Do you do everything by the book? Have you ever watched a movie online for free, gone more than a few kilometres over the speed limit when you were in a rush or heck, even jaywalked? Do any of those things constitute breaking the rules? These kind of ethical questions show up in many forms. But for most students, the ethical question that comes up most often is: are you a cheater?

For the majority of students surveyed, the answer is no. And it’s no small wonder.

Cheaters are generally seen as the dirty underside of academic society, either too lazy or too unintelligent to get a passing grade ethically. But when you look a little further, you might find that the issue isn’t as black and white as some people think.

Have you ever looked over at your friend’s paper? What if you only did it that one time, on that really difficult final? What if you cheated in high school, but don’t anymore? What about writing online quizzes with friends? Does any or all of that make a student a cheater?

Official Laurier policy on the issue is vague. Penalties for cheating first involve the instructor deciding if an act is classified as cheating. From there, they are reported to the administration. Depending on “the degree of infraction of academic honesty,” a student’s punishment might range from having to repeat the assignment to a term’s suspension or worse.

Student opinions on cheating are deeply divided. Third-year Criminology major Brent Duguid advises against it.

“I think you’d have to be pretty brave to try it,” says Duguid. “Personally, I’ve never been tempted. The repercussions aren’t worth the risk.”

At the same time, Duguid admits that the issue itself is hard to define.

“It’s a really tricky issue. I have one professor who gives us online quizzes. He encourages us to write them with other people, since he says we’d do it anyways and it’s a form of studying. But not all my professors have let me do that.”

Some students feel otherwise. Cody Lee, second-year Journalism student, cheated on occasion before coming to university.

“I cheated a bit in high school with a group of friends,” admits Lee. “Morally speaking, cheating is wrong, but a lot of people did it. I don’t cheat anymore, and I don’t see it so much in university. I think that’s because the rules are so much stricter – it isn’t just a slap on the wrist anymore.”

The ambiguity behind cheating extends beyond the academic world. Both Duguid and Lee admitted to downloading music for free and watching movies on YouTube. Lee explains his personal ethical code regarding the latter.

“If I hear it’s a bad movie, I’ll watch it online for free. If I hear it’s a good movie, I don’t mind paying ten dollars to see it.”

Each student has their own ethical beliefs regarding cheating, breaking rules and what exactly they consider wrong. For many, the issue is a grey area. But for some the issue is a little more black and white. Aaron Goodman, Journalism professor, explains his views about students who cheat.

“Students cheating are really just cheating themselves,” says Goodman. “In every class, you have the opportunity to dialogue with the professors and get support.

You can even have extra time if you need it. So there’s no excuse for cheating.”

“Besides,” he notes, “it’s really obvious when students do it.”