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Nearly Half of Harvard Government Class Is Suspected of Cheating

A massive student plagiarism scandal rocks Harvard. Is there an epidemic of cheating in our colleges?

There's not a school in the world that doesn't have a policy against cheating and plagiarism but they never seem to deter some students from taking a dishonest shortcut to a good grade—not even students attending the oldest and most prestigious university in the country. Indeed, the Harvard Crimson reports that the the school's "disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: 'Introduction to Congress'" (oh, the irony!) "last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam."

The mass cheating came to light after the class' professor noticed similarities in several of the exams. He took them to Harvard's administrative board last May. That board found about half were suspicious. The university's dean of undergraduate education, Jay M. Harris, called the level of cheating "unprecedented in anyone's living memory." Harris and other school administrators emailed all faculty and students at the school notifying them of the investigation. He told the Crimson that the school had already been planning to re-raise the issue of academic integrity and so this incident is a "teaching opportunity."

The students who cheated in this particular class surely received Harvard's policy on plagiarism, which clearly states, "It is expected that all homework assignments, projects, lab reports, papers, theses, and examinations and any other work submitted for academic credit will be the student’s own." The consequence of possibly being required to withdraw from Harvard if found guilty of plagiarism doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent since so many students are taking the risk.

It would certainly help if the school's faculty avoided plagiarism scandals of their own, but student cheating isn't just a problem at Harvard. What more does every school need to do to ensure students don't do it?

Photo via (cc) Flickr user

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