- The Washington Times - Monday, August 18, 2014


One form of cheating in school has been around forever.

“Hey, I don’t have last night’s homework. Can I copy yours?”

Another old favorite entails whispering across the aisle during a test: “Psst, what’s the answer to No. 5?”

The student who neglects to complete his work or properly prepare for an exam might have a good excuse for being in that situation. But those remedies are all wrong. Meanwhile, the other pupil faces a moral crossroad, with the option to bail him out or let him sink.

When classmates are caught in the act of accepting or offering lifelines, the consequence should be identical.

“If two students want to share the same work, then they can share the same grade,” says my lovely wife, Vanessa, a 15-year veteran teacher who gives both participants an ‘F’ under those circumstances. Her approach, not uncommon among educators, is included in some schools’ official code of conduct.

We have no idea how often such peer-to-peer assistance goes undetected in education. But it’s a good bet that athletes are involved when cases come to light on college campuses. Academic cheating can have devastating effects on athletic departments, leading to postseason bans, loss of scholarships and vacated wins.

Notre Dame football players DaVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams and Kendall Moore are being held out of practices and games while the school investigates possible academic fraud. The school received evidence last month that a number of students — including some who don’t play football — had submitted papers and homework written by others.

The names of the other conspirators haven’t been dragged through the mud. They haven’t been splashed over the airwaves, blasted through cyberspace or plastered in newspapers. They have remained anonymous role players in what could become a major blow to Notre Dame’s prospects and reputation.

But they deserve as much contempt as the athletes.

Non-jocks might not have scholarships at risk, but they should be expelled, too, if that fate awaits the players. If one group is held out of extracurricular activities, the conspirators also should be prohibited. Whatever penalties are levied against students for accepting others’ work, the same should be applied to those providing said work.

But I understand if some young folks are a bit confused about the ethics in these situations.

Some adults are setting terrible examples.

It’s one thing if classmates share answers to help fellow students, especially the school’s athletes. What’s worse is officials administering bogus grades or creating fake classes to make life easier for athletes.

School personnel would never go to those extremes for regular students.

The infractions at Notre Dame are grave only if employees within athletic or academic departments are involved. That sort of malfeasance contributes to college sports’ bad name way more than students doing an assignment for players.

This won’t even qualify as a legitimate “scandal” unless folks on the payroll have a hand in it.

Consider the ongoing trouble at the University of North Carolina, three years in the running. The NCAA announced recently the reopening of an investigation that uncovered UNC classes where little or no work was required. One professor allegedly was paid $12,000 for a class he never taught.

That’s scandalous.

Oklahoma State is under investigation, in part, for allegations of academic corruption involving grade changes and athletes’ work being done by staffers. Florida State vacated football wins and other records in 2010 after the NCAA determined that athletes received “improper assistance” from a former learning specialist. The University of New Mexico was penalized in 2008 after two assistant football coaches arranged suspect correspondence courses for a player and three recruits.

That’s scandalous.

Disgraceful behavior tends to trickle down. Some athletes won’t take their academics seriously if the school doesn’t. And if the school doesn’t, regular students won’t, either. The message becomes clear to everyone on campus: The most important thing is helping athletes retain their eligibility, not receive an education.

Administrators, professors and other school personnel who engage in academic fraud for athletes are utterly despicable. They are worse than boosters with $100 handshakes, agents with improper benefits and students with ‘A’ papers to offer. They are among college sports’ most sordid and slimy characters.

In addition to immediate termination, they should receive those NCAA “show cause” penalties that dissuade other colleges from hiring rogue coaches.

Notre Dame doesn’t have much to worry about if we’re just talking about classmates attempting to curry favor with star athletes. Bookworms often try to win cool points from the popular kids, and sharing schoolwork is one of the oldest, easiest methods.

Both parties should be punished to the same extent, regardless of which one initiated the cheating.

But they’re small fry compared to adults who cheat.

The harshest punishment should be saved for so-called grown-ups who failed to learn an elementary lesson.

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