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  • Writer's pictureKane Murdoch

Alfred Hitchcock and Lance Armstrong form Voltron

Evening all,

I'll pick up on the central unit/faculty academic Maginot Line tomorrow, but today will be a bit shorter. For reasons. Or maybe not, I'm now battling Sydney trains in the eternal battle to get home.

So today I spent at UNSW, my former workplace, doing a few things. Firstly, in between my own work I spent time discussing a hopefully forthcoming paper with Cath Ellis of UNSW in which we break down the myth that students are all the same and the same institutional responses to cheating will work in the same way with every student. It's kind of a self-evidently stupid way of thinking, but that's very much the way universities act. We propose that there are different segments of students who will make different decisions depending on their own circumstances. Who would have thought that we need nuanced responses that go beyond hug a bunny and wishful thinking?

Second, I enjoyed a catch up with some of the team I used to work with. I miss them. But sometimes a situation becomes so intolerable that you will trade off the good things that you have for what you could be rid of. In any case I really enjoyed chatting with some folks, talking about puppies and life and work and challenges.

The other thing I did today was have lunch with some colleagues from different unis, and a visiting speaker from the UK. Dan Rigby works for the University of Manchester, he's an economist. But in among the work I'm assuming he's done on the relative utility of widgets and making Argentina pay for their profligacy (they won the world cup so there's that), he's also done some very interesting work on the conditions in which students buy essays, and the psychological traits of students who buy none, some, or all of their essays at uni.

Yes. Those people (could we truthfully term them students?) are out there. According to Dan's experiment with Guy Curtis of UWA and Kell Tremayne of Western Sydney University, a surprising % of enrolled people will contract cheat all the time. Yeah. Every assignment they can, they will. A further 25 or so % are prepared to cheat at least 1 out of every ten, with different conditions. None of this is particularly shocking to me, but it may be to many. (Edit- I fruitlessly searched for this paper, then messaged Guy on Twitter, who informed me that it's not published yet).

I get it. I understand that those natural teachers, those believers in the goodness of all students, will be shocked. Believe me, I'm an idealist. I believe in the mission of the university, I believe that we grow as humans, become better as we learn. Unfortunately, some people in universities have no interest in learning. That goes for students and staff (*cough 😷*). My professional background has shown me that carrots held out ahead of the wrong people will result in them cheating, lying, stomping over others, and generally violating the compact that most of us who walk through uni gates accept as we walk in. We're here for the greater good, many of us. Some of us aren't. And the "Benign big gun" that Cath and I will talk about (and appropriately reference) in our paper needs to be used sparingly, but with full force when extreme violations occur. Basically. Some people shouldn't be in higher education because education isn't what they're here for. I'm sure they will be successful in other endeavours. In the words of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly, "Such is life."

Night all, hug your cats, humans, puppies tight.


Image acknowledgement, many thanks to Engin Akyurt from Pexels:

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Apr 04, 2023

I'm so gutted I missed the Dan Rigby lunch - I hope it was amazing! Loving the blog ❤️

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