Holly Bracken was frustrated with an assignment. Jokingly, she posted on her facebook, “Who wants to do a 5 page paper on spanking. Don’t have to be good. PM me the amount.” Despite her intentions, some of her professors didn’t get her joke.
Bracken, a junior non-traditional student studying criminal justice, said she’s never cheated in her life.
“A lot of people commented back wanting to know if I would do it for this amount or that amount,” Bracken said. “It got out of hand.”
After a while, Bracken deleted the post. The morning after she said she was still receiving messages about how much money she was willing to pay.
“So I posted again that said, ‘I found people to write the paper but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself. So guess who’s writing the paper,” she said.
Bracken’s professors didn’t take it as a joke. The post caused her to lose backing for an internship at Riverbend Juvenile Correctional Facility. Formal charges have been dropped against Bracken, but she said the damage is still done.
“It is something that needed to be questioned,” Bracken said. “It frustrated me that they didn’t believe me, but it hurt my feelings more than anything.”
Even though it’s against the rules, that’s not why Bracken has never cheated.
“It is against the rules, but I’m smart enough that I don’t have to cheat,” Bracken said. “Things frustrate me but I strive hard for the grades that I get. I always want to see what I can do, not what someone else can do.”
One of Bracken’s professors, Department Chair for Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and & Social Work David Tushaus, couldn’t directly comment on Bracken’s situation. He believes that social networking hasn’t made it easier for students to cheat.
“I think social networking is a way for people to interact,” Tushaus said. “I certainly think that people should be able to exercise their first amendment rights within the constraints of our first amendment liberty. But, in doing so, what students have to realize is that anything they post on a social network site is really in the public domain.”
Even though students have the right to express themselves on social networking sites, Tushaus said that there are limitations in communications.
“There’s no body language that comes through, there’s no inflection of voice,” Tushaus said. “There are things like Emoticons to help students try to make sure that the message they are posting on a social networking site is the message they are trying to get across.”
“I think cheating is something that we have to deal with on an institution-wide basis,” Tushaus said. “I think it has nothing to do with social networking or anything else. Students have been encouraged to do their own work for many years.”
Tushhaus said that there have been previous incidents of other students who have cheated in the department.
Brian Cronk, associate provost and dean of graduate studies, said that most incidents of cheating at Western are instances of plagiarism.
“There’s a whole process—a formal process. Now, who knows how many students are informally caught and they just work it out with the instructor,” Cronk said.
If an instructor decides to move forward with the formal process, students accused of cheating have an opportunity to appeal. The student would have a chance to make their case in front of a committee of faculty members.
Cronk was unaware of Bracken’s situation or any of the details, but he still offered advice for the use of social networking for students.
“Anything you post on Facebook is there pretty much forever and anyone can read it,” Cronk said. “In general, students need to be aware and be careful of what they post of Facebook.”