There are many clear-cut and defined aspects of our lives: the hours the package station in Usdan stays open, the fact that Foss Hill tends to get muddy after it rains, and the ever-impending realization that you will not be on time to your class halfway across campus if you leave for it two minutes before it starts.
Cheating, however, seems to remain in this elusive gray area. For starters, what defines cheating? When it comes to academics, is it really cheating if you split the work on that problem set? Or is cheating exclusive to copying the answers to a test? The same applies for romantic cheating: Where do you draw the line between emotional and physical cheating? When is it okay, if it is ever okay?
In general, within the University community, students seem to be against the concept of cheating when it comes to both relationships and academics. It would seem that the issue lies in what constitutes cheating.
Samantha*, one of the many students at the University, said that the Honor Code at the University seems to make most people scared of cheating. However, she does know many students who have cheated. A majority of the cheating she’s seen has been the sharing of answers on homework assignments and such, rather than cheating on tests.
“I think people just think it makes it easier,” she said. “I think that there’s a lot of minor cheating that happens. I don’t know how much I’m against that; sometimes there’s just a lot that you have on your plate, and sometimes it’s just easier if you do it with someone—have them do half the problems and you do half the problems. If you’re still learning the material, does it really matter?”
Samantha poses an interesting point: when does cheating matter? Interestingly enough, her thoughts on academic cheating were more lenient then her thoughts regarding romantic cheating. She talked about a relationship she’d had where her significant other had sent explicit texts to other girls. It wasn’t technically physical, but it was emotional.
“I guess to him, he felt like he wasn’t actually doing anything, but he was,” Samantha said. “I don’t know if it’s like an individual basis where people have their moral grounds for that, or if their friends maybe say what’s okay, or people do what they want and then justify it however they think that’s what they need to do.”
Nikolas Ortega ’19 feels that one of the reasons people cheat is to see if they can get away with it.
“I feel like it sometimes provides an escape for some people,” Ortega said. “It gives them a little thrill to kind of do something more adventurous. Respect to that, but at the same time, the way I was raised, I was not [taught] to be devious at times.”
While Ortega agrees with Samantha in that cheating romantically is not okay, he feels that part of the reason cheating occurs is a lack of communication.
“In college in particular, there’s this thing called an ‘open relationship,’ which to be honest I don’t really believe in,” Ortega said. “I feel like it defies the purpose of a relationship, just saying you’re ‘open,’ is that a pass to cheat? I don’t really know if people are cheating or not, because there’s this gray area. So I frankly don’t know if people are cheating or if they’ve agreed to it with their partner. I can’t really say for a fact.”
Arielle Schwartz ’19 also spoke a lot about the gray area which has developed with cheating, particularly in college.
“Romantically, college relationships and high school relationships are different,” Schwartz said. “There’s a lot more openness and many things are undefined. So it’s hard to say what’s cheating and what’s not. So, to one person it might be cheating and to the other person it might not be. I feel like that gives you a very weird gray area.”
Schwartz would go as far to say that in college she has not seen much of either kind of cheating, especially the romantic kind.
“From what I can tell, people really care about their classes and are genuinely interested and want to learn things so they feel less of a need to cheat,” Schwartz said. “They’re just going to do their school stuff, and actually do it because there is a genuine interest in that. I think a lot of romantic cheating is because of these blurred lines and undefined things. I think in high school you kind of have this idea that this is what a relationship is supposed to be, so you don’t have that as much where it’s unclear whether something is cheating or not.”
Perhaps what is most interesting about the cheating phenomenon is that everyone seems to have slightly different opinions about it. Unlike Samantha and Schwartz, Ortega personally feels that while romantic cheating is bad, academic cheating is slightly worse. He does acknowledge that this depends on the situation.
“I feel like in an academic sense, you can actually get into more harm if you’re caught with it,” Ortega said. “If you’re at a university or high school, you can be expelled. Whereas if you’re cheating on a person, I feel like you can get over it eventually. It’s not something that’s going to be with you forever, but then again, it depends on the person, and if they’re willing to cheat and if it’s something they know that they’re comfortable living with it, you can’t really say anything to them. People are entitled to pursue happiness in whatever means or way they want. You kind of just have to accept some people for who they are.”
While by definition cheating is a kind of deception, Samantha believes that romantic and academic cheating are two different things.
“A person you’ve chosen to be with and then a test seem really different in terms of the emotional significance in your life,” she said. “[Tests] aren’t a big deal in the long run of your life. It’s not so much an explicit disrespect of a person you’re supposed to be close to, it’s more of a disrespect of the academic system. I feel like it’s a lot easier to do that to an abstract thought rather than to a person that you’re close to.”
Schwartz echoed Samantha’s sentiments regarding the connection between the different types of cheating.
“I knew [people] who were okay with academic cheating and very, very against romantic cheating,” Schwartz said. “I think part of it for them was the integrity of human connection. There is something about academic cheating where you’re not directly affecting someone else’s emotions and your own emotions. Whereas with romantic cheating, that’s just a very personal thing to do and it has a bigger impact on the lives of others. So they would think that was worse. I think I agree with that, but obviously both are bad, but I think romantic is worse.”
For the most part, cheating seems to be derived from confusion. Gray areas give people an excuse to justify what they’ve done, and even deem their actions as something that does not qualify as cheating.
“I feel like it goes back to communication,” Ortega said. “[People] need to work out their problems. I think sometimes people really want to express themselves, and cheating is a way of liberation.”