More Than Half Of Students Charged In Harvard Cheating Case Forced To Withdraw

More than half of the Harvard students involved in last year’s cheating scandal have been forced to withdraw from the university, according to an email sent out today to the Harvard community. The investigation into members of Government 1310: Introduction to Congress was first announced in August, after similarities were found in 125 take-home open-book final exams.

The Crimson reports that of the students initially charged by the university more than half were required to withdraw, while about half of those who are allowed to stay on campus received disciplinary probation. No actions were taken against the other students.

As Bloomberg points out, Harvard stated in August that students forced to withdraw as a result of cheating could be off campus for up to two semesters.

British Sports Mogul None Too Keen on Harvard’s “Community Values” of “Integrity” and “Honesty” [Updated]

In early October, Outside published a 5,000+ word exposé of Tough Mudder, the adventure racing company founded in 2010 by Will Dean, an alumnus of Harvard Business School. The story is well worth reading in full for journalist Scott Keneally‘s thorough assessment of the company’s rapid growth over the past two years. (Update: there’s also a trailer!)

What really snagged our attention, however, was Keneally’s survey of allegations that Will Dean stole the idea of Tough Mudder while he was a student at HBS.

The evidence of wrongdoing hinges on a Harvard-endorsed field study Dean performed at Tough Guy Limited, in the United Kingdom, where Dean is from. In a nut: after completing the field study, Dean submitted to Harvard and Billy Wilson (the proprietor of Tough Guy Limited) two different reports of his work:

In December, when Dean completed his report, he submitted one version to Harvard and a slightly modified one to Wilson. Both described the potential for more events, but the version he sent to Wilson omitted key recommendations for how he might immediately expand. Rather, he suggested Wilson adopt a wait-and-see approach. Wilson was unimpressed with the report, and the two men fell out of touch.

It’s sort of like The Social Network (minus the Trent Reznor soundtrack) — except that Harvard eventually took action against Will Dean.

Keneally discusses an internal Harvard investigation that arose from a complaint Billy Wilson sent to the biz school’s faculty less than two weeks after Tough Mudder staged its first event in the spring of 2010. We recently got our hands on the text of the investigation’s final ruling, which Outside quotes from, and it’s actually a bit more unsparing than the magazine lets on. Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard Legacy: Down with Affirmative Action!

Oh my. From the Crimson:

Helping those with primarily low academic qualifications into primarily academic institutions makes as much sense as helping the visually impaired become pilots. How would you feel if you were assured before going into surgery that your surgeon was the beneficiary of affirmative action in medical school? I do not see why higher academic institutions should lower their standards for admission.

PLOT TWIST: the author is—hiss, hiss!—a legacy:

In a way, I am the product of a sort of affirmative action, and it takes a terrible psychological toll. My father went to Harvard College, which makes me a legacy. I am kept up at night by the thought that simply because my father has attended and donated to the University, I might have taken the spot of a more qualified applicant. My name is not exactly “Sarah Wigglesworth Hurlbut Coop,” but I am still a legacy, and the thought of its bearing on my admission is somewhat terrifying.

May blogs diagnose new disorders? The author appears to be suffering from the delusion, largely indigenous to New England and the Tri-State area, that life is like the Harry Potter universe, where young wizards are admitted to Hogwarts by way of pure destiny and magical envelopes, rather than SAT tutors and enormous parental donations. This legacy actually seems to believe that she could not have attended any other school, or just not applied to Harvard in the first place, thereby saving her years of suffering, of thinking she doesn’t actually belong at Harvard.

And to answer the burning question: of course she took the spot of a better applicant. Probably a far better one. What else are legacy admissions for? Rescuing endangered animals?

Harvard Students Attempt Satire: ‘Asians…practically indistinguishable from one another’

The Harvard Voice — “Harvard University’s premiere student-life publication” — recently published, then retracted, the following paragraph:

You can always spot the Asian contingent at every pre-interview reception. They dress in the same way (satin blouse with high waisted pencil skirt for girls, suits with skinny ties for boys), talk in the same sort-of gushy, sort-of whiny manner, and have the same concentrations and sky-high GPAs. They’re practically indistinguishable from one another, but it’s okay. Soon, they will be looking at the same Excel spreadsheets and spend their lunch talking about their meaningful morning conversations with the helpdesk of Bloomberg. Uniqueness is overrated when you make six-figure salaries.

