Accounting professor Joe Hoyle called on students to challenge a culture of cheating in a keynote speech hosted by the honor council and two business fraternities, Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi, on campus last week. 

“If you don’t like the programming you have been given -- that fearing failure is the end of the world -- what are you going to do about it?” Hoyle said.

Hoyle spoke before a large audience of students in the Alice Haynes Room, as it was a Standards of Excellence (SOE) event for four fraternities. The honor council co-chair of education Liz Nigro, WC '17, said this was in stark contrast to last year’s keynote speech, which was mostly attended by members of the honor council.

At the start of his speech, Hoyle asked students to consider a few questions, such as why University of Richmond students cheat. 

Hoyle then recounted stories about the eight students who he has caught cheating over his teaching career, going as far back as 1974.

One of these stories was about a UR student he taught in 2002, who he said cheated on her final exam and was forced to leave the university the following semester.

“I just thought that was such a shame,” Hoyle said. “I wanted to talk with her to find out what happened. Not that I disagree with the honor council's decision, but she cheated for no apparent reason.”

One common theme in each of these stories was a fear of messing up, Hoyle said. This sentiment tied into Hoyle’s encounter with a freshman this past week, who Hoyle said had asked the professor whether he should take an interesting but more challenging class rather than a less interesting class that promised an easy A.

When Hoyle told the student it was ridiculous to take a class that the student wasn't interested in, Hoyle said that the student had responded, “we’re all just programmed that way.”

The speech also addressed the disparity between how faculty and students perceive cheating on campus. Hoyle said he had conducted an informal survey of business school professors that had revealed that the professors had believed that 27 percent of UR students would cheat if they weren’t caught.

Students in his classes, however, said that 62 percent of UR students would cheat if they wouldn’t get in trouble for it, Hoyle said.

“When I gave that survey to my students, it’s amazing how many just wrote down that everybody cheats,” Hoyle said.

John Murphy, RC ‘17, who attended the event because of his fraternity, was shocked at these results.

"It was interesting to see how professors and students had different perceptions of cheating," Murphy said.

The honor council chose Hoyle as the keynote speaker for several reasons. Matt Isenburg, RC ‘18 and honor council education co-chair, said he picked Hoyle because he considered him to be one of the best professors in the nation. Isenburg’s father, a UR alumnus who had Hoyle as a professor over 30 years ago, still expressed deep admiration for the professor, Isenburg said.

“Professor Hoyle is a name on this campus for people,” Isenburg said. “The reason why AKPsi and DSP wanted to co-sponsor this event with us is because of him, because students love him.”

They also picked Hoyle because it was a great opportunity to prevent honor code violations in the future.

“As education chairs, Matt and I really wanted this year to target the business school because that’s where we, as a council, have noticed the greatest percentage of cheating,” Nigro said. 

She continued to explain that this was a proactive step to prevent cheating in the future, as business school cases can often be the most difficult to prove intent.

The keynote speech was the last event of Honor Week, a spring tradition for the honor council meant to remind students to be aware of the honor code, especially as they enter final exam season, Isenburg said. 

Other activities the honor council hosted during the week included tabling with donuts and holding an open panel with four professors on Wednesday evening, he said.

Contact news writer Kay Dervishi at kay.dervishi@richmond.edu.