Q A fellow student in my university class admits to cheating regularly. Am I obliged to let the prof know?
A Allow me to first raise some questions. Is that student a friend who will listen to your advice or counsel? Was the admission of guilt made to you in private, or was it a public brag? Was injustice caused to fellow students—that is, did others’ grade suffer due to that student’s inflated grade? Does the student recognize that resorting to cheating is shortchanging her own personal development and growth? Why did the student resort to cheating? Is she remorseful or unrepentant about cheating?
What would be the consequences if the student confesses to the prof? Will she amend and refrain from further cheating? What are your own motivations for revealing this to the prof: to help or harm the student? I almost dare not ask the next question: Is that student also a fellow Christian? If so, then can she see repentance and restitution, if necessary, as faithful responses to following Jesus in this instance?
In addition to these questions, you must also weigh the following biblical themes. The Old Testament consistently condemned those who used dishonesty to cheat the poor, the widows, and the orphans (Amos 8:4-10; Lev. 6:1-7; Prov. 11:1; Jer. 5:26-28). Yet God not only forgave but also transformed Jacob, who deceived his brother Esau, his father Isaac, and his father-in-law Laban (Gen. 27, 30, 31). There might be room for grace, second chances, and transformation. Jesus also counseled, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 7:12, NRSV)
I do not envy the choice you must make. I hope these themes and questions may help you arrive at a just action.
—Shiao Chong is a chaplain at York University in Toronto, Ontario.
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