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Major Cheating Scandal Hits Private, All-Girls Barnard College

Barnard College, a private women’s liberal arts college in New York that’s affiliated with Columbia University, is facing a major cheating scandal. A popular English class that has 123 students is under review after accusations of widespread cheating surfaced, reports Bwog, a campus news website run by Columbia students.

Students allegedly passed answers back and forth and confirmed responses on their phones during regular reading quizzes, which consisted of basic poem identifications. Without a TA to help her grade the work of such a large class, Senior Lecturer Peggy Ellsberg, who is teaching the course this spring and has been at Barnard for over 20 years, allowed her students to self-grade. Ellsberg became suspicious of cheating after the majority of the class was consistently receiving 90+ percent on their quizzes. All quizzes, many with nearly identically-marked answers, are now being held by Barnard as “evidence.”

Ellsberg was allegedly given a choice as to whether she wanted to subject her entire class to a formal academic investigation, which could potentially end in expulsion. According to students in the class, no students have yet been expelled but Ellsberg did call for witnesses and confessions during class, emphasizing that anyone who came clean would avoid expulsion but receive a zero in the course. The Barnard administration has not interfaced with the class directly, either through email or in person; thus far, all potential consequences for the cheating incident have been relayed through Ellsberg. The class will be capped at 40 students next semester and will likely not feature reading quizzes.

Bwog also posted a reaction from college administrators late Tuesday that stated:

The College takes all allegations of cheating seriously. In this particular situation, college procedure was followed in that the professor, in consultation with relevant committees and her department chair, discounted quizzes because of a serious concern that academic integrity may have been compromised. In accordance with college policy, the professor supplemented the course assessment with a final exam. To date, no Barnard students have been identified as having cheated.

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