2012 Student Writing Competition Winner

by Pennsylvania CPA Journal
PICPA's Student Writing Competition challenges students to write about current business issues and hone their writing skills. The contest is open to accounting and business majors who attend Pennsylvania colleges and universities, as well as residents who attend out-of-state colleges. "Fraud and the Global Business Environment" was the 2012 topic. It prompted 182 entries. The Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board chose Michael Zaydon, a senior from the University of Scranton, as the first-place winner of $3,000. Timothy Reiste of Grove City College and Nick Boyes of Lafayette College completed the top three, netting $1 ,800 and $1.200 respectively. Thanks go to the Editorial Board for its dedication to the program, with special recognition going to judges Steven G. Blum, J. Stephen McNally, Margaret O'Reilly-Allen, and Mary Jeanne Welsh. From Cheating to Fraud: The Need for a Paradigm Shift in Higher Education as the Way to Curb Financial Statement Fraud

By Michael Zaydon, The University of Scranton

The following is an excerpt from the 2012 Student Writing Competition's first-place essay. All three complete essays are featured in the Future CPAs section of www.picpa.org.

According to Aristotle, character is the sum total of one's habits and choices. ... College is a crucial time to ingrain ethics, integrity, and accountability. Many business students, however, cheat to get through classes at any cost to stand out amongst peers who will soon be vying for the same jobs after graduation. Studies have shown that cheating in school directly correlates to a propensity to act unethically in the workplace. For this reason, focus should be given to mold ethical character at the university level (before) these students enter the workplace.

... In studies of cheating in college by Klein et al., McCabe et al., and Rokovski and Levy, the mean percentages of students who cheated in college were 70 percent. 86 percent, and 60 percent, respectively. ... Nearly every course syllabus has its own section that addresses cheating, plagiarism, and how the professor deals with such offenders, yet many students turn a blind eye to the dictums ... .

... A study by Ameen et al. researched various situations that may be considered cheating at college. With a specific rating system, the study asked participants to rate cases such as copying another's test, obtaining a copy of a prior exam, and turning in the work of another student as their own. Participants rated a list of scenarios from 0 (not cheating) to 5 (absolutely cheating). Those whom the researchers identified as "cheaters." according to their criteria, rated each case given as less severe than did their noncheating counterparts.

... The lower rating at which cheaters reported the severity of the scenarios indicates a different rationalization that takes place .... The "less/more bad" views of ways to cheat opens the door to subjective reasoning behind acts of cheating, and could give a glimpse of the apex of a slippery slope before a student's career even begins.

... Students are graduating from historically large college class sizes and into a job market with high unemployment numbers. Being average is not good enough. ... Students may feel that they must get the best-paying jobs to solidify their financial security ....

In the same way. some professionals inclined to commit fraud do so to maintain a lifestyle. ... All it takes is one missed earnings forecast to make a comfortable lifestyle disappear ....

The motivators of students and professionals are starkly similar. ... Once students step into the professional arena, if they are used to cheating ... then they are likely to continue to do so in the workplace. ...

Ethics is the basis for changing the corporate landscape, not just regulation, and it must start in college. ... College-age adults enter a world of influence at university. It is in this setting that students begin to see what they want to do in life and who they want to become. The academic process in college should instill the necessary ethical components in students. The goal should be to produce ethical students who. in turn, become ethical professionals.

Not only must there be an understanding of terms like "ethics" and "integrity." but individuals must also act in conjunction with these guidelines. ... The use of "ethics" has been rendered a mere rhetorical instrument, or catch word, by some parties, which undermines the very concept.

... If the first discussion of ethics is held between a group of professionals, it may too late to affect any change. That is why the college setting is the place where must be instilled, not simply taught. ...

... The culture of a school must be one that stresses the importance of ethics and penalizes those who go against it. ethics courses into all curricula so understand the terms used around them have some grounding in what it means to an ethical person. Every class should ... explicit guidelines ... and exercises that require students to employ ethical making habits. ...

Instilling ethics in college cannot come from classes alone. Colleges must the individual aspect of coursework with a societal one: service. The synergy these disciplines may be the key to a sense of accountability. ... A successful college education, therefore, should be sured by looking at the person as a whole - intelligence, ethics, and character.

The best solution is a systematic shift in the paradigm of higher education. The education process must be more than attaining grades; it must properly shape st dents' ethical characters. The place where students find their personal and profession direction is where the fundamentals must be instilled. Ethical students become ethici professionals. Through the shift in focus, recruiters will know that their recruits not only understand accountability, integrity, and ethics, but also act in accordance those same values. Only then will regulatoi shareholders, and auditors be confident in the material accuracy of the assertions tha public companies make on their financial statements.

Copyright Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Fall 2012

(c) 2012 Pennsylvania CPA Journal. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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