The Crimson says the paragraph was eventually scrubbed from the listicle (“5 People You’ll See at Pre-Interview Receptions”), to which the Voice’s editors appended the anonymous author’s response (which, incredibly, was also deleted):

Clearly, I’ve been censored, which in itself is an interesting reflection on free speech in America. If you couldn’t tell that this article was satire, then we have bigger problems than me being ‘offensive.’ (If you are curious to know what the censored stereotype is, just take a quick look around the room. JK!)

And then the author took it all back, launching into a careful—yet honest, yet brave—discussion over how to confront the racial resentment that continues to plague the Ivy League. JK! That probably would have been deleted too.

[The Crimson]

Daily Pennsylvanian Kicks Harvard When They’re Down, Uses Cheating Scandal To Make Penn Feel Good

The recent Harvard University cheating scandal seems to be everywhere these days, and lest we forget, it’s not just affecting students in Cambridge: Its influence touches everyone in the Ivy League. An article today in The Daily Pennsylvanian takes the actions of the 125 Harvard students as an excuse to moralize about the superior virtue and integrity present in the student body of the University of Pennsylvania. As the article’s subheadline reads, “Some cite ‘cultural difference’ between the two universities.” Cultural differences between Penn and Harvard you say… Oh please, go on.

The piece is riddled with Harvard bashing from administrators and students alike, but, as noted above, the best part of it all is that they don’t just take their fellow Ivy down; they use the scandal as a way to idealize their own (eighth place) university. As one student says:

“There was a culture at Harvard where it was acceptable to collaborate on take-homes … That’s not allowed here. Students know a take-home is an exam that should be their own work.”

Yes, while Harvard students may have thought they were allowed to work with their classmates, no one needs to tell a Penn man or woman that such behavior is simply unacceptable. Collaboration? That’s not allowed at the University of Pennsylvania, everyone knows that.

A fellow student echoed the point:

“I understand the cutthroat nature of an Ivy League institution, but I’ve never felt the necessity to go beyond the realm of what is accepted.”

A Quaker can surely see the faults in others, and understand how such illicit dealings might prove tempting in order to get ahead in life, but partake in these activities? Never. Read the rest of this entry »

Institutional Ethics: Harvard’s Plagiarism Problem

Institutional Ethics is a new column about the fun, fun world (really) of ethics in the Ivy League. Please forgive the ClipArt. —Eds.

When news of the Harvard plagiarism business first broke, I couldn’t help but chuckle—because honestly, how could they be so stupid? (Aside: As a Yalie, I’ll admit that it was nice for another Ivy—read: Harvard—to be in the news for less-than-honorable reasons.)

A bit more digging, however, shows that the case isn’t quite as open and shut as 125 Harvard undergraduates circle-jerking for exam answers. (Okay, I’m done with the Harvard bashing.) As the New York Times reported on August 31, the cheating may have been due to “innocent—or at least tolerated—collaboration among students”. Is collaboration on a final cheating? Well, yes.

When the Harvard Crimson revealed the scandal, they included a telling photograph of the exam instructions, exposing a heavy use of the phrase et cetera—which, as my friend and fellow Yalie Zara Kessler pointed out, is essentially code for “I’m out of specific things to say, so here’s a vague-ish Latin phrase that’s very open to interpretation.”

But that Times quote belies a particularly sticky reality: if working together on take-home exams has been implicitly tolerated in the past, who’s really at fault here—the institution or her students?  Read the rest of this entry »

Harvard Cheating Scandal Slowly Becoming Aaron Sorkin’s Next Movie: A Tipster Writes In

Paging Aaron Sorkin! Paging Aaron Sorkin!

The Intro to Congress cheating scandal has claimed its first victim: a co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team. As recently reported in The Crimson, however, the much, much bigger story is the legal strategy other students are planning against Harvard. When asked to explain why they were planning to sue, a reliable tipster told us:

MANY students have been talking about suing and many students I know, have already contacted or retained attorneys for the impending matter. What have I heard they will be suing for? Defamation, Breach of Confidentiality, among other things stemming from the actual Gov 1310 case itself. I would put the number of kids that I know personally or kids who I’ve heard who are considering suing to about 25-30

S/he pointed to a Crimson article that quotes an unnamed Resident Dean (aren’t there only twelve of them?):

What is this? RD’s commenting to school news papers about Ad Board Cases …and requesting anonymity? That’s a complete violation of our confidentiality. Today after kids read that, they were flabbergasted that an RD would even comment on such a matter, let alone do so under anonymity. Who knows what s/he told the reporter? A lot of students are going to be suing based on the breach of confidentiality alone. The shadiness of the whole debacle is ridiculous. Now we have RD’s going speaking to the Crimson and doing so under the condition of anonymity ?

