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Dozens Suspended In Harvard University Cheat Scandal 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
johnsnails writes "Around 60 students at Harvard University have been suspended and others disciplined in a mass cheating scandal at the elite college, the campus newspaper reports. The Harvard Crimson quoted an email from Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael Smith that said more than half of the cases heard by administrators in the scandal, which erupted last year, had resulted in suspension orders. 'After professor Matthew B. Platt reported suspicious similarities on a handful of take-home exams in his spring course Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress,” the College launched an investigation that eventually expanded to involve almost half of the 279 students enrolled in the course.'"
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Dozens Suspended In Harvard University Cheat Scandal

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  • My Theory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Javagator (679604) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:39AM (#42771489)
    I guess all of these students were planning on going into politics.
    • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:46AM (#42771551) Homepage Journal

      I know this is a joke, but it's more than relevant.

      I am guessing the people getting off in this case are getting off more for lack of evidence rather than exoneration. Plus logic dictates that with this number of people it's not the first time it ever happened.

      What upsets me most personally about the United States is that we've developed a culture where doing the right thing is NEVER rewarded and doing the WRONG thing usually is. We've got a political culture right now where a politician MUST be a huxster or they can't compete. The US Government does suck at every level, but it's an outgrowth of the sickness of the culture itself. Nice guys don't finish last; nice guys don't finish AT ALL.

      • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:15PM (#42771765)

        What upsets me most personally about the United States is that we've developed a culture where doing the right thing is NEVER rewarded and doing the WRONG thing usually is. We've got a political culture right now where a politician MUST be a huxster or they can't compete.

        What on earth makes you think that's unique to the US?

        • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Sechr Nibw (1278786) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:32PM (#42771885)
          GP never said it was unique to the US, sounded to me like it was just implied that was all the poster had experience with, rather than painting the entire world of politics with the same brush. Sounds rather sensible for someone named MickyTheIdiot!
        • by Mashiki (184564)

          What on earth makes you think that's unique to the US?

          People tend to think that everything like this is unique to it. Well once people get out into the real world and see what happens, they quickly realize that cheating happens everywhere. Or that a politician must be a huckster to compete, I'm guessing they've never seen european politics or canadian, or hell japanese. From my own neck of the woods, take a look at Dalton McGuinty probably one of the biggest liars, cheats and scum suckers since Bob Rae. And one that's successfully ensured that Ontario wil

        • Re:My Theory (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @02:13PM (#42772577)

          What upsets me most personally about the United States is that we've developed a culture where doing the right thing is NEVER rewarded and doing the WRONG thing usually is. We've got a political culture right now where a politician MUST be a huxster or they can't compete.

          What on earth makes you think that's unique to the US?

          Great example of the level of discourse in the USA today. Let me point out the pattern:

          Thinking person: In the USA this problem is evident to me.

          Knee-jerk apologist: You said the rest of the world is better than the USA! You are a bad person and not a patriot! We can ignore your point and concentrate on how evil the rest of the world is because they all have this problem at least as bad!

          Thinking person: Wait, what? I never mentioned any other country because I live in the USA and am not prepared to comment on other cultures I only know from hearsay!

          KJ apologist: Fuck you traitor! Go live in Sweden/Iraq/Russia/Somalia since you like Socialism/Arabs/Commies/pickaninnies so much!

          Thinking person: .......

        • by VAElynx (2001046)
          Indeed.
          Take Silvana Koch-Mehrin , the german EU politician who had plagiarised her graduating thesis (having before waved on about how she manages being a mother, an active politician and an academician at the same time, well, amusing how that turned out to be) , and was kicked out of function for it.... only to be appointed on the EU commission for research and industry.
      • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

        by prisoner-of-enigma (535770) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:34PM (#42771899) Homepage

        we've developed a culture where doing the right thing is NEVER rewarded and doing the WRONG thing usually is.

        I'd argue that it's not so much about right versus wrong, it's more about the end result trumping the method of getting there. A "win" is considered vindication of the means. If the means are "right" then that's great, but if the means are "wrong", it's too often considered OK to look the other way. The more rewarding the win, the more likely people are to overlook the wrong, especially if those who *should* be doing the looking stand to benefit from the win in the first place. Look at Lance Armstrong. Do you think *nobody* in his inner circle knew he was doping? Sure they did. But they also knew fame and fortune would come from Armstrong's wins, and they could bask in that to considerable benefit. Thus they became complicit.

