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Cheating Prevails on College Campuses

A team of professors from the Ohio State University Newark is working to identify the psychology behind students who don't cheat in their schoolwork.

They found students who score higher on tests of empathy, courage, and honesty are the least likely to cheat. But studies show 50 to 80 percent of college students have cheated at some point, leaving honest students in the minority.

"There's a lot of pressure to get good grades in college so if you haven't studied or if anything else happens then you'll do whatever you can to get a good grade," said Ohio State student Haley Wilson.

On this cold October day in the middle of Autumn quarter, Wilson says she's not at all surprised to hear about a study that shows more students have cheated in college than not cheated. Ohio State Newark psychology professor Julie Hupp knows the numbers well.

"Pretty consistently, at least 50% of the students report that they have cheated," Hupp said. "That doesn't mean that they're cheating on every assignment in every class but some instances come up where students do cheat."

Professor Hupp is part of a team working to profile the personality of students who don't cheat; a group so unique, they're being labeled "academic heroes."

"So many students were reporting that they cheated especially in comparison with the number of charges that are brought up before the center for academic misconduct," Hupp said. "Very very low numbers of students actually get charged with cheating . So this discrepancy is interesting that so many students are cheating and getting away with it."

OSU Student Matt Dickey says most students feel like they could get away with cheating if they tried.

"I've never known anyone that's gotten caught before," Dickey said.

One reason for the discrepancy between rumors of cheating and formal charges of cheating could be red tape.

Nathan Rosentein teaches history at Ohio State. He says he spends a lot of time developing tests on which cheating is difficult. But if he catches someone cheating, the disciplinary process can be lengthy.

"We have elaborate procedures in place for dealing with the cheating," Rosenstein said. "The days when you could just grab the exam booklet from the student and rip it up in his face those are gone."

Those 'elaborate procedures' usually lead to a hearing before the Committee on Academic Misconduct. Tim Curry is the coordinator for the committee and even he says the rules make it tough to prove that a student has done wrong.

"In order for us to see a case, the instructor has to gather evidence," Curry said. "That narrows the number of cases right away because you can hear about someone cheating, you can think someone is cheating, but for us to hear a case there has to be evidence."

A fact that students like David Drago are well aware of.

"There's a lot of risk behind cheating, but if you're not going to get caught-- it creates an environment where you'd want to cheat," Drago said.