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.

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 »

Here Are The Three Paragraphs A Columbia Spectator Editor Plagiarized From The New York Times

UPDATE: Jade Bonacolta has been fired from The Spectator for plagiarism.

Earlier today, we reported on a Columbia Spectator article that had a suspiciously similar lede to a certain other paper’s coverage of the same topic: the university’s acquisition of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s archives. Since then, The Spectator has removed the article in question and replaced it with an Editor’s note confirming that at least three paragraphs in the story “were largely identical” to ones in The New York Times aka the Grey Lady aka the national newspaper of record. (The full text of the now removed Spectator article can be found at the end of this post.)

To make matters worse, the Columbia student — Jade Bonacolta, a Spectator associate arts and entertainment editor — stole the material from New York Times writer Robin Pogrebin: a Yalie. This is just like Jonah Lehrer ripping off Fareed Zakaria, amiright?

Presented below are the three plagiarized Spectator paragraphs alongside their original New York Times source material:

Spectator:

“Frank Lloyd Wright was notorious for saving everything, from his personal correspondence to scribbles on Plaza Hotel napkins. Since Wright’s death in 1959, these relics have been locked in storage.”

New York Times:

“The Modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t a hoarder. But he did save just about everything — whether a doodle on a Plaza Hotel cocktail napkin of an imagined city on Ellis Island, his earliest pencil sketch of the spiraling Guggenheim Museum or a model of Broadacre City, his utopian metropolis. Since Wright’s death in 1959 those relics have been locked in storage at his former headquarters —Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz.”

Spectator:

“Among the University’s future collection are the famous original drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home designed amid a rushing stream in Pennsylvania, and the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the campus of the University of Chicago.”

New York Times:

Among the gems in that material are drawings for Wright’s Fallingwater, a home cantilevered over a stream in Mill Run, Pa.; the Robie House, a Prairie-style building on the University of Chicago campus; Unity Temple, a Unitarian Universalist church in Oak Park, Ill.; and Taliesin West.”

Spectator:

“‘While Wright is typically thought of as a lonely genius, you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, and Louis Kahn,’ said Barry Bergdoll, chief curator of architecture and design at the MoMA.”

New York Times:

“While Wright is typically thought of as ‘a lonely genius,’ Mr. Bergdoll said, ‘you move him into the Museum of Modern Art, and he’s dialoguing with Le Corbusier in the company of Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto and Louis Kahn.’”

There you have it. And not only did Bonacolta lift basically full sentences from The New York Times, she went a step further and took a full direct quote from someone she most likely never even spoke to and changed it. Fact: if it’s not in quotation marks, they probably didn’t say those words.

Click through for the full text of the original Spectator story. Read the rest of this entry »

Did The Columbia Spectator Pull a Jonah Lehrer/Fareed Zakaria?

UPDATE 2: The Spectator has posted an updated Editor’s note, and has verified “that at least three paragraphs were largely identical to those in the New York Times piece.” The writer’s other work is now also being investigated by the paper.

UPDATE: The Spectator has removed the story in question. Click through at the bottom of this post to see the original article.

Columbia’s recent acquisition of architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s archives is a huge score for the university, and any art-aware student should be very excited. In fact, the arts writers at The Columbia Spectator were so excited, they seem to have gone right out and copied The New York Times. Uh oh!

Some of you may know Columbia best as the former home of noted poet plagiarist Jonah Lehrer, and his legacy seems to be alive and well. A tipster alerted us to some, let’s say, similarities in The Spectator’s and The New York Times’ opening paragraphs covering the archive’s move.

Here’s the lede from The Spectator’s story on the acquisition, published September 5th:

“Frank Lloyd Wright was notorious for saving everything, from his personal correspondence to scribbles on Plaza Hotel napkins. Since Wright’s death in 1959, these relics have been locked in storage.”

Now, here’s the lede from the New York Times article covering the same news, published two days earlier (bolding ours):

“The Modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright wasn’t a hoarder. But he did save just about everything — whether a doodle on a Plaza Hotel cocktail napkin of an imagined city on Ellis Island, his earliest pencil sketch of the spiraling Guggenheim Museum or a model of Broadacre City, his utopian metropolis. Since Wright’s death in 1959 those relics have been locked in storage at his former headquarters —Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wis., and Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Ariz.”

