9_Klein_Cheating - Journal of Business Ethics(2007...

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Cheating During the College Years: How do Business School Students Compare? Helen A. Klein Nancy M. Levenburg Marie McKendall William Mothersell ABSTRACT. When it comes to cheating in higher education, business school students have often been ac- cused of being the worst offenders; if true, this may be a contributing factor in the kinds of fraud that have plagued the business community in recent years. We examined the issue of cheating in the business school by surveying 268 students in business and other professional schools on their attitudes about, and experiences with, cheating. We found that while business school students actually cheated no more or less than students in other professional schools, their attitudes on what constitutes cheating are more lax than those of other professional school students. Additionally, we found that serious cheaters across all professional schools were more likely to be younger and have a lower grade point average. KEY WORDS: academic dishonesty, cheating, cheating attitudes, cheating behaviors, cheating in business schools, cheating in professional schools, ethics Introduction After a six-month investigation, Primetime, an ABC television news magazine, aired an hour-long pro- gram in August 2004 concerning cheating on college campuses and in high schools. Investigators indicated that cheating had become both more frequent and more sophisticated. Interviewed students said that they felt an increasing pressure to get good grades and many seemed to view cheating as a legitimate strategy to accomplish that end. Students casually described and demonstrated the methods they rou- tinely used to cheat. As business professors at a comprehensive state university with 23,000 students, we noted, in par- ticular, the statement of a college administrator interviewed by Primetime who claimed that there was no question that business students cheat more than others. If this is true, there are serious impli- cations for these students’ future employers because there is evidence that cheating in school and cheating in the workplace are related. In a study of employed MBA students, Sims (1993) found a high degree of correlation between cheating in school and unethical behaviors at work. This high correlation led him to conclude that situational factors had less to do with unethical behaviors on the job than did general attitudes about dishonesty. In 2001, Nonis and Swift (2001) obtained similar results when they studied the self-reported behaviors of 1,051 business students and found that the frequency of cheating in college was highly correlated with cheating at work. Helen A. Klein is an assistant professor in the Management Department at Grand Valley State University. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in Computer and Information Systems and is interested in Object Oriented Software development, business process redesign and the use of ERP as a tool for learning in higher education.
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