Elizabeth Perry.

Several years ago, a group of students at Wesleyan University in a town called Middletown, Conn. admitted to using prescription study aids to help them complete their take-home exam, leading senior Bradley Spahn, a non-study aid user, to bring his classmates’ confessions to the attention of the university’s honor code review committee.

A frustrated Spahn held that the use of medicinal study aids by students who are not prescribed to them gives them an unfair advantage in the classroom and is therefore a form of cheating.

The committee concluded that even if a student is caught illicitly possessing prescription study aids, there is no way to prove that they were using them to enhance their performance on a particular assignment.

Regardless of the committee’s ruling, Spahn’s objection raises an interesting question to George Mason University students this time of year.
Do study aids give us an unfair advantage over those who choose to rely on simple self-discipline?

Some may say that Spahn is nothing more than a bitter meddler who attempted to have his classmates prosecuted out of resentment.

While he put a great amount of time into preparing for the exam, the other students were enjoying themselves because they could simply take a pill to help them study effectively in a short amount of time.

Cheating? Not according to David Callahan, author of “The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead.” Of prescription study aids, Callahan has said, “if you find a way to study more effectively, to master more information … what’s wrong with that?”
However, he also acknowledged that cases of students illegally obtaining the prescription are a separate issue.

Unfortunately for Spahn, no university has the time or resources to document which students are prescribed to amphetamines and drug test the ones who are not.

That being said, the debate is not over whether the nonprescription use of study aids is prosecutable, but rather over whether it is ethical.
Those of us who do utilize amphetamines, either by obtaining them from someone with a prescription or by increasing our own prescription dosage, often do not take into account students who do not have access to the drug or who refuse to give themselves an unfair advantage through illegal drug use.

Simultaneously, people like Spahn are unlikely concerned with the students who are unable to obtain a prescription for study aids and are struggling to keep one or more jobs while providing for family members or children and barely have enough time to sleep at night.

Should those people be prosecuted for taking a pill to ease their studying process a little, Bradley?

Despite the endless possibility of arguments and opinions emanated from this issue, the fundamental question is why do we care?

A student should not be concerned with how the girl who sits behind him in math went about studying for the final; he should be concerned with how he went about it. The studying habits and grades of others do not affect us.

Yes, people will cheat but unless it is our work that they are taking credit for, what sense is there in making it our business to ensure the integrity of their schoolwork?

Attempting to have them prosecuted for dishonest methods of studying may lower their grade, but it will certainly not raise ours.

If prescription study aids are part of your studying method then that’s your prerogative, but if they’re not and you become aware of a student who used them receiving a higher grade than you, maybe you should’ve taken better notes.