Jennette Ballas and Aliza Elbert

Dilemma:  After taking a midterm, I noticed students walking over to their friends who had the class after them and sharing information about the test that was just taken. Now I understand that in life it’s helpful to use one’s resources to stay ahead, however, at what point is that crossing the line? – Johnny

It’s one thing if a friend of yours had your current professor the quarter before and was giving you a heads up on the professor’s teaching style. Being aware of this information early on could save a lot of time. However, it’s entirely another thing while taking a test to text message answers, Google words during an English exam and search stored information on a PDA. Or is it?

The definition of cheating is being redefined across the nation. Over the past few years, technology has opened the doors to countless tactics of accessing information while taking tests without the hassle of attempting to hide folded pieces of paper under a sleeve or in a cap.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, “Legalized ‘Cheating,’” we learned that teachers are gradually becoming more comfortable with allowing high-tech cheating. This is justified by claiming, “The real-world strengths of intelligent surfing and analysis, some educators argue, are now just as important as rote memorization.”

Specifically, in Kent, Wash., a 13-year old girl drew a blank while trying to define the word “desolated” on a vocabulary test. At this point, many would start to panic; instead, she casually searched the Internet for the definition. The best part was her teacher didn’t consider it cheating. She was simply ‘using her resources.’ Another case is in Cincinnati, Ohio where students are able to take their laptops into some tests and search online “Cliff Notes.” Newport Beach, Calif., allows seventh-graders to retrieve answers by looking at other student’s hand-held computers during science drills. Each of these instances is in no way considered to be cheating because schools have altered the rules to allow it.

Teachers, more prevalent in private or well-funded public schools, are learning to embrace technology instead of fighting it. They have come to realize that in the business world, having the skill of “accessing” information is more valuable than being able to “memorize” it.

Presently, Cal Poly has yet to adapt to these new rules. The University’s policy on cheating still remains as “-obtaining or attempting to obtain, or aiding another to obtain credit for work, or any improvement of evaluation of performance, by any dishonest or deceptive means.” As for now, text messaging, PDA usage and “Googling” during an exam is a deceptive mean toward improving a test, quiz, or in-class essay.

The Bottom Line: While you are still truckin’ away in your rigorous courses here at Cal Poly, think twice before busting out that flashy Razor phone, PDA or any other electronic device in attempt to cheat, because that is NOT going to go over well with any professor while the old rules apply!

Aliza Elbert and Jennette Ballas are both marketing concentrations with a knack for changing the world-one ethical dilemma at a time. This article is written on behalf of SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) with a goal of teaching others about business ethics.

Do you have an ethical dilemma that you are dying to have answered by our very own expertise? Excellent! Email us at

Editor’s note: Go back a page and vote on the bottom left on how useful you found this week’s The Bottom Line.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *