The Cost of Success

Two weeks ago, The Phillipian reported that, according to the results of the State of the Academy survey, cases of academic dishonesty had increased from the 2006-2007 school year, with those reporting cheating on major assignments doubling and those on minor assignments increasing by 11 percent. This high percentage of students engaging in academic dishonesty may not be an indication of a cheating epidemic for cheating’s sake, but rather the result of increased academic stress on campus, especially from the prospect of college admissions. The case may also be that students are not being more dishonest, but that they now understand the gray areas of academic dishonesty, which means that they are more likely to recognize instances of minor cheating and then admit to breaking the rules more often. However, why is it that students are being dishonest in the first place? Though the doubled percentage may be due to students admitting to academic dishonesty because they can identify the cases with more ease, it is essential to remember that there was obviously academic dishonesty before this percent increase. Thus, the problem is rooted somewhere. And I think it is buried deep in Phillips Academy’s stressful environment. Carlos Hoyt, Associate Dean of Students, said that “we need to move it away from ‘I go to PA to go to Harvard’ and towards ‘I go to PA to grow up well and for its good opportunities, to meet friends, to meet adult educators and to develop a good sense of my moral compass.’” Many people come to this school with the idea that they will get into an Ivy League college simply because of Andover’s prestigious reputation. Therefore, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on students to succeed in the academic arena. There seems to be a myth that when students cannot take the pressure, we lean toward dishonesty as a safety net. It is sad how many people believe that the school’s hectic atmosphere can push students to their moral limits. Instead of allowing the school to mold a student into an intellectual, moral being, the constant reminder of college seems to be an overbearing cloud of stress that takes away from the school’s main goal of integrity. Stress is really the culprit. Stress may lead students to make bad decisions, including (but not limited to) all types of academic dishonesty. For instance, suppose a PA student stays up all night writing a history paper. He or she forgets about his or her English reading until the next morning. In between showering and scarfing down a granola bar, the student has no time to read. Instead, he or she skims the summary of the book off of the website SparkNotes, knowing that he or she will probably not be caught. There is no denying that incidents like this happen, so what do we do to avoid such situations? Students who are having trouble with issues like time management are usually recommended to the Academic Support Center. Still, a student may manage his or her time well and still feel pressure to commit academic dishonesty. Though a student may complete all of his or her homework assignments, he or she may feel that the completed work is still insufficient and can only be enhanced by an outside source. Another incentive to cheat seems to be the looming prospect of college. The Andover campus is swarming with different anxieties about college applications and acceptances, but as a Lower, I have not yet felt the full effect of college worries here. Granted, I have been told what classes to take to make my record look impressive. I have even been forced to drop difficult classes I liked in order to have a better GPA. All in all, the school tries to guide every student towards the right college for him or her without killing people in the process. Nonetheless, students themselves beat the school to it by stressing themselves out. In this competitive cycle that we Andover students experience year after year, we may disregard our morals in the pursuit of a higher GPA and a letter of admissions from a “good” college. It’s time to reevaluate our priorities. Nicole Okai is a two-year Lower.