Friday, August 31, 2012

Harvard Investigates 125 Students For Cheating

In a Boston Globe article published earlier this morning, it is reported that Harvard University has investigated and still continues to review the reports that over half of the 250 students enrolled in "Government 1310: Introduction to Congress” class during the spring of 2012 cheated on their final exams. Initially, the college did not release the course under investigation nor the students,citing federal privacy laws, but the University's newspaper reported an update naming the class shortly after the Boston Globe released their article.

It is reported that over 125 of the students ignored the college's rules and regulations regarding academy dishonesty and the outlined instructions on the spring take-home final exam. In its official handbook, Harvard instructs students to “assume that collaboration in the completion of assignments is prohibited unless explicitly permitted by the instructor.” It also encourages professors to state their collaboration policies on syllabi, though as stated, collaboration was prohibited on this assignment.
The "Introduction to Congress" exam's instructions prohibited collaboration with fellow students
via Crimson News Staff

It appears that groups of students worked together on answers and responses on the exams on both the short answer section and the essay assignment, according to Jay Harris, Harvard's dean of undergrad education. Obviously students were not stupid enough to plagiarize or copy text directly from other sources (I mean, they did get in to Harvard after all...right?) but they gambled and 'rolled the dice' with Vegas gaming odds (not too far off from their MIT counterparts years before, though a different situation and scenario altogether) and decided that collaborating and sharing unique individual ideas and using them collectively would somehow go unnoticed. If I were one of the students, I probably would have thought the odds were in my favor too. Typically, teaching fellows, teaching assistants, or even graduate students assist professors with paperwork, coursework, teaching, and most importantly - grading exams. Have more than one assistant or fellow, and the students know the exams will be divided amongst different persons for review, evaluation, and grading. This was the case in this course as a teaching fellow was the first to discover the similarities across several exams that were suspicious. After notifying the professor, they reviewed other exams and found the same exact similarities from the 'collective mind' that the group had unwilling created.

Cheating or academic dishonesty is nothing new to colleges and universities across the country today. But this is the 'Ivy League'... aren't these students alleged to be the future leaders of our world? If they are exhibiting signs of cheating and dishonest behavior so early in their matriculation, isn't this a warning sign of what is to come? Or rather, isn't it indicative of what happened to our economic crash in the US caused by unscrupulous persons that were 'Ivy League' educated? Bernie Madoff went to Hofstra, which is prestigious, though not Ivy League, which does not exactly support my point 100%... But take someone like Marc Dreier: He is the epitome of Ivy League education as he graduated from both Yale with a bachelors and Harvard Law with a JD. These upper-echelon colleges are supposed to be preparing students for their professional lives and careers... does this not include ethics and integrity? Apparently not...

Lat year, Harvard University introduced a voluntary freshman pledge that would uphold basic values such as ethics, respect, and integrity. Among faculty and staff, the pledge was ridiculed and many professors had contempt for the practice calling it unscholarly. It is considered unscholarly to be unethical or to disregard basic values and ethics? Harvard was not forcing freshmen to participate or take this pledge, as it was voluntary. Administrators and faculty alike resisted the ethics pledge citing that their students should already know how to conduct themselves without requiring a formal code. This seems to be commonplace amongst 'Ivy League' schools. So, since their students should know how to behave and be ethical students or citizens, why have a formal handbook at these colleges at all? Why have formal policies regarding rules of conduct or regulations in dormitories or for college computers or library use? If students are inherently good, they one should not need these polices in place. But since we have these rules and polices in place for "the greater good"...why are Harvard professors scoffing at the idea of suggesting something similar for ethics, integrity, and respect?

The most these students will face, according to Harvard's Administrative Board, is likely suspension from the college for a year at most. Seem lackadaisical to you? It's been their practice for years. The most famous? Go back to the year 1951... Edward "Ted" Kennedy was suspended from Harvard for two years because he sent a friend, to pose as him, to take his spanish final exam. Maybe that explains his embarrassing singing event at an Obama campaign rally a few years ago..

When I attended high school and college, we were subject to expulsion. Now it is simply commonplace and accepted to abuse academic dishonesty and only worry about a suspension at worst? We are failing to teaching the "future leaders of tomorrow" or whatever that quote is about ethics and integrity. It's no wonder we have had a financial meltdown and economic crisis. I am reminded of the end of the movie "Fun with Dick and Jane" where just prior to the credits, a special thank you message appears naming these executives and the companies they destroyed:

Just a list of 'Ivy League' Institutions and Interesting Statistics:

Institution Location Athletic nickname Undergraduate enrollment Graduate enrollment Motto
Brown University Providence, Rhode Island Bears
2,333[10] In Deo Speramus
(In God We Hope)
Columbia University New York City, New York Lions
15,760[11] In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen
(In Thy light shall we see the light)
Cornell University Ithaca, New York Big Red
6,702[12] I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.
Dartmouth College Hanover, New Hampshire Big Green
1,893[13] Vox clamantis in deserto
(The voice of one crying in the wilderness)[14]
Harvard University Cambridge, Massachusetts Crimson
14,044[15] Veritas
Princeton University Princeton, New Jersey Tigers
2,479[16] Dei sub numine viget
(Under God's power she flourishes)
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Quakers
10,306[17] Leges sine moribus vanae
(Laws without morals are useless)[18]
Yale University New Haven, Connecticut Bulldogs
6,391[19] אורים ותומים
Lux et veritas
(Light and truth)

1 comment:

  1. Truly sad that it got THIS BAD - so much for IVY LEAGUE!