Monday, March 31, 2014

Air Force Test Cheating at Nuclear Missile Base

Discovery of test questions and answers being text messaged caused the firing of nine mid-level officers and lesser punishment for junior officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana ("U.S. Air Force Fires Nine Officers Following Nuclear Test Cheating Probe," Washington Post, March 27, 2014).

The individuals who were fired did not take part in the cheating, but fostered a climate where it was considered acceptable according to the Air Force. The cheating scandal erupted as a result of an "unreasonable drive for perfection rather than an ill-trained force," according to a professor at the Air Force Research Institute who documented the problem. The unethical behavior seemed to be a commonplace occurrence (based on the Air Force reporting) on competency exams among personnel who "saw perfect scores as their only chance for promotion and career advancement."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Apparently, cheating of this type was not found at other Air Force bases, but does this scandal make you wonder about the possibility of unethical behavior being condoned elsewhere in the Air Force?
  2. In the article, there is a comment from the Air Force that states, "the cheating should not call into question the readiness of the team at Malmstrom, which oversees intercontinental ballistic missiles." Does this statement make you wonder why would Air Force personnel be interested in cheating if they felt confident about their job skills?
  3. If you were working with someone you heard was cheating on these types of tests, would you feel confident that you could trust them to perform their job well?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Survey Finds on the Job Ethics Improving Possibly Due to a Slow Economy

Businesses seem to be promoting ethical behavior on the job, but less than robust economic conditions may provide a stronger incentive for good employee conduct, according to a recent survey ("Workplace Ethics Increasing, Perhaps Because of the Recession, but Misconduct on the Job Still High, Survey Finds," Cleveland.com (Cleveland Plain Dealer), February 10, 2014).

The 19th National Business Ethics Survey from the Ethics Resource Center (ERC) using "6420 responses from employees in the for-profit sector" found that retaliation for reporting misconduct was still a concern even though it saw a slight decline. Yet, there was an increase in employee reporting of unethical behavior on the job. However, the ERC President mentioned that if a stronger economy returns, more employees may be tempted to engage in unauthorized practices to increase the bottom line for themselves and their employers.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Do people you know act ethically on the job and in their personal lives? Why or why not?
  2. Would you report misconduct that you observed in your workplace even if you might face retaliation?
  3. Have you ever worked for an unethical supervisor? If so, how did his or her behavior affect you?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Academic Scandal with Years of Grade Changes & No-Show Classes

Hit with an indictment for academic fraud, a former University of North Carolina (UNC) professor is under fire for leading a department with a history of forged faculty signatures, unwarranted grade changes, and overly lenient class structure ("A’s for Athletes, but Charges of Fraud at North Carolina," The New York Times, December 31, 2013).

Although Dr. Julius Nyang’oro left his position in 2012, he is accused of accepting $12,000 for a course he never taught. That course, AFAM 280 in the department of African and Afro-American studies, was filled with North Carolina football team members. A former governor of North Carolina led an investigation into the department, discovering "problems with dozens of courses" going back as far as 1997 including what appears to be over 500 "unauthorized grade changes."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Although these irregularities only involved one department at UNC, how do you think the reputation of the entire school will be affected?
  2. Would you accept a grade for a class that never actually met? Why or why not?
  3. Why would a once-respected educator at a noted university allow his department to become so corrupted?
  4. Why did this apparent lack of academic integrity persist for so many years?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Is Actor Shia LeBeouf a Serial Plagiarist?

After actor Shia LeBeouf came under fire for taking the idea without attribution for his short film, HowardCantour.com from graphic novel author, Daniel Clowes, other writings by LeBeouf are suspected of being plagiarized from uncredited sources ("Shia LeBeouf Plagiarizes More Apologies, Website Sections," Philly.com, December 20, 2013).

Evidence suggests that LaBeouf used comments and works by American writer Charles Bukowski, French writer Benoit Duteurtre, golfer Tiger Woods, and former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara without crediting them. Reports mention that Clowes is considering legal action against the actor.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Based on this Philly.com article, it seems that even LeBeouf's apologies were ripped off from others. Why do you think a noted personality so easily becomes what appears to be a serial plagiarist?
  2. With the availability of search engines to easily corroborate claims of plagiarism in online sources, why would someone take the chance of ruining their integrity and ability to get hired for their creative abilites by using the work of others without citing? Isn't LeBeouf already rich and famous as an actor, so he doesn't need to be a filmmaker?
  3. Is it arrogance or ignorance that caused LeBeouf to engage in this behavior?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Study of European Universities Shows Wide Range of Academic Integrity Policies

The state of academic integrity policies at European universities is quite varied, with the UK providing the most comprehensive programs, according to a new study. ("UK Leads Europe in the Fight against Plagiarism," Times Higher Education, 10 October 2013). The Impact of Policies for Plagiarism in Higher Education across Europe research project based at Coventry University (UK) received 5,000 completed surveys from students, faculty, and administrators to measure "use of plagiarism software, consistency of sanctions, transparency, training, efficacy of prevention policies and efforts."

Surprisingly, Germany and Finland, with highly-regarded educational systems, scored low in their ability to handle academic integrity issues. Some individuals surveyed in France thought that academic integrity was not an important topic for undergraduates. Students in Spain noted that plagiarism detection software was seldom used and policies for academic integrity infractions were not prevalent. Complete results from the study will be published in November.

Discussion Questions:
  1. As a result of this study, do you think if you had a degree from a German university, it would not be considered valuable, because there would be some skepticism that you didn't follow academic integrity principles?
  2. This study acknowledged some lack of completed studies from low-performing countries, so should these results be published if they project doesn't have enough data to draw valid conclusions?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Students Think That Cheating Should Be Allowed at University Exams

Chinese students in the city of Zhongxiang protest strict security measures during university entrance exams by saying, "We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat." ("Chinese Students and Families Fight for the Right to Cheat Their Exams," The Sydney Morning Herald, June 22, 2013). Metal detectors used by proctors found cell phones and transmitters used to gain unfair advantage during the test. Angry parents claim that cheating on such tests in China is widespread and that not allowing it puts their children at a disadvantage. At the exam held last year in this city, some 99 papers were found to be copied.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What is the point of allowing everyone to cheat on a university entrance exam?
  2. Comments on the weight placed on memorization and recitation in China prevent students from learning how to think for themselves. The Chinese government hopes that "creativity and innovation" will help the country grow economically (The Atlantic, June 21, 2013 http://goo.gl/DVllu). Do you think that essay and short answer tests are the solution for curbing cheating and producing students who improve China's future outlook?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Jane Goodall, Plagiarist?

Using several unattributed and marginal sources for her new book, Seeds of Hope, noted author and primatologist, Jane Goodall has been labeled as a plagiarist ("Jane Goodall’s ‘Seeds Of Hope’ Book Contains Borrowed Passages without Attribution," Washington Post, March 19, 2013). In an email written as a response to these claims, she notes that she wanted to use a variety of "reliable sources." However, she seemingly took words from the less-than-authoritative Find Your Fate website according to the Post article, that doesn't list its sources. Also, her arsenal of quality information includes details lifted from Wikipedia.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Goodall isn't an expert of plants, so why do you think she decided to write a book on a topic she doesn't know well?
  2. What criteria do you use to select your sources of information for research papers? 
  3. Do you use Wikipedia for college projects? Why or why not?
  4. How do you make sure you don't plagiarize another author's work? Do you have a system for keeping a record of your sources?