RICHMOND -- Less than half the 80 wallets dropped on Virginia college campuses were returned to a professor conducting an experiment in honesty.
"It cost me personally $110 to find out that most of the kids here at our colleges and universities will steal your wallet," said Jack Haberstroh, associate professor of mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Haberstroh placed 10 new wallets, each with a $5 bill and their fictitious owner's address and phone number in them, in public spots at each of eight Virginia colleges. He then sat back to see how many would be returned.
More than a month later, 36 of the wallets -- 45 percent -- were returned.
The University of Richmond scored highest with seven wallets returned.
Only two wallets were returned from Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
Even at the University of Virginia, where an honor system forbids students to lie, cheat or steal, just five wallets were returned.
"They didn't do that much better than VCU," Haberstroh said, "and we don't take any kind of an oath."
At VCU, four wallets were turned in. The other colleges and the number of wallets returned were: Liberty University in Lynchburg, five; Lynchburg College, five; Virginia Wesleyan in Norfolk, five; and Virginia Tech, three.
Haberstroh said his study's results are statistically valid. The 80 wallets dropped "would be an adequate sample" for Virginia's college student population of about 81,600, he said.
However, he does not know whether the wallets were found by students, faculty or others. He also assumed that all were found.
Haberstroh, who teaches advertising, said he conducted the experiment because "I've been interested in the subject of lying," and "advertising is often accused of being just paid lying."