Are Chinese Students Being Targeted for Expulsion by Universities for Cheating? (Lawyer’s Perspective)
The number of Chinese students attending universities in the U.S. has tripled in the last ten years. Along with the increase in the number of students, there have been an increase in the number of academic integrity cases brought against these students. An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal addressed this issue, and hinted at the possibility that Chinese students were being profiled and targeted for suspicion at universities in the U.S.
The Wall Street Journal sent public record requests to 50 universities across the country inquiring about the rates of academic integrity violations among international students versus American students. Only 14 schools responded with the data, but among those schools that responded, international students were five times as likely to be accused of cheating. The WSJl interviewed several professors and students, who anecdotally offered that they felt that cheating among students from china was particularly prevalent. The sources attributed this to the fact that Chinese students often arrived in the US unprepared due to the language difficulties (and thus were under more pressure to cheat) and also to perceived cultural differences that viewed cheating as more socially acceptable.
What the Wall Street Journal didn’t discuss was other possible explanations for why the data might be skewed. As a lawyer representing students accused of academic integrity violations, one thing that I have noticed is that the way a case typically starts is a classmate will report the violation. And when a student does report cheating to his professor, it is usually because the student feels like the “cheater” is somehow their rival. (No one reports their friends for cheating.) Chinese students are often safe targets to report. They often will keep to themselves, and they will associate mostly with other Chinese students. Additionally the Wall Street Journal has written in the past about resentment among Americans that the Chinese are taking up spots at state universities that could be going to other Americans.
Some of the academics that spoke to the WSJ about cheating on campus made reference to the fact that some Chinese students would complete assignments that were very similar and had many of the same incorrect answers. However, as we have discussed before, there are other explanations for why students might answer the questions in the same way. Foreign students might all study together, and their interaction with other students may be limited, and they may be slower to ask for guidance from professors or teaching assistants.
Many academic leaders have made statements that make it sound like they are unduly suspicious of Chinese students. Joyce E. Smith, who is the leader of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, stated that with Chinese applicants “there’s a worry about whether the application is authentic, whether the essay is authentic, whether the person who shows up at your door is the same person who applied.” Much was made of the WSJ and other articles that online businesses exist that offer Chinese students ways to cheat in college in the United States. However, I don’t see how this is fundamentally different when I was in college in the early 90’s and there were advertisements in the back of Rolling Stone magazine offering term papers for sale. Most of students I work with at University of Washington or Washington State University that visit shady websites in China are native-born American students attempting to get fake ID’s so they can go to bars.