Dear Dale,

I don’t have time to do my readings for class, so I often rely on online sum­maries. Is this cheating?

-Worried Will

It happens to the best of us — five papers due, three exams coming up, extracur­ricular and social expec­ta­tions rising. It all seems like too much to ever accom­plish, and then you sud­denly remember an easy way to save time: skip reading assign­ments and pull up Spar­kNotes.

While cer­tainly a useful tool for review and under­standing the material, using only sum­maries vio­lates a few ethical prin­ciples. As stu­dents at Hillsdale, we chose to sign the Honor Code, com­mitting yourself to be “hon­orable in conduct” and “dutiful in study.” Relying only on others’ sum­maries is not quite living up to that promise.

Con­sider working on your time man­agement skills. Is your schedule as effi­cient as it could be? Keep a time diary and thor­oughly evaluate what you are doing with each hour of your day. Reworking your schedule may free up time that you didn’t even know you had, allowing you to com­plete more of your readings.

Ulti­mately, it’s up to you to make these judgment calls, but keep in mind what is truly in your best interests. You’re putting a lot of time, effort, and money into getting your degree, and at least a part of that is because you want an edu­cation. Are you truly learning and appre­ci­ating cul­tural mas­ter­pieces just by reading someone else’s bullet-point analysis? The word “school” comes from the Greek word for “leisure” because only those with free time were for­tunate enough to receive an edu­cation. Don’t let the stress of school make you forget how lucky you are to be here. If you don’t get the most out of it you pos­sibly can, the person you’re really cheating is yourself.



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