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  • An Examination of Academic Dishonesty Among Sorority and Nonsorority Women
  • Anna E. Williams (bio) and Steven M. Janosik (bio)

Academic dishonesty on the college campus is a problem that has been called "a plague on our profession" (Petress, 2003, p. 625). In the early 1990s, McCabe (1992) surveyed students at 31 selective college and universities and reported that 67% of his respondents participated in one or more forms of academic dishonesty. Jendrek (1992) reported even higher rates of classroom cheating. In his study, 74% of students said they had observed cheating.

Some researchers report that students are willing to report incidents of their classmates' cheating (Ercegovac&Richardson, 2004) but other authors report the opposite. Aaron and Georgia (1994), for example, found that students were most likely to ignore cheating and avoid any confrontation. They also reported that students might be influenced to cheat if they see their classmates getting away with it. Jendrek (1992) confirmed this view and reported that only 1% of students who observed such academic infractions followed through by reporting the cheating to their professors.

Evidence is mounting that students come to college prepared to cheat (Anderman, Griesinger,&Westerfield, 1998; McCabe, 1999). Researchers at the Josephson Institute of Ethics (2004) reported that 83% of high school students copy someone else's homework. McCabe (1999) reported that cheating is a commonplace activity for high school students. Further, students in his study commented that "if . . . cheating is going to get you the grade, then that's the way to do it" (McCabe, 1999, p. 682). Students in high school participate in cheating because of the desire to succeed, the climate created by the school, and pressure from parents (Ercegovac&Richardson, 2004). High school graduates are likely to bring these attitudes and behaviors with them as they enter college.

College students also have incentives to cheat. Most students perceive that getting a college degree is an important element of most careers and that most career fields are becoming increasingly competitive (Anderman et al. 1998). Students also understand the need to have marketable skills and experiences outside of the classroom (McCabe&Trevino, 1997). Many students participate in cocurricular activities to gain these experiences and to form relationships with fellow students.

Greek-letter social organizations provide one avenue to such opportunities for many college students (McCabe&Bowers, 1996). Fraternities and sororities provide students with leadership opportunities, a social unit, [End Page 706] and postcollegiate networks. Participation in these organizations can create strong bonds of friendship and association that can have both positive and negative results (McCabe&Bowers). Students in these organizations place an emphasis on academic achievement and honor but studies have shown these same students participate in academic dishonesty in large numbers (Stannard&Bowers, 1970; Storch&Storch, 2002).

Pressure to succeed in college can come from many sources such as, parents, mentors, and peers (Ercegovac&Richardson, 2004). For example McCabe&Bowers (1996) found that sorority women receive pressure from their sorority sisters to perform well academically and to keep their chapter GPA at an acceptable average. Haines, Diekhoff, LaBeff, and Clark (1986) found a high number of those involved in academic dishonesty were also heavily involved in cocurricular activities. This participation in out-of-class activities may prevent students from giving their academics the time and dedication needed to ensure success (Haines et al., 1986). For many women involved in cocurricular activities, academics can become a low priority (Haines et al.).

Researchers have taken various approaches to studying academic dishonesty among students. McCabe and Bowers (1997) completed a longitudinal study by comparing the cheating behaviors of two separate cohorts of students in 1964 and 1991. Sutton and Huba (1995) studied the relationship between religiosity and academic dishonesty. Graham, Monday, O'Brien, and Steffen (1994) studied students' cheating behaviors at Catholic universities. Burns, Davis, Hoshino, and Miller (1998) studied student cheating rates in various countries, including the United States; and Hendershott, Drinan, and Cross (1999) studied cheating behaviors among male and female college students.

One approach that has not been studied thoroughly is to specifically examine sorority women. If academic dishonesty is increasing among women who are actively involved in their undergraduate experience (Hendershott et al., 1999), then this study is important...


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