Update 3 – Admissions – Southern Cross University

My word is my bond - the construct of trust in university life

Have you ever heard the English saying “My word is my bond“? Put very simply, it means that you will always do what you promise to do and that people know that they can trust you because you always do what you say you will do. It comes from the Latin phrase “Dictum Meum Pactum“, which is written on the London Stock Exchange Coat of Arms and is intended as a symbol of trust and confidence. It’s an old saying, but applies just as much today as it did when it first came into being. It is something we should all strive to live by as it helps us build relationships based on trust and integrity. If someone knows that they can trust you, they have confidence in the fact that you are reliable and adhere to strong ethical values.

In the world of students, the construct of trust becomes particularly important in light of the growing trend of contract cheating around the world. At a time in our history when the acquisition of information is instantaneous and the tendency is to try to get what we can in the easiest and most expeditious way possible, the notion of contract cheating appears to have been normalised in the minds of many. “But everyone does it – why shouldn’t I?” is a common response. However, according to Australia’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), “contract cheating, if left unchecked, poses a significant threat to the integrity and reputation of Australia’s higher education sector, both domestically and internationally”.

In a post about Australia’s new laws on contract cheating last year, we dealt with the legal side of contract cheating and the possible penalties that both students and those helping them cheat may be subject to. We advised that penalties include up to two years jail and fines of up to $100,000 where a cheating service is used for commercial purposes. An academic cheating service is defined by legislation as “assistance to students that forms a substantial part of an assessment task that students are required to personally undertake”. Being caught for contract cheating can not only get you into legal trouble, but it may also result in expulsion from the university and the end of your university career. It’s just not worth it. But this article is not about the penalties, it’s about ethics and your place as a trustworthy citizen of an increasingly globalised and connected world.

The loss of trust caused by breaking your bond (the assumed promise you make as a student to do the right thing) has far-reaching consequences. Not only are those consequences potentially legal in nature, but perhaps more significantly, they can be very personal as well.

If we look at contract cheating as an example of breaking your bond, we can see that such behaviour carries significant personal risks also. Providing sensitive personal and financial information to ‘dodgy’ contract cheating companies, puts both your money and your identity at risk of being stolen. Some fake tutoring and ‘ghostwriting’ companies are set up as fronts to blackmail unsuspecting students by threatening to tell their university or future employers about what they have done. They hold their ‘clients’ to ransom unless they pay regular sums of money to the blackmailers.

However, apart from these personal risks, the contract cheating industry also poses a significant and substantial risk to public health and safety. When we go to visit a Doctor, for example, we expect that the Doctor is properly trained and knows what he/she is doing. We trust that professionals are properly qualified experts in their fields. Can you imagine how you’d feel if you were about to receive surgery from a surgeon who had someone else complete their assignments about human anatomy for them? Not only would you feel cheated, but your personal health and wellbeing would be at risk.

Perhaps most importantly in the context of this article and its emphasis on trust and being trustworthy, contract cheating risks undermining the value of your own university degree by casting doubt on the skills and knowledge of you as a graduate. If you were an employer, would you hire a graduate from a university where cheating was common? The risk to a company hiring someone who may have fraudulently acquired their qualifications is something employers are beginning to weigh up. By indulging in this form of untrustworthy behaviour, you bring yourself into disrepute and risk your future. It’s just not worth it.

But beyond all that, there is the issue of simply doing what is right. I may be old-fashioned, but there is something to be said for honesty and integrity – regardless of age, religion, nationality, socio-economic background etc., there is just something attractive about a person who is prepared to do the right thing, to stand up for justice and equality and, perhaps most importantly, do what they promise to do. When you decided to come to Australia to continue your studies, I am sure you made a promise to your family that you would do your best and be a source of pride to them. Even if that promise wasn’t made verbally, it was most certainly implied. We all want to make our families proud and to represent them in the best possible way. For me, there is no greater shame than betraying my parents and my upbringing by being an untrustworthy person.

Sometimes in life, we have to make difficult decisions. Those decisions will not always be popular, but as long as they are made with integrity and honesty, your truth will shine forth and you will be known as a person whose word is their bond.

Make integrity the foundation stone of your life. Let your word be your bond.