Letter to the editor

The unrecognized diversity of international students

In “Foreign students have higher rates of cheating than American peers” (Mar. 26, p. 5), The Hatchet identified statistics on cheating, saying that, “International students are more likely to cheat than their American counterparts,” and that, “instances of cheating from this population have increased over the past five years.”

Indeed, 23 percent of incidences of academic dishonesty at GW came from non-citizen students in 2010, who make up just 12.1 percent of the student body overall.

The Hatchet rarely seems to report on the diverse international student body, yet it has an entire “Passports” blog devoted to students who study abroad.

So it startled me that last week’s article chose to attack the entire foreign student community as a whole, quoting Director of the Office of Academic Integrity Tim Terpstra as saying that the cheating tendency of this population is a “growing” problem. Presumably, cheating is a cultural phenomenon from which U.S. students are exempt, but one that is a problem for everyone beyond America’s borders.

I don’t need to mention that the student body consists of more than 2,000 international students. But I am disgusted at the categorization of all international students into one cheating entity.

Marginalized communities face an uphill battle against negative media portrayals, in which they are often underrepresented and subsequently mischaracterized by false stereotypes when they are.

When an entire community is rarely the topic of discussion, just one negative or unbalanced article can be enough to shape an identity.

Dare I mention hate crimes in my home country, the United Kingdom, and here in the U.S., are often a reaction to irresponsible reporting that extrapolates a stereotype from anecdotal or limited evidence? As an international student, what have I done to be tagged with the cheating label? Should professors scour my work more closely for academic dishonesty?

I have no doubt that the evidence prompts serious concerns. What makes students cheat? Are international students more likely to be accused, or caught? Are we talking serious plagiarism or merely mistyped citations? That is what good, ethical journalism – and proper evaluation – can help answer.

Rather than profiling, an investigation might yield more solutions to academic dishonesty.

The international community at GW represents an incredible group of students from across the planet. We are men and women of every color, religion, sexuality and age, and we are arguably more diverse than the homegrown cadre of American students attending. Please, Hatchet, afford us some journalistic rigor.

Simon McNorton is the president of the Trachtenberg Public Policy Student Association.

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