By Thomas Kostigen
Graduate business students take their cue from corporate scandals
The corporate scandals that have plagued Wall Street in recent history are setting a fine example for young students looking to make their mark in the business world: They are learning to cheat with the best of them.
Students seeking their masters of business administration degree admit cheating more than any other type of student, from law to liberal arts.
“We have found that graduate students in general are cheating at an alarming rate and business-school students are cheating even more than others,” concludes a study by the Academy of Management Learning and Education of 5,300 students in the U.S. and Canada.
Many of these students reportedly believe cheating is an accepted practice in business. More than half (56%) of M.B.A. candidates say they cheated in the past year. For the study, cheating was defined as plagiarizing, copying other students’ work and bringing prohibited materials into exams.
“To us that means that business-school faculty and administrators must do something, because doing nothing simply reinforces the belief that high levels of cheating are commonplace and acceptable,” say the authors of the academy report, Donald McCabe of Rutgers University, Kenneth Butterfield of Washington State University and Linda Klebe Trevino at Penn State University.
However, what’s holding many professors back from taking action on cheaters is the fear of litigation. To that end, the academic world is becoming much more like the business world where those who walk with a heavy legal stick can swat others out of the way; it may be time to impose a whistleblower statute for students and teachers.
Yes, it seems to have come to that. With 54% of graduate engineering students, 50% of students in the physical sciences, 49% of medical and other health-care students, 45% of law students, 43% of graduate students in the arts and 39% of graduate students in the social sciences and humanities readily admitting to cheating, something must be done to correct course.
McCabe notes that many more students probably cheat than admit in the study. He and the others recommend a series of efforts based upon notions of ethical community-building be put into practice at the graduate-school level. The essence of an ethical community is that by doing wrong — cheating in this case — all of the stakeholders in the community are harmed, not just the wrongdoer.