Plan 5 – Opening the debate on ethics

Published on 03/05/2007


With the transformations of the twenty-first century, debates about ethics seem unlikely, as they are too far removed from the realities of daily life. Stories of economic successes do not provide hope for a global standard of ethics. The prevailing individualistic conception is that only the clever get ahead, and being clever means that you know how to play the system.

Students, like society in general, confuse “cheating” with “fraud” and, in their studies, “copying” with “plagiarizing.” But people aren’t born frauds, they become them. It can be fun to “cheat,” but cheating over time is what turns someone into a fraud.

It is therefore important to give ethics a practical and individualized meaning. It should be remembered that cheating means getting around the rules of society’s game. Fraud means exploiting the system. Plagiarism means committing a fraud.


• Explain:  Make it clear that plagiarizing means completely or partially reproducing another’s text without providing the correct reference. It is an implicit wish to hide one’s source.

• Inform: All the schools and departments of an institution should clearly inform their students of what constitutes plagiarism and of the risks that they run if they commit fraud.

• For example: Ask each teacher to spend 20 minutes of a class explaining to the students how they can respect the rules of scientific and academic integrity.

• Validate: A letter should be drafted for each to student to sign, stating that he or she is responsible for his or her writings and their authenticity.