Opinion » Shredder

C is for cheater


Four score and seven years ago, our fathers (and mothers) brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men (and women) are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

Beautiful, right? I mean, say what you will about my personal hygiene and lack of people skills—I still don’t understand why that Fox News host got in trouble for fat shaming Kelly Clarkson—but I sure know how to string together a purdy sentence.


Unfortunately, I sort of counted on my editors being about as smart as they look, which is not very. So now I find myself forced to take a page out of Bart Simpson’s book and write “I will not plagiarize my columns” four score and seven times on a blackboard. They also insisted that I utilize this column to apologize to you, the dear readers. Blah blah blah.

But seriously, I’m sincere.

Sincerely bummed that I got caught!

Rimshot! Can I get a drummer to just follow me around doing that when I say something ridiculously funny?

I guess I kinda understand how a grown-ass adult copying someone else’s work and trying to claim credit for it might piss off everyone who actually follows the rules and does their own work.

It also might undermine any pretensions you have about being a grown-ass adult. Because we all know that most, if not all, current college students have had at least one argument with their parents that went along the lines of, “No one understands me, but I’m an adult now and I get to make my own decisions!”

So the 67 Cuesta College students caught cheating on a midterm in their U.S. History class should probably be required to apologize to their parents/guardians for ever having the nerve to insist that they’re capable, competent individuals who deserve to make their own decisions. In fact, I’m of the opinion that Cuesta’s slap-on-the-wrist gesture— taking a zero on the midterm and writing an essay on academic honesty, which, let’s be honest, they probably just copied from somewhere else—would have been appropriate for a middle schooler caught cheating on an exam but falls severely short of a reasonable punishment for an alleged adult with no integrity.

Those 67 students should be really grateful, by the way, that I was unable to obtain a list of their names because I would have printed them all once I was finished spouting off my slightly modified Gettysburg Address.

For anyone who thinks that sounds a little harsh, consider the fact that we’re dealing with adults who thought that the appropriate response to a multiple-choice test for an introductory level history course at Cuesta College was to blatantly cheat their little asses off. What are these citizens going to do when confronted with challenges or hardships in the future?

A. Rise to the occasion.

B. Copy the person next to me.

C. This Scantron was already filled in with the correct answer before I even walked into the classroom.

And Cuesta isn’t doing any favors by treating these students like they’re still in middle school where consequences for bad behavior include not getting a gold star at the end of the day. In fact, I was disappointed to learn that Cuesta students aren’t necessarily punished equally for academic dishonesty. The administration—which did more than its fair share of hemming, hawing, and prevaricating when asked to address the issue—allows the instructor to set the tone for the punishment.

Which means that if you take a class from a sap who thinks everyone—even students who fail to recognize that an education is a privilege as well as a responsibility—deserves a second chance, you just might find yourself writing an essay about academic honesty rather than facing potential suspension or expulsion for being caught cheating. Or you could have an instructor who has no patience for liars and cheats and you might find yourself facing more serious consequences for your role in an enormous cheating ring that involved at least 67 college students.

Is it fair that one student should face a steeper penalty than another for the same stupid act simply because one professor is more “sympathetic” than another? Is it fair that a student who has proven herself or himself dishonest should continue to reap the benefits of a publicly funded education when there are too few resources to go around?

Cuesta wants to bury the issue. The college president, Gil Stork, couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge or address the situation, instead using the college’s assistant superintendent and vice president, Sandee McLaughlin, as a human shield to protect himself against media scrutiny. McLaughlin was well prepared to reveal absolutely no information, citing a broad interpretation of FERPA (a student privacy act) as an excuse for not delving into the specifics of the punishments for the proud Cougar cheaters. I’m still of the opinion that if cheaters knew their information was going to be released to a raging newspaper columnist who wouldn’t hesitate to give them the full benefit of the media spotlight, those 67 students might have been a little more willing to actually learn the history of the United States rather than regurgitate multiple choice answers from a previous test and be doomed to repeat it.


Shredder believes in Old Testament mercy, which is to say none. Send pleas for mercy to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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