        In a perfect world, there would be ample benefits and public glorification of the person who came forward to expose cheating. Instead, they typically have everything to lose and very, very little to gain by doing so. Hence the culture of cheating prospers in sports, business, academia...pretty much anywhere the stakes are high enough.

        • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @01:30PM (#42772281)

          One of the problems with Capitalism is it can force Managers to compete with each other to screw everyone; their employee's, customers and ultimately the environment; the best. The classic method of constraining it has always been to involve government. For example; The Red Triangle fire resulted in 120 Americans dieing on the 8th floor of a high-rise factory floor from a fire that started on the 10th; the bosses surmised they only needed a few buckets of water in the corner, locked their workers in, and weren't around to let them out when the fire started. The result of this was a "general strike" and hundreds of laborers unionizing overnight as everyone came to the realization they were putting up with something they aught not to put up with.

          The lesson here is, if management and labor don't work together, neither of them will be employed for long. The pride of management blinds them to the obvious dangers they place labor, and ultimately themselves, at, and labor if they follow management down the rabbit hole will lead inevitably and invariably to injury.

          I work at a company run by lawyers, they're always fighting over the slightest nuance of communication instead of looking at what's really going on; a infrastructure built with products promised to last decades but because foreigners cut corners as there was no real repricussion for doing so, thus it is in decay. An entire generation retiring oblivious to the peril management has placed their pensions in. Men Dieing or getting injured in the field from too many hours of overtime worked. Managers putting in 16hr shifts because their managers need to feel like the lower managers are "with them". Accountants oblivious to all of the above.

          • One of the problems with Capitalism is it can force Managers to compete with each other to screw everyone; their employee's, customers and ultimately the environment; the best. The classic method of constraining it has always been to involve government.

            The result of this was a "general strike" and hundreds of laborers unionizing overnight as everyone came to the realization they were putting up with something they aught not to put up with.

            This isn't an example of government intervention; this is an example of capitalism working. Unionisation isn't anti-capitalistic; governmental backing of unionisation (making use of strikebreakers illegal, etc) may be anti-capitalist, but no more than governmental backing of companies (LLCs, laws promulgated via lobbyists, etc).

        • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Informative)

          by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @06:34PM (#42774205) Journal

          Look at Lance Armstrong. Do you think *nobody* in his inner circle knew he was doping? Sure they did. But they also knew fame and fortune would come from Armstrong's wins, and they could bask in that to considerable benefit.

          They were also harassed, threatened, and sued every time they did accuse him of doping. There have been a lot of people who knew, who accused him of it over the last 10 years.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        +1 your comment.

        It's nothing new and certainly ingrained. In high school back in the 80's, pretty much everyone in my courses cheated (NMB Senior, Class of 88). I never once cheated, ever, and it was galling to watch them walk away week after week with A's and 100's even though I and many others knew that it was unearned. Even simple things -- an art class self portrait (the cheaters asked the more artistic folks to draw for them), a take home physics exam (Mr. Sturgelewski's class) was copied from person t

        • by Khashishi (775369)

          Maybe we should have some reward for people who rat on cheaters. All the students seem to know who the cheaters are, but nobody wants to be a rat.

          • by icebike (68054)

            Maybe we should have some reward for people who rat on cheaters. All the students seem to know who the cheaters are, but nobody wants to be a rat.

            Considering the number of students involved in cheating, it would be like ratting out your local thug gang.
            Someone is bound to take revenge.

            This whole tendency to suffer any injustice and never speak up will probably be the downfall of civilization.

        • by McGruber (1417641)

          +1 your comment.

          It's nothing new and certainly ingrained. In high school back in the 80's, pretty much everyone in my courses cheated (NMB Senior, Class of 88). I never once cheated, ever, and it was galling to watch them walk away week after week with A's and 100's even though I and many others knew that it was unearned.

          +1 to you as well. I graduated high school in '89 and college in '93 -- I saw lots of cheating at both institutions.

      • by Shavano (2541114)

        I know this is a joke, but it's more than relevant.

