Some 125 Harvard University students are being investigated for cheating after school officials discovered they may have shared answers or plagiarized on a final exam, reports the Daily Mail.
Harvard officials are not releasing the class subject, the students’ names or the exact number being investigated.
They said on Thursday that the undergraduate class had a minimum of 250 students and possible cheating was discovered in roughly half the take-home exams.
The Boston Globe reported that independent groups of students appear to have worked together by email or other means to come up with answers to questions on a spring take-home in violation of Harvard’s no-collaboration policy.
In its official handbook, Harvard specifically instructs students to “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.”
While it does not look like any of the students in question stole material from outside sources, some apparently plagiarized their classmates’ answers, submitting responses that were either identical or “too close for comfort,” Jay M. Harris, the dean of undergraduate education, told the Globe.
The suspected cheating was uncovered in May when a teaching assistant marking the exams noticed that some of the answers were similar, using the same long, identical strings of words
He alerted the professor, who approached the college’s Administrative Board, which spent the summer interviewing some of the students and going over every exam.
Students who are found guilty of plagiarizing or cheating on the exam will face a range of possible punishments, from an admonition to a year-long suspension.
Harvard President Drew Faust said the allegations, if true, betray “the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends.”
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 Harris.
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.”
Those students who are found guilty of cheating could face a range of punishments, 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.up to a year-long suspension.
Since the course included students from all four class years, some of the alleged cheaters may have graduated already. Harris would not comment on whether they would be at risk of losing their diplomas.
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.’
Harris said there is no evidence of widespread cheating. But he said it’s clear Harvard needs to better emphasize academic integrity.
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.”
In light of the alleged cheating scandal, Harvard officials will make recommendations on how to bolster academic integrity
The school plans to initiate broad conversations on campus about academic honesty, including why it’s vital to intellectual inquiry.
University officials are now even considering putting in place an academic honor code – an idea that has been rejected in the past.
Last year, Harvard introduced a voluntary freshman pledge to uphold basic values such as “integrity, respect, and industry.” The move was ridiculed on and off campus by professors and other intellectuals who considered it unscholarly.
“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.”
A Harvard spokesperson said he could not remember another cheating episode on this scale in the recent history of the prestigious institution.
However, The Globe reported that in a new memoir, That Book About Harvard, 2008 graduate Eric Kester writes that his classmates frequently copied one another’s math and science problem sets and shared test answers in campus bathrooms.