Voth: Integrity over dishonesty

Adam Oliphant

As a student – and I’m sure you can relate – finding a worthy paper topic to satisfy the ravenous faculty is sometimes the hardest part of our job. Not just finding a topic, but finding one that interests you and hopefully your reader. There is nothing worse than writing about something you care nothing about; it will show through in your work, leaving it emptier than George Bush’s head. Naturally you strive to find and produce the best possible product you can. This is where the potential trouble lies.

There are countless students, professors and journalists in the world who have written even more countless articles and essays. With the advent of the Internet, a huge portion of these are available to most of us at a simple click of the mouse. When deadlines roll around and your brain is shooting more blanks than Harvey Keitel in “Reservoir Dogs,” this sort of access can be a huge temptation. I mean, come on, what are the chances of someone here having read that same paper on representations of post-modern sexuality in the novels of Dr. Seuss? Just borrow an idea, transplant a few sentences and phrases, and voila! You’ve got yourself a nice little paper.

But no! We all must resist these types of temptations, no matter how easy and foolproof you think they may be. And I’m not simply talking about the academic consequences and disciplinary action that may be taken; no, it’s something much simpler, but much grander than that: integrity. When you turn in a paper or an exam with your name on it, you are in essence entering a contract, an oath, that the work with your name on it is yours and no one else’s. Today, though, things like this aren’t taken with much gravity, but as St. Thomas Moore once said, “When a man takes an oath he is holding his own self in his own hands, like water. If he opens his fingers then, he needn’t hope to find himself again.” In short, when you make an oath and violate it, you are giving yourself away, selling no one out but yourself. The first person whose trust you break is your own.

Now all this may be a little severe for simply handing in some plagiarized work in one form or another, but as with most things, this sort of behavior can snowball. You don’t get caught once, yet before you know it, you’re in deeper than Jacques Cousteau exploring the Mariana Trench and you haven’t written anything for yourself in two years. I don’t really think this is possible, however, as teachers seem to sniff out plagiarism like Louie Anderson does a $7.99 all-you-can-eat buffet. They employ all sorts of methods, not the least their formidable minds and experience, but somewhat more thorough, computer programs that look through databases of thousands of commonly plagiarized essays and papers to see if there are any matches. If you happen to come up a match, well, you’re up some kind of creek without a paddle.

Before all of this happens, though, ask yourself: Is cheating worth it? Is an A with no effort worth it if you can’t really take credit yourself? An ill-gotten A is no A at all. The most important grade any of us get is in integrity, and without an A in that, anything else might as well be graded as a big, fat F.