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Harvard Investigating Over 100 Students For Possible Cheating

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — More than 100 Harvard University students are being investigated for cheating after school officials discovered they may have shared answers or plagiarized on a final exam.

Harvard officials aren’t releasing the class subject, the students’ names or the exact number being investigated.

They said Thursday that the over 250 undergraduate students took the take-home final exam in question and possible cheating was discovered in roughly half of the exams.

“These allegations, if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends,” President Drew Faust said.

Each student whose work is in question has been called to appear before a subcommittee of the Harvard College Administrative Board, which reviews issues of academic integrity, said Jay M. Harris, dean of undergraduate Education. He emphasized that none of the allegations has been proven and said there’s no evidence of widespread cheating at Harvard.

“The facts that are before us are that we have a problem in this one course,” Harris said. “I hope that doesn’t sound overly naive, I don’t want to be naive, but this is what we have. The rest would be speculation.

“Looking at the students we have and the work that they do, I would be loathe to say this is something that represents Harvard students generally.”

The spring course included undergraduates at all class levels, Harris said. A teaching assistant noticed some possible problems on the tests, including evidence that students collaborated on answers or used the same long, identical strings of words. The exam had clear instructions that no collaboration was allowed, Harris said.

The assistant notified the professor, who referred the case in May to the administrative board. After interviewing some students, the board found what Harris characterized as “cause for concern.”

Depending on the offense, the punishments range from an admonition, a sort of warning for a first offense, to being forced to withdraw from Harvard for a year. It wasn’t immediately clear what sanctions any student who has graduated may face.

There’s no timeline for when the investigation will be finished, Harris said.

“We believe in due process for students and fairness,” he said. “Everyone wants it done yesterday, but we have to be patient. It’s going to take as long as it takes.”

A Harvard spokesman said he knows of no incidents in recent memory of possible cheating at the university on this scale.

In response to the allegations, a Harvard committee on academic integrity led by Harris will present recommendations on how to enforce faculty-wide expectations of academic honesty.

In an email Thursday, Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, urged faculty members to clarify policies on student collaboration and work to “foster a culture of honesty and integrity.”

The school plans to initiate broad conversations on campus about academic honesty, including why it’s vital to intellectual inquiry. It is also considering instituting an honor code. Such codes at other schools, for instance, set standards for honesty and require students to sign completed work, attesting that they followed those standards.

“We really think we need to work harder,” Harris said. “We do think it’s an opportunity to really put out before the community how much we value integrity.”

With reporting from The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom. 

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  • Guest

    Wait, it’s a take-home test… and you’re surprised when you find out they cheated?  Either the Harvard professor(s) are just plain stupid or this is a simple case of entrapment.

    • A. Non Emus

      You’re an idiot. 

      • Guest

        Do you have an intelligent point to make or are you merely trolling?

  • Devil’s Advocate

    Hmmmm with a struggling job market, rising cost of higher education and increasingly competitive spirit on campuses around the county for higher GPAs and perfect grades how is anyone surprised by students cheating? Maybe if there wasn’t as much pressure to not fail then students wouldn’t cheat as much. People will always try to cheat, but when the numbers make up more than a small minority then there’s a bigger problem then simple immoral academic achievement.

  • action_jackson_204

    OUR FUTURE LEADERS!  Cheating Liers! What a surprise.

  • Blake

    This would have happened at any university. Take home assignments not only create the possibility for cheating, but create an incentive for cheating because not cheating leads to a lower grade. If you don’t want cheating, don’t give a take home final.

  • Frank

    Why does this even make news? BECAUSE IT’S HARVARD?! Because Harvard is supposed to be the measure of things good, honest, moral, and intelligent? Why trust someone with a degree from Harvard? Because they paid money for that brand? I think that quality, meaningful journalism is better spent covering the lives and livelihoods of real people in Massachusetts outside of the insulated affluent areas of Boston and Cambridge. Please, report on stories that matter to your listeners, such as the exponentially skyrocketing costs of education for people who cannot afford these costs and the fact that journalists such as youself and state legislators ignore the reprehensible de-funding of public higher education in favor of covering news at Harvard. Talk to decent, hard-working, and industrious, and aspirational working-class and lower middle-class students in North Adams (no, not Williams College), Amherst (no, not Amherst College), Boston (that is, at UMass Boston), Worcester (no, not Holy Cross), and in Fitchburg, Framingham, Salem, Bridgewater, Westfield, and all those beautiful Community College campuses across this commonwealth. These are the forgotten students of the next generation too busy to cheat working full-time, doing research and internships, caring for elderly and young family members, making car payments to commute, and barely getting by. I’m not suggesting pieces on working-class heroes, but give us all a break from the supposed scandal plaguing Harvard as if it’s the bellwether of our virtues.

  • BW

    Here’s the thing – a take home test should be structured to encourage group effort. After all, teams are the predominant work structure today. Plagiarism is a different story – one should not just copy/paste another’s writing – but should express the ideas in his/her own words.

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