But We Thought That Was The Whole Point…

“Introduction To Congress”, the syllabus said;
It was filled with the Harvard elite—
The goal was to learn about civics; instead,
Half the students just learned how to cheat.

Academic dishonesty at Harvard.

Harvard College’s disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the magnitude of the case was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

That’s right; Harvard is supposed to be known for grade inflation, not for cheating.

(Reading the article, it looks like there is sufficient blame to cast on both student and professor.)


  1. 'Tis Himself says

    The linked article is interesting but do NOT read the comments unless you want to know what footwear somebody’s mother has on.

  2. Cuttlefish says

    Standard issue US Army Boots, if I am not mistaken.

    My prediction was: Conservatives would blame the liberal elite for cheating. Liberals would blame the ivy-league one-percent future vulture capitalists for cheating. None would consider their own side, and none would learn a damned thing.

    I know, I could make so much more money as a psychic.

  3. 'Tis Himself says

    When I was at Harvard ever so many years ago, there were a few cheating scandals. In each case, a largish class taught by a couple of TFs* would have a test or two compromised. Occasionally someone would be tossed out for a year but most of the time there was a slap on the wrist and a stern “don’t do it again” from the Dean.

    *Harvard does not have Teaching Assistants. Instead there are Teaching Fellows, which look identical to TAs to the uninitiated but are much more refined. It would be terribly infra dig for Harvard to have mere Teaching Assistants like every cow-town college in the Midwest has.

  4. John Norris says

    Is I Remember Correctly, The US Naval Academy expelled 1/3 students for cheating on a test in the 1990’s. That is the only time I remember any,and I do mean ANY, university or college actually enforcing its honor code.

    BTW, I worked at a private segregated college in Virginia that, when faced with an honor code violation evolving many of its fraternity members, dropped the ball completely. This same college prides itself on its Christian foundation and Republican ideals.

  5. lorn says

    Standard right-wing dogma is that a willingness to cheat is evidence of a deeper dedication and stronger faith. Liars for Jesus and the 2000 Florida vote count are obvious examples. The GOP runs congress so lying and cheating just adds a bit a verisimilitude to the otherwise purely academic. Avoiding blame and punishment earns you extra credit.

  6. lcaution says

    It was, according to the article, an “open book, open note, open Internet, etc.” take-home exam. So I am baffled by the restriction on discussing it with others – in particular because one of the students quoted said that a question worth 20% was unclear.

    I wish the article had published that question, so we could evaluate the complaint, but apparently there was no way to contact the professor with questions about the exam questions and – long ago as it was – I still remember having had the same frustration on more than one occasion.

    No, I am not excusing the cheating. I simply do not fully understand the circumstances.

  7. says

    As a post-grad student I used to mark the undergraduate weekend papers in the physics department. The students did the tests over the weekend and dumped their answers in a bin. On Tuesday morning the bin was emptied and the papers handed out to the markers pretty much at random.

    Often I would find two successive papers with identical answers and often identical handwriting. I would mark each paper, give them the same mark and then divide that mark by two, informing each student where the other half of his marks had gone. That final mark was the one that went into the book as part of the student’s record.

    No one ever complained to me about it and if they ever went to a member of staff it never got back to me. I think they just accepted that this is what happens if you cheat.

    One time I had to divide by three. I think the girl wrote two of the papers and allowed the other boy to copy hers.

    I don’t think they cottoned on the the idea that they could avoid the problem by not dumping the cheating papers in the bin at the same time.

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