By Lizzie Kipp / Staff writer

As final exams approach, one can feel the stress radiating off Hutchinson Community College students. With this stress comes countless hours of studying, crying, or maybe a mixture of both.

That being said, everyone has at least thought about taking the easy way out – cheating. This is especially true for sophomores who will be graduating here in a couple of weeks. It’s the last set of finals before graduation, why not just coast through the last bit of the semester?

As nice as that may sound, it’s important to remember that cheating on exams is wrong – it’s called academic misconduct – whether it’s on finals or regular assignments. Students are reminded at the beginning of each semester that academic dishonesty can have serious consequences, including expulsion in severe cases.

At times people think they’re slick when it comes to cheating, but it isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Getting away with it proves to be more challenging than ever, as many HutchCC instructors have seen their fair share of cheating and know how to spot it.

Matt Wilper, a professor of economics, is one of these instructors. He provided an amusing cheating story involving a research paper.

Said story involved two unnamed students – one student stole the other’s paper and changed the words using a thesaurus. Seems easy enough, right?

Wrong. It didn’t take Wilper long to notice something was off about the students’ work.

 “I graded the original paper first, its opening sentence started with information about a fiscal policy backfiring,” Wilper said. “Then I read the stolen and thesaurus-changed paper and the same sentence said ‘reverse discharge.’”

Wilper spoke with the students and dealt with them accordingly, but laughs about the incident now.

“It reminded me of the Friends episode where Joey writes a recommendation letter for Monica and Chandler,” Wilper said.

Tricia Paramore, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, fittingly had a variety of cheating stories to share as well.

Most of these stories involved ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence chatbot developed in recent months.

Students who are repeating a course and have been caught using this AI by providing exact answers from the previous semester. That may seem like a pretty solid idea – if the instructions and expectations for assignments hadn’t been changed.

“Those are pretty easy to spot,” Paramore said.

Paramore has also caught deceptive students during exams on Zoom calls, where they can clearly be seen cheating on camera. They deny it, as one does, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what they are doing.

“At some point, just admit that you cheated and accept the consequences,” Paramore said.

Paramore also acknowledged students who are thinking about cheating on final exams this coming week, advising they don’t do it at all and instead suggesting working a little harder.

“First, consider why you’re struggling. If you’re not studying and doing the work for class, then doing the work is your first step,” Paramore said.

Kelly Clasen, an English professor, didn’t have any outrageous stories to share, but cheating anecdotes from other instructors have prompted her to “cheat-proof” her final exams.

“Academic dishonesty has become so commonplace due to AI – and technology more generally,” Clasen said. “Students don’t perceive cheating as being as ethically flawed as they did even a decade ago.”

Clasen said because of this fact, all of her final exams are on paper. Students have to hand write final exam responses without the use of technology.

“Though I am generous enough to provide a print dictionary,” Clasen added.

Clasen even cracks down on multiple choice questions by making multiple versions of her exams to give to students.

“Last semester, I had a student get visibly frustrated when he realized his table partner had a different exam version,” Clasen said. “But it saved me from having to deal with academic dishonesty in the classroom.”

So when taking final exams this coming week, it’s essential that students think about the possible consequences of academic dishonesty, especially during finals. Cheating just isn’t worth the trouble, and is sometimes more work than actually studying.

Students should take advice from their instructors and just put in the work – or else they may end up name-dropped in a cheating horror story as well.

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