Academic Dishonesty at IMSA Analyzed

A student writes formulas and information on their hand to cheat on a test. Source: YouGov.

*Please note that this article is not intended to condone or encourage cheating, plagiarism, or academic dishonesty under any circumstances.*

“Cheating (aiding someone to cheat, plagiarism, self-plagiarism, fabrication, obtaining or providing an unfair advantage, falsification of documents, unauthorized access to records, and inappropriate collaboration), whether intentionally or carelessly committed, is a breach of academic integrity and honesty.” – IMSA’s 2017 Parent and Student Handbook

The first act of academic dishonesty is a Tier II-A infraction, with a potential sanction being a 1-day suspension or Tier I sanctions.

The second act of academic dishonesty is a Tier II-B infraction, with a potential sanction being a 3-day suspension and Tier I sanctions.

The third act of academic dishonesty is a Tier III infraction, with a potential sanction being a 10-day suspension or expulsion.

However, students must be caught to receive punishment. Academic dishonesty at IMSA is far more rampant than the number of cases that are actually reported by teachers and students. At a certain point, the line blurs, and students stop considering actions such as copying problem sets or programming code as academic dishonesty, merely because it has become so commonplace. There’s no doubt that students find loopholes in academic honesty, but rather than asking ourselves how to stop it, we should pinpoint why it’s happening.


On September 6th, 2017, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted: “In school, students cheat because the system values high grades more than students value learning.”

IMSA faculty are cognizant of the fact that students are not consistently honest. For example, the math department admits to knowing about a long history of sharing problem sets, take-homes, and programming code. Mr. Ordonez stated that although it is apparent when students copy without thinking, it is worth questioning whether problem sets still serve the purpose that they were originally intended to. Similarly, Mme. Miskowiec of the World Languages department said that language faculty do know when students use online translators to do their work; however, the frequency at which they accuse people of cheating is not nearly as high as the number of cases they suspect.

Not only do teachers go to great lengths to catch academic dishonesty, but they also attempt to stop it before it happens. Mrs. O’Leary-Driscoll and Dr. DeVol describe how the science department has tailored the way they administer tests (i.e. cardboard dividers during exams, the occasional night test), and they frequently use the Turnitin website to encourage students to avoid plagiarizing. According to Ms. Townsend, the English department has received several papers with cases of plagiarism, and she rarely goes a semester without having to address at least one situation involving academic dishonesty. The English department also tries to minimize dishonesty by administering reading or comprehension quizzes, because they are aware of students who solely utilize SparkNotes and Shmoop.

I surveyed 165 IMSA students–55 from each grade–to discover whether Dr. Tyson’s claim could be applied to our student body. The survey was conducted anonymously to guarantee the greatest degree of honesty possible.

Developed by Parth Dhyani
The survey asked users if they have committed academic dishonesty, and if they would commit academic dishonesty in the future. (All users who answered that they have committed academic dishonesty in the past also appear in the data for “I would commit academic dishonesty in the future.”) The results produce an upward trend that seems to show as IMSA students progress in grade level, they feel more encouraged to cheat. 
Each student was also asked why they believe students cheat, and the answers generally seemed to reflect a theme of students not having enough time to accomplish all of their tasks and lacking the confidence in their own work to do it themselves. On top of that are the pressures associated with maintaining a high GPA, which can drive the urge to commit academic dishonesty. The toxicity that arises from comparing test scores and the competition surrounding college admissions motivate students to do whatever it will take to get the grades they want, and cheating is ultimately an unfortunate manifestation of that desperation.
IMSA calls itself a “learning laboratory” because it was created to explore what teaching methods allow for the greatest student learning. Somewhere in its development, however, values have shifted within the student body from learning to grades. The first step to combating academic dishonesty is changing the dynamic and student culture. The real question lies in how we, as a community, can accomplish this challenge.

About the Author

Shubhi Verma
Shubha "Shubhi" Verma is from a small village called Forsyth, Illinois, but at IMSA she lives in 02b downquad with her favorite people. She's thrilled to be serving as Co Editor-in-Chief this year for the Acronym, and she looks forward to spending even more time procrastinating homework by working on this. Outside of this Wordpress, she's a part of BELLAs, LEAD, Science Olympiad, Senior Class Club, and SIR, so you'll be able to find her trudging underneath her 50lb backpack a lot. Ask her about the Acronym if you want her to launch into a 2 hour speech about why you should join and why it's the absolute best organization on campus.

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