On Friday, Harvard University announced that over half of the 125 students implicated in the largest Ivy League cheating scandal in recent memory were asked to temporarily withdraw from the university in light of their infractions.
The announcement marks the end to a monthslong investigation that began at the start of the school year after nearly half of the 279 students in the course Government 1310 “Introduction to Congress” were accused of collaboration on their take-home final exam. Though the specific number of students who were penalized for their actions were not released, Michael Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a letter to students and faculty that the University’s Administrative Board required over half of the students it investigated to withdraw, according to The Harvard Crimson.
According to Smith, the case was concluded in December, though he gave no explanation for not announcing the decision earlier. The forced withdrawals were retroactive, he wrote, and those who were compelled to leave would be refunded their first semester’s tuition.
Though the final examination was open-book and open-note, discussion was explicitly prohibited. But when a teaching fellow grading the final exam in May noticed similarities between multiple students’ exams, administrators were prompted to conduct a thorough examination of the nearly 300 exams submitted. The case gained additional notoriety after multiple members of Harvard’s basketball team, including star players and co-captains Kyle D. Casey and Brandyn T. Curry, chose to withdraw from the team during the investigations.
But several students interviewed by The New York Times protested the harshness of the decision, claiming that similar lecture notes or conversations with teaching fellows could account for many similarities.
Jay Harris, dean of undergraduate education, told The Harvard Crimson in August that the magnitude of the cheating scandal had raised larger questions of academic integrity, and the college would consider preventive routes such as instituting an academic honor code, though no concrete efforts have been announced at this point.