Stress, Academic Honesty and the Pandemic

A student's hand hovers over a tablet device.
(Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

With massive stress, limitations and social and political developments to cope with, it can be hard to stay on top of academics. One indicator of this is the fact that twice the normal number of students have been referred to the Office of Student Support and Judicial Affairs (OSSJA) for academic dishonesty, i.e., cheating, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stressors and Pitfalls

"Students are usually unaware of how instructors can determine when a student engages in misconduct [online]," says Marilyn Derby, associate director of OSSJA, "and they are often devastated when they give in to the temptation and have to face the consequences. Quite often, students are hoping to get a few extra points and end up failing the course."

We know that when we are stressed, in crisis, or feeling desperate, our ability to make good decisions is compromised. When we don’t feel connected to the learning community to the same degree that we did in person, it can be easier to detach from a sense of academic integrity and responsibility. It may be tempting to want to test the boundaries of the apparent blind spots we perceive in the online learning environment.


We're three-quarters of a year into the COVID-19 pandemic; you should be proud of your resilience and flexibility, as well as your integrity. It’s a challenging time to be anything at all, but especially a college student. Make sure to brush up on what constitutes academic misconduct so that you have a clear picture of what to avoid and how

If you find yourself struggling, you are not alone. "Please reach out for help sooner rather than later," says Associate Director Derby. Assisting students in need is a key part of the OSSJA’s mission, and UC Davis has many resources to support you—counselors, learning strategists, tutors and more. Reach out to any of these and get connected to the right support services for you.

Some of these services are listed below:

Mental Health and Community