it’s always important to ask ourselves, ‘Where is this behavior coming from? What is the surrounding context?’”

In general, students aren’t out to purposefully cheat the system, Beers said. Though many might believe cheating is malicious, intentional and planned, she said it is often just a bad decision resulting from desperation or “not giving yourself enough time, feeling pressure, feeling under the gun, feeling like you don’t have any other options.”

Some students said they choose to cheat but draw the line at what they feel helps prepare them for the real world, as Kenton Steiner, a computer science and engineering graduate, said.

“I have developers when I ask them questions that tell me to just go Google it and find some code online somewhere,” Steiner said. “And I don’t see how that’s any different than me talking to a friend about a lab and saying, ‘I don’t really understand this,’ and them sending me some code and giving me an idea of what I need to do to work on it.”

Beers said that students who consciously and consistently commit academic misconduct are usually in the minority.

“I very rarely have encountered it,” Beers said. “I can’t say that I know for sure what would motivate such a student, but I think they would have a really flawed idea of what they’re getting in college.”