San Francisco: Once a cheater, always a cheater may be a true saying as researchers now discover that students’ tolerance for cheating may spill over into their careers.
The study by professors at two California State University campuses, including San Francisco State University, tackled two questions: If students tolerate cheating in the classroom, will they also tolerate unethical behavior in their careers? And what’s shaping these attitudes?
“If [students] have this attitude while they’re in school — that it’s OK to cheat in school — that attitude unfortunately will carry over to the corporate boardroom,” said San Francisco State Professor and Chair of Marketing Foo Nin Ho.
The fear is that these lax attitudes, if left unchecked, could manifest later as turning a blind eye to unethical business behaviour or participating in a cover-up, added the study’s lead author Glen Brodowsky from California State University San Marcos.
To conduct the study, the authors surveyed nearly 250 undergraduate marketing students.
They were asked to respond to statements about cheating and ethics such as “It’s cheating to ask another student what was on the test” and “Within a business firm, the ends justify the means.”
The survey found that students who were more tolerant of cheating in a classroom also demonstrated an openness to unethical behaviour on the job.
Some students face enormous pressure from their families to succeed in college, so those students may engage in cheating to avoid the shame of flunking out, the findings showed.
Understanding the cultural forces at work could help professors develop culturally sensitive ways to minimize these unethical behaviours in their classrooms.
“As professors, we need to set the tone and say, ‘This is what’s not rewarded in the classroom’ and train students that following ethical behaviour leads to better outcomes,” Brodowsky said. “So when they graduate and work for companies they will better equipped to evaluate that situation.”