Do not punish hard work, punish slacking


With twenty minutes left to finish the exam and dread pooling in my chest, I set my pencil next to an unmarked question and spare a longing glance at the door. But before I can draw my gaze back to the questions, I catch a glimpse of something bright. A screen with a Wikipedia page pulled up. The person holding it is slouched slightly into their desk chair, cradling the phone next to their leg. Some of the other students send sly smiles to the person holding the phone, but the teacher does not notice. Guilt picks away at my conscious, but I ignore it as I pick up my pencil and finish my exam.

According to the planner, cheating is “using prohibited materials to ‘help’ during an exam, such as cheat sheets, graphing calculators, or cell phones.” Cheating is also “asking about or sharing questions and/or answers to quizzes and exams.” To me, these seemed obvious, but maybe that’s because teachers have been repeating the ‘no cell phone’ policy since I was a freshman and the ‘don’t share answers’ rule since I first learned how to write. 

However, according to the planner, cheating is also “doing more or less than your share of a group project without permission from your teacher” and a violation of the Academic Integrity Policy. For first-time violations of the Academic Integrity Policy, students may receive a “point deduction on a quiz, test, paper, project, or homework assignment, receiving a zero or being required to re-do the assignment for no credit,” “detention(s),” a “grade lowered one letter grade for the quarter or semester report card,” and/or “a teacher may decline to write a letter of recommendation or report it in a letter.”

The administration should adjust the guidelines for cheating and not punish the students who do more than their share of a group project. Students often do the extra work for a better grade that they feel they may not receive otherwise. However, should there be punishment for doing less work?

Cheating policies are upheld in high schools across the Bay Area. According to Arroyo High School, “copying another’s test/assignment, allowing others to copy your work,” and other actions are considered cheating. However, there is nothing stated about a student doing more or less than her or his share of a group project.

Workload varies among students and certainly, there are times when students can’t handle to contribute their full share of workload for a project. If the choice is between a twenty point presentation or studying for a one hundred point test, the decision to let other group members put in more effort seems easy. In many cases, neither the student who contributes more to a project nor a student who contributes less to a project should be punished. However, when it comes down to it, the student who contributes more should not be punished at all.

There should be no cheating policy against students who do more than their fair share of work for group projects. If students want to go the extra mile to polish up group projects, then let them. Ultimately, it is those who are slacking off when the other group members are overly stressed that we should be worried about. I propose we change the definition of cheating from “doing more or less than your share of a group project” to “doing less than your share of a group project.”