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Topic: Harvard probing dozens for possible cheating
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Harvard probing dozens for possible cheating
Posted: Aug 31, 2012 6:37 PM
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From the Associated Press, Friday, August 31, 2012. See
Harvard probing dozens for possible cheating

By Jay Lindsay

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - Dozens of 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 declined to release the name of the class, the
students' names or the exact number being investigated, citing
privacy laws.

The undergraduate class had a minimum of 250 students and possible
cheating was discovered in roughly half the take-home exams,
university officials said Thursday.

"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

"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

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.

Michael Zimmet, a freshman from Aspen, Colo., said news of the
investigation "was really surprising."

"You think of Harvard as somewhere where people are academically
honest and interested in their course work," he said.

Tiffany Fonseca, a sophomore from Boston, said she didn't know the
details of what happened, but that it was easy to see how students
could talk to each other about a take-home test.

"I'm kind of shocked, but I'm not," she said.

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."

It's not a surprise that Harvard isn't immune to possible cheating,
said Teresa Fishman of the International Center for Academic
Integrity at Clemson University.

Twenty years of data shows that a quarter to a third of students
across all levels of collegiate education admit cheating on tests,
she said.

Reasons range from indifference to the subject to believing you must
to keep up with other cheaters. Fishman added there's widespread
"wishful thinking" in academia that the real problem is elsewhere. An
investigation and action at a high-profile school such as Harvard
might benefit other colleges, she said.

"That might even encourage other schools to say, 'OK, well I can
admit that we have a little bit of a problem here with cheating,
too," Fishman said.
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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