UCSB’s Cheating Epidemic

Illustration by Alyssa Long

Alexandra Wishowski

Isla Vista Beat Reporter

Since the transition from in-person classes to online classes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more students have turned to online cheating to help them understand difficult course material. Recently, the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) Office of Student Conduct (OSC) reported a concerning upward trend in violations of academic integrity, which was revealed in a campus-wide email.

“When stressed, in crisis, or feeling desperate, our ability to make informed decisions is also compromised,” read the email from the OSC. “However, it is important that we maintain the value of the degree that you are working so hard to attain and that requires that everyone be held to our standards of academic conduct.”

UCSB students implicated in academic misconduct will be contacted via email, which will notify them if they are obligated to schedule a meeting with the OSC. If the email does not specify a meeting, the report is considered a warning and no further action will be required on the student’s behalf.

The email will also inform students if they have been formally charged with a Student Conduct Code violation and must accept the penalties or request a hearing. Those who are not formally charged may still be held liable for completing certain requirements.

Many UCSB students have turned to outside resources due to the stress of learning at home during the pandemic, and the inability to access campus resources or interact with professors in-person. 

“It’s easy to panic when we don’t have the same learning environment as before,” said an anonymous fourth-year biology major in an interview with The Bottom Line. “I used to rely on having the library as a quiet place to focus, and not all professors understand that living at home can be super distracting to our studying.” 

“The fact that so many UCSB students have turned to cheating all of a sudden during a really difficult time should actually make people question the way our classes have been formatted,” the student continued. 

“Many UCSB students have turned to outside resources due to the stress of learning at home during the pandemic, and the inability to access campus resources or interact with professors in-person.”

A majority of these referrals for academic dishonesty regard students who collaborate in groups without permission, as well as the use of tutoring sites such as Chegg. As stated in the campus-wide email, accessing course materials outside of the classroom also infringes on the university’s copyright policy.

According to its honor code, Chegg may share user information and activity with educational institutions if they suspect cheating or fraud. The site also has an honor shield that instructors may use to upload their exams and prevent students from accessing content during the time window of the exam. 

“Even with hours of studying and taking notes, the exams are timed and that puts a lot of pressure to just look up some of the blank questions on Chegg just to avoid failing the class,” added the anonymous fourth-year student.

Another popular way of cheating is through the messaging app GroupMe, which has been used for a variety of UCSB courses

An anonymous third-year sociology major explained that many students use the app to collaborate with other classmates: “One of my classes had really hard quizzes, and we would just ask for the answer to a question in the group chat when we reach the last attempt and get desperate.”

“It was also easier to make friends and create study groups before the pandemic, and it’s even harder for transfer students and freshmen now,” the student added.

Another concern for many students is major departments refusing to provide a pass/no pass grading option, which is also a source of academic stress. According to the third-year student, the sociology department chose to “stand by professors” and continues to require its students to take courses for a letter grade. 

Although accessing outside resources is tempting during such a challenging time for learning, the Office of Student Conduct encourages students who are struggling academically to reach out to the variety of campus resources available at UCSB.