We also asked the tipster (who is implicated in the scandal) if s/he is personally worried about his/her case before the Ad Board. This is what we received:

For me, I’d say yes I am worried. I discussed the exam. It’s unfortunate because the class had a nature in which many students thought it was okay. I know that people on the outside are going to think that we are just shifting blame, but you really had to experience the class for yourself to know what many students are talking about. Collaboration just..”seemed okay”, everyone did it in the course. People who took it the year before and the year before that, TFs and students, I mean, it was just so widely accepted that it “boggles the mind” (to quote Justice Scalia) that Harvard, in an attempt to paint a picture for the public, does not want to acknowledge that one of their courses was structurally ridiculous.

We hope you’re taking notes, Mr. Sorkin.

Harvard to be Harsh on ‘Intro to Congress’ Cheaters: New Details

How will Harvard determine the guilt (or innocence) of students charged with cheating in last spring’s Intro to Congress course? A tipster writes in:

My Resident Dean told me that:

1. if you sat down and took the exam with others, discussed the exam with others, for whatever reason – RWD [Require to Withdraw] / Failure of the Course
2. If you received information while the exam was out, be it answers, notes, study guides, etc – RWD / Failure of the Course
3. If your overlap is because of shared notes, shared study guides, shared information before the exam – scratch or take no action
4. If you sent information, be it answers, notes, study guides, etc, while the exam was out – RWD

Most importantly, The board will not take the “culture of collaboration” that has existed in the course for many years when reaching it’s decision. They will leave the sanctioning of the course up to the government department

Interesting: My RD told me that students will have to prove their stories. If you say you shared notes…you must produce them. if you say you used study guides, you must produce them, if you said you sent an email, you must produce it – or else the board will think you’re lying. I reminded her that the ad board is not a court of law and do not have a burden of proof to meet. she said that in a case like this, you just have to prove your story

Power Struggle at The Harvard Crimson Forces Out Editor-in-Chief Drew Faust

While their classmates are being investigated for plagiarism, The Harvard Crimson has apparently decided that now would be a good time to stop letting administrators make up quotes for themselves. The Crimson announced today that after years of allowing Harvard leadership to review and tweak any quotes from an interview, the newspaper will now enforce several previously dormant policies to make sure what happens on the record, stays on the record.

Courtesy of Romenesko, here’s a nice big block quote from Crimson President Ben Samuels’ email to the newspaper’s staff, outlining just how widespread this practice has become:

“Some of Harvard’s highest officials—including the president of the University, the provost, and the deans of the College and of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—have agreed to interviews with The Crimson only on the condition that their quotes not be printed without their approval … Even University spokespeople—employed to talk to the media—have routinely refused to have their names used in The Crimson, and Crimson reporters have agreed.”

This wasn’t just a case of a couple of words being moved around to make some Harvard big shot sound smarter either. According to The Crimson,Sometimes the quotations are rejected outright or are rewritten to mean just the opposite of what the administrator said.”

Or, this, but imagine Larry Summers instead of Jack Nicholson (because really, who knows how long this has been going on for):

That Huge Harvard Cheating Ring Might Not Have Actually Happened

There are several reasons to doubt that Harvard’s massive plagiarism ring is as massive, or as damning, as Harvard officials suggest. It might have not have actually happened in the first place. Here’s what we know so far:

Actual evidence: Very early this morning, The Crimson updated its report to include the circumstances of the take-home, open-book exam that students currently under scrutiny took last spring. The article now indicates that, in the final hours before the exam was due, a single TF issued to a bunch of frustrated students the definition of a term that apparently was never fleshed out, or possibly even discussed, in any of the course’s materials or lectures.

This may explain how many of them employed the “same long, identical strings of words.” That doesn’t make what they did ethical, necessarily, but it weakens the theory that over a hundred students colluded to copy each others’ work.

Precedent: A handful of outlets cited Adam Wheeler’s web of deception as though the array of lies told by a mentally ill man were relevant to over a hundred people using the same language in an exam, simply because Wheeler and they attended the same university. (We’re looking at you, Bloomberg.)

A much better example is an incident that took place in 2010 at the University of Central Florida, where a business professor used statistical analysis to “prove” that 200 students had cheated on an exam. In truth, those students had studied using readily available sample questions, the same questions that the professor explicitly stated he would not use for the exam, but then did. (Which meant that he had presented someone else’s work as his own.) Read the rest of this entry »