Written by Jonathan Bailey, Plagiarism Today
As school starts back up for the fall, Harvard University is preparing to deal with what could be one of the largest plagiarism scandals in academic history.
According to the school, approximately 125 students are expected to have hearings before the school’s Administrative Board on allegations that they colluded improperly on a take home exam.
The 125 students represent nearly half of Government 1310: Introduction to Congress class where the test was assigned. The school became aware of the alleged collusion after a teaching fellow noticed similarities between the turned in assignments. This prompted Harvard to investigate the matter and determine that 125 of the tests were suspicious.
The test was given out with strict rules about how the test might be taken, reading in part:
"The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc.... However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others.”
Though the university declined to say how the collusion was done, officials indicated that the believed electronic communication was involved.
The university’s dean of undergraduate education, Jay Harris, said that the level of cheating is “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory” and that the school would attempt to turn the incident into a “teaching opportunity.”
Punishments for those being brought before the board range from a simple warning to being forced to withdraw from Harvard for a year. However, the results of Administrative Board hearings are confidential.
Students returning to class after their summer break have expressed shock at the scandal. With one freshman saying that “You think of Harvard as somewhere where people are academically honest and interested in their course work.”
Harvard gave no timetable for its investigation to conclude but officials have said that they will begin almost immediately in working on its education of students on academic dishonesty issues.