Studies show business students cheat more

  • A survey polled universities around the country and found business school students the most prone to cheating
  • Some people think these values students have may be just cause for the current economic recession
  • While it is certainly an issue, some schools see it as a wake up call that business ethics are a lot more important than people think

With America in a recession, the source of the problem may root a lot deeper than a few bad investments and shady characters. According to a Rutgers University professor, the problem may have started in college.

For the last 20 years, Donald McCabe, a management and global business professor at Rutgers University's Business School, has been studying student cheating habits in institutions across the country.

More business school students admitted to cheating than students in other schools, according to results from a poll that surveyed 170,000 students at 165 universities and 18,500 faculty members at 115 universities.

While McCabe says that the differences between schools are not tremendous, they are enough to be worrisome, especially when looking at the current economy.

"What appears to be happening is that business students are acquiring the same intelligence some people accuse business people of having and that is doing whatever it takes to get the job done," McCabe said. "So you see that reflected here and you can imagine what that becomes outside."

McCabe also said he thinks students justify their actions with the idea that it is only school and that their decisions are not affecting anyone.

"Maybe when people's money and people's lives are in the balance they will behave differently, and I'm sure some people will but I think they are just learning to convince themselves that everything they do is victimless," he said.

Teresa Fishman, the director of The Center for Academic Integrity, is trying to help promote academic honesty around the country.

"What we want is a culture in which the processes of learning are valued and not so much products so that it doesn't really make sense to cheat because what you're doing is valuable," Fishman said. "What we are trying to do is help people find ways at various universities to promote a culture of academic integrity."

McCabe also works with CAI, and Fishman believes his research is valid and very important.

"It's longitudinal research," Fishman said. "He has been doing it for more than 15 years so he has a picture of not just what is, but also the trends."

While the surveys do not address the question of why students cheat, Fishman and others can still speculate that the pressure of financial success in the future has an effect on student habits.

"Many of us think that the reason for 'why' is that there is such an emphasis on financial success at all cost and that attitude trickles down to academic success at all cost," she said.

While Linda Salchenberger, the dean of the College of Business Administration, does find these results a bit disturbing, she feels they are in contrast to what occurs at Marquette.

"First and foremost, in an administrative perspective we obviously have a very strong policy regarding academic integrity at the college. But beyond that ,we're more interested in working really hard to instill and to strengthen Jesuit values in our students," Salchenberger said. "I think that makes us unique in our approach."

She said many people do not realize the business school has four ethics courses that emphasize students to have personal integrity.

"What we really try to emphasize is how we can get students to visualize themselves in these situations which are very complex and get away from all the financial incentives and all the politics that goes in with the corporations and you ask, 'Who am I as a person and what do I value?'" she said.

Salchenberger also thinks the current recession serves as a call back to basics in the business world.

"I think it is a time to learn that there are some fundamentals here in both individual ethical behavior as well as the basics of business that we have really violated," she said. "This has caused a really complex situation that is going to be really hard to get out of."