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Learning How To Cheat

"Duke University is a community of scholars and learners, committed to the principles of honesty, trustworthiness, fairness, and respect for others. Students share with faculty and staff the responsibility for promoting a climate of integrity. As citizens of this community, students are expected to adhere to these fundamental values all times, in both their academic and non-academic endeavors." -The Fuqua School of Business Honor Code

The honor code at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business hangs in every classroom, serving as a constant reminder to students of the college's core values. What's more, all prospective students receive a written copy of the code and, before gaining acceptance to the prestigious school, must agree in writing to abide by it. Why so much emphasis on a values statement? "Fuqua depends on every member of its community to uphold the code in both spirit and action," says Dean Douglas Breeden. Sounds good, right?

Maybe it's not good enough. There's news this week that officials at Fuqua caught thirty-four first-year MBA students cheating. A professor noticed suspicious similarities in students' answers to questions on a take-home exam. An investigation revealed that the students collaborated on the test in violation of the professor's instructions. All but four students in the class of thirty-eight participated in the cheating.

Although it may be the largest incident of college dishonesty, Duke's is not an isolated episode. In a survey published last year in Academy of Management Learning & Education, 56 percent of graduate business students acknowledged that they have cheated. Donald McCabe, a Rutgers professor who worked on the survey, says students are quick to blame their cheating on the post-Enron business environment. "They'll argue that they're just emulating the behavior they're seeing in the corporate world," he says. "They're acquiring a skill that will serve them well when they're out there."

So is college cheating just one more consequence of the corruption involving companies like Enron, Arthur Anderson, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and Tyco?

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