Destructive “free rider” culture in campus

By Ahmad Charis

Would you position yourself as a taxi driver who have so many passengers but having no income? In other words, these passengers want to hitch a free ride from you. This situation is indeed aggravating and of course this is totally different with chauffeuring people voluntarily for charity purpose. That is a denotation of a free rider in terms of an occupation, but in academic field it has a divergent story.

In academic field, they are the ones who do not cooperate well in team work by depending on others to accomplish the assignments. This habit is devastating for their own academic performance and teammates because these free riders will most probably get equal marks without taking any pain. Moreover, the agony is for their teammates when these free riders earn better marks in the end results for the same subject.

Most students are likely not familiar with the term of ‘free rider’ because this labelling is not widely used in all academic institutions, but only a bunch of students in certain universities use it. In fact, this kind of destructive habit mushrooms in every corner of academic field. Some people state that ‘free rider’ is classified similar with cheating and some others claimed that free riding is part of cheating. They have the same concept which is getting something without any ‘bloodshed’ and struggling.

In IIUM, cheating is highly condemned by the officials. Cheating is seen as not just trivial misconduct. This can be observed from a reminding message in poster form by the legal unit, IIUM. Officials passed rules under students’ discipline rules 2014, Part II, General Discipline Rules 6, (2)(a). The main point of this rule is that IIUM obliges student to not cheat during the exam, condemning students who bring unauthorised materials in exam venue. Additionally, it stated that any form of cheating or attempt to cheat is a serious offence which may lead to dismissal. What about the action of free riding? Will the university pass the rule regarding the interdiction of free riding. Frankly speaking, identifying students who conduct free riding is an arduous task. It is different with identifying students who cheat. Cheaters can be punished when they are caught red-handed. But to identify free riding activities, officials have to do more thorough processes.

How to prevent these actions

A free rider culture in academic field is like a tumour in human body which must be excised to stop metastasising. These are the actions which can be taken to solve the problem:

  • Group mates approaches

Group mates are the closest ones who can change free the riding culture to main riding culture. In unfortunate occasion, when group mates indicate someone contribute nothing, sometimes they backbite, ignore, underestimate, and even harm the ones who do not contribute. These are not the ways to tackle the problem, but teammates should direct them to the right way by giving them support, encouragement, and by strengthening their interpersonal communication.

  • Lecturers approaches

Lecturers have most power and authority to direct the students is certain ways. For solving this problem, lecturers distribute forms to every individual in the group. It allows students to report their mates who do not contribute within the group. Lecturers supposedly have prepared the penalty for free riders. One of effective ways to deal with free rider is by applying fear appeal. It means lecturers arouse some forms of fear to the students in order for them to comply with the rules stipulated. For instance, a lecturer can give low mark, personal counselling, or expel the student from the class.

  • Religious approaches

One of the effective ways to deal with free riders is by giving them nashihah, sincere advice, pertaining to religious values. Islam forbids men to commit something that bring harms and drawbacks. By complying values of Islam, with the permission of Allah, cheaters will give up for free riding because Islam inculcates good and moral values. ***

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