Cheating or not?

As the school year ends and many of you have student papers due, here’s an ethical challenge related to such assignments, put to the New York Times Ethicist last Sunday:

When I was in college, I’d sometimes write a single paper that would satisfy assignments in more than one course. For instance, I once wrote a paper on how “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” expressed satire; I submitted it for assignments in both my poetry course as well as my completely separate satire course. I did not disclose this to either professor. When I share this with people, half call the practice cheating, and the other half call it genius. My niece told me it would certainly be grounds for expulsion at her college. In my mind, I was adding a level of intellectual complexity to my studies. Was this an ethical practice, or was I cheating?

Readers, what do you think?

Here is the link to the article and, therefore, the Ethicist’s reply. I think you’ll find his answer thought-provoking.

The overwhelming majority of posters disagreed vehemently with his response, and you’ll enjoy reading those, too! (You’ll also want to ponder whether your current policies to students are up to snuff).


POSTSCRIPT: the avalanche of mail led the NY Times Public Editor to ask the Ethicist for a defense of his thinking and a response concerning his fitness for the job!