‘Academic Dishonesty’

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JULY 2007 - The article “Academic Dishonesty: A Crisis on Campus” (May 2007) focuses almost entirely on punishment for transgressions. I would suggest that fear of discipline should be the second line of defense; the first line of defense is to help students understand that cheating is a waste of their time and money.

Students spend thousands of hours and tens of thousands of dollars at college to prepare for a rewarding, productive life. Research papers and examinations are an important part of a college education. Research papers teach students to perform research, organize material, and present their views clearly in writing. Examinations provide an opportunity to review lessons and reading and gain a greater understanding of course objectives. Grades, hopefully with insightful comments, tell students whether they are learning the material presented. Good grades indicate the students are on track; poor grades indicate that students need to study more, seek remedial help, or change their field of study.

A college diploma acquired by cheating has little lasting value. A college diploma demonstrating academic accomplishment, especially in a preprofessional program like accounting, is a strong foundation to a successful career and a fulfilling life.

Charles Toder, CPA (Retired)

The authors respond:

We certainly agree that effort should be placed on preventing acts of academic dishonesty. We believe two areas need to be addressed in order to deter academic dishonesty: a change in culture, and development of appropriate policies and procedures for preventing academic dishonesty and handling such acts if they occur. According to various studies by Professor Donald McCabe, the founding president of the Center for Academic Integrity (CAI), as cited in our article, creating a culture that encourages academic honesty is very important to prevent acts of academic dishonesty from occurring. The writer’s suggestion to help students understand that cheating is a waste of their time and money should be part of the efforts in creating such a culture. One way this can be done is through orientation sessions for freshmen and transfer students. Implementing an honor code (as we described in the article as one of the first steps that should be taken) is an important step in fostering a culture that values an honest pursuit of education.

We strongly encourage colleges to take steps to create a strong culture of academic honesty, implement policies and procedures to handle academic dishonesty, and to make sure that such policies and procedures are followed. If acts of academic dishonesty are not handled properly, we believe that other efforts (such as your example) will be less effective.

Jacqueline Burke, Ralph S. Polimeni, and Nathan S. Slavin
Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

Non-CPA Ownership? Resist the Temptation.

I wanted to respond to Lou Grumet’s Publisher’s Column in May, “Should Non-CPAs Be Allowed to Co-Own CPA Firms?”

About me: I am a CPA, licensed to practice in New York since February 1974. I worked my first eight years at a Big Eight firm and have worked in industry since then. I have also taught as an adjunct professor, undergraduate courses at Fordham University and graduate courses at Long Island University.

Anything that further diminishes the perception or the reality in the public’s mind of the professionalism and independence of CPAs is a very bad thing. It is not a question of weighing the pros versus cons in this matter; I see it as all cons.

Nobody is suggesting that CPA firms can’t pay their employees whatever the market requires to retain the services of any number of qualified individuals in varied fields to ensure staff retention and high-quality audits, but CPA firms need to be 100% CPAs. I say, if a firm wants to accept an attest engagement, the firm must be 100% CPAs. H&R Block can hire (and give ownership to) whomever it wants.

I would think that the profession learned its lesson from the go-go pre-Enron days when we did “risk-based” auditing. The one thing that makes the CPA a learned profession, the one thing we can do that no one else is qualified to do—attest—we gave away in order to sell consulting engagements. Post-PCAOB, this has changed. I could show you my Big Eight firm’s audit approach manual from 1973, and the audit work we are doing now is totally comparable to what we routinely did on audit engagements then, if a little less so.

Like my mother used to ask me when I was a kid: “If Johnny runs off a cliff, does that mean you have to also?” Well, if 45 states run off a cliff, should New York, the preeminent state for CPAs, jump off the cliff? Resist the temptation. Running with the crowd might seem popular at the moment, but people will respect our position and I predict will eventually come back to our side.

My vote = 100% (or nothing). Either we’re CPAs or we’re not. Don’t confuse easy or popular with right. Let New York set the example. When I was in a Big Eight firm, the New York office would get a lot of work from other states. I even had a client in an out-of-town city where we had a practice office on the same block, but the client wanted New York CPAs, not local ones from the same firm.

Ralph J. Scala, CPA




















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