And, just for reference, here’s the official press release. Not a mention of a Plaza Hotel napkin in the whole thing…  Read the rest of this entry »

“I am a liar”: The Early Poetry of Jonah Lehrer, Columbia Undergraduate

Jonah Lehrer never wanted to be a journalist. As a Columbia University undergrad in the early 2000s, Lehrer — who gained notoriety this summer for his shoddy journalistic ethics, which led to the end of two magazine staff contracts and the recall of his best-selling book — just wanted to sit around and write poetry. In 2000, Lehrer was one of the directors of “The Columbia Review,” a campus literary journal, in which he declared, “I want to be a poet like Smokey Robinson.” An unconventional choice, no doubt, but the man did write “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me.”

Perhaps more revealing to Lehrer’s present situation, though, is a passage we discovered in a poem of his titled “The Frustrated Monologue” (bolding below ours):

“to reveal
the terrible truth
hidden inside the detail.
I am lying and I am a liar
and the rocks of Flaubert are blue
because blue is a cliché.”

So, forget the self-plagiarism, the falsified Bob Dylan quotes, and everything else that Lehrer messed up on, guys. The man’s not a journalist, he’s a poet! This makes everything better, right? Right?

No. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

DEVELOPING: Harvard Investigating “Unprecedented” Plagiarism Ring Involving More than 100 Undergraduates

UPDATE: The Crimson has updated its article to include the name of the course: “Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress.”

The Crimson reports that Harvard College is investigating an enormous plagiarism ring involving more than 100 undergraduates:

Harvard College’s disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the more than 250 students who enrolled in one undergraduate course last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris, who declined to name the course in question, said the magnitude of the case was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

Questions, questions, questions. Which course? Which students? Which professor? If you know, you have our email.

Breaking: Fareed Zakaria Resigns From Yale Board

Following accusations of plagiarism earlier this month, Fareed Zakaria (Yale ’86), the prominent journalist and media personality, has resigned from the Yale Corporation, the university’s governing board. According to The New Haven Register, Zakaria sent a letter to Yale President Richard Levin, in which he said:

“I have decided that I will not be able to serve a second term as a Successor Fellow of the Yale Corporation. I am reexamining my professional life and I have recognized that, in order to focus on the core of my work, I will have to shed some of my other responsibilities.”

Zakaria went on to call his position on the Yale Corporation, “the single largest commitment of time, energy, and attention outside of my writing and television work.”

Among Zakaria’s media responsibilities are a column in Time magazine and a weekly show on CNN. After using several paragraphs from a New Yorker essay without attribution in his Time column, Zakaria was suspended earlier this month by both Time and CNN, but has since been reinstated. Following investigations into Zakaria’s work, both companies have determined that this was an isolated incident. Read the rest of this entry »

Did Penn’s Student Body President and VP Allow A Fellow Board Member—and Close Friend—to Plagiarize Their Campaign?

The last time we wrote about Penn’s Jake Shuster ’14 ’14 ’13, the student politician and self-described “money booster” was writing doofy, self-aggrandizing emails and losing elections by double-digit margins. Now the Penn Undergraduate Assembly’s current Treasurer, Shuster is gunning for the presidential seat. And it appears he’s getting a little help from above.

Earlier today, a tipster pointed us to several textual similarities—in some cases, outright thefts—between Shuster’s campaign website and the website, Facebook page, and newspaper columns of UA’s outgoing President and VP, Tyler Ernst ’13 ’12 and Faye Cheng ’13 ’12.

Shuster, in other words, appears to be campaigning for student president with material plagiarized from the outgoing president’s campaign. He seems to know it, too: soon after IvyGate contacted him for comment, Shuster scrambled to revise and delete passages from his website. Then he wrote us back to say everything on it was his own.

That was stupid—and pretty suspicious. Let’s investigate!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Evolution of a Campaign Platform

Read more here. Read the rest of this entry »