“As many as 60 students have been forced to withdraw from Harvard University after cheating on a final exam last year in what has become the largest academic scandal to hit the Ivy League school in recent memory,” Reuters reports.
Michael Smith, Harvard’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, sent an email on Friday saying more than half of the students who faced the school’s Administrative Board have been suspended for a time.
Roughly 125 undergraduates were involved in the scandal, which came to light at the end of the spring semester after a professor noticed similarities on a take-home exam that showed students worked together, even though they were instructed to work alone.
The New York Times, in its reporting of the development, noted “it was a heavy blow to sports programs, because the class drew a large number of varsity athletes, some of them on the basketball team. Two players accused of cheating withdrew in September rather than risk losing a year of athletic eligibility on a season that disciplinary action could cut short.”
The scandal’s tie to athletics was something The College Fix delved into shortly after the news broke. Fix contributor Blake Baxter noted the cheating scandal “put a black cloud over the school’s basketball program and added fuel to the already-heated discussion of just how much influence college athletics has over academia.”
Harvard University has long been known as the pinnacle of collegiate academics. It has not been particularly well known for its athletic success. However, in the spring of 2012, the university found itself with its overall most promising athletics department in its history. The football team had just won the Ivy League Championship. The basketball team finished with an impressive 26-4 record and got its first NCAA tournament berth since 1946. At the end of the term, this exciting new development appeared to be the only thing unusual for the Harvard Crimson. That was before an assistant professor made a momentous discovery when grading exams for an “Introductory to Congress” class.
That specific “Introductory to Congress” class has a reputation for having a light workload. Its final was given to the students to finish over the weekend as an open-book, take-home final. The text, outside sources, as well as the Internet, were permitted to be used for the completion of the examination. However, the exam had an explicit no-collaboration policy.
During the grading, the assistant professor began to notice similarities in exam responses, including a suspicious typo that was present in two of the exams. The assistant professor reported his troubling revelation to the head professor who, in turn, notified the Harvard College Administrative Board. Over the summer, the Administrative Board reviewed each test and interviewed students of the class to see if any knew of students working together or openly plagiarizing each other’s work.
At the beginning of September, Harvard announced that 125 of the 279 students’ tests had been deemed “problematic” and that they would individually appear before the board subject to be penalized by the university – the worst penalty being a one year suspension. The names of the 125 students in question were supposed to be protected by the university by federal privacy laws, but athletes from Harvard’s men’s football, baseball and basketball teams became implicated in the scandal.
It became clear that to some extent the rumors were true when Harvard’s basketball team senior co-captains withdrew in order to preserve eligibility for return following a year of leave of absence from the school and the team. Both players were integral in Harvard’s historic 2011-2012 season. Senior forward Kyle Casey is an All-Ivy League player who averaged a team-leading 11 points and 5 rebounds per game last season. Brandyn Curry averaged 8 points per game as the team’s starting point guard.
Click here to read Baxter’s entire piece.