        I am guessing the people getting off in this case are getting off more for lack of evidence rather than exoneration. Plus logic dictates that with this number of people it's not the first time it ever happened.

        What upsets me most personally about the United States is that we've developed a culture where doing the right thing is NEVER rewarded and doing the WRONG thing usually is. We've got a political culture right now where a politician MUST be a huxster or they can't compete. The US Government does suck at every level, but it's an outgrowth of the sickness of the culture itself. Nice guys don't finish last; nice guys don't finish AT ALL.

        The heartening result is that Harvard takes cheating seriously. They suspended about 60 students over it and a bunch of others are on probation -- probably because they couldn't prove those students cheated.

        • If Harvard took such things seriously, the students would be out of the University and barred from readmission, and a mark on their transcript indicating such.

        • Re:My Theory (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @07:07PM (#42774443) Journal

          The heartening result is that Harvard takes cheating seriously. They suspended about 60 students over it and a bunch of others are on probation -- probably because they couldn't prove those students cheated.

          You call that 'serious'?

          Harvard admits somewhere in the range of 5-6 percent of those who apply. Even if we assume that the bottom 75% or so of the applicant pool are just deluded optimists, Harvard could replace its entire class two or three times over with people who would love to have been admitted. If they were remotely serious, they could have banhammered everyone involved in cheating and called it a day. Instead they are being 'temporarily asked to leave'. That's crazy lenient given how trivial it would be to replace them, and how meaningful a degree from Harvard is supposed to be.

      • I think it's a little more subtle than that. It's not that we reward wrong behavior. We simply don't really punish people in these kinds of situations enough to deter doing wrong. And, that punishment scale is based on how much money or influence your parents might have.

        Here in Kansas, we had a group of high school kids get busted a few years ago buying essays. The teacher flunked them all, but the parents went to the school board and pressured them into giving the kids passing grades. You can be assur

      • by khallow (566160)
        My theory is that this is mostly a consequence of urbanization. One can have hucksters, con men, etc in rural environments and there are plenty of them out there, but the victims are far more concentrated and to an extent wealthier in urban areas. And once you get enough of such people in one place and they become influential enough, then society itself starts to glorify them.
      • What upsets me is that in many top program there is a forced curve. There is nothing worse than studying your ass off and being pushed down a letter grade due to a crop of cheaters. It seems that some grades should be restated for previously classes these cheaters completed.

      • Plus logic dictates that with this number of people it's not the first time it ever happened.

        When you realize that the discovery was made because of:

        similarities on a handful of take-home exams in his spring course Government 1310

        you have to wonder if this professor was clueless, idealistic, or engaged in an "honesty" research project of some kind.

      • I'd not be so sure. When I was on college, I certainly saw students cheating or having enormous opportunity to cheat because of poor care of exam notes and problem set answers by the teaching assistants. On several occasions, I saw the notes lying around and deliberately did my work an entirely different way, or with additional work deliberately added to demonstrate my actual knowledge of the subject rather than simply copying those answers, and notified the professor that the answers had been left lying ou

      • by Sique (173459)
        And what makes you think, that this culture has developed in the U.S.?
        In fact, it's never been different. The notion that morally flawed deeds get rewarded while good behaviour doesn't is so old, that many religions incorporated concepts about a later reward for the good ones and a later punishment for the evil in their systems of faith, because reality seems not fair enough to us. And through the times you find cultural pessimists who complain and whine how bad it has become. It's one of the recurring the
    • So long as it's not "malevolent, it's ok. Just ask Joe Biden. He's done ok.......

      http://www.nytimes.com/1987/09/18/us/biden-admits-plagiarism-in-school-but-says-it-was-not-malevolent.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm [nytimes.com]

    • That's where they went wrong ... if they already had political pull they would have been part of the group who were caught but didn't get suspensions.

    • Platt reported suspicious similarities on a handful of take-home exams in his spring course Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress,”

      They shouldn't worry. When they cheat in Congress, the press won't report it even if they are incompetent enough to get caught. Rules aren't for rulers.

  • by SternisheFan (2529412) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:41AM (#42771501)
    Sports figures, politicians, business leaders, Ivy college students... all cheat to get what they want. At least Beyonce wouldn't lie to us. Oh, wait...
    • Actually most students do not cheat. While the number of cheating incidents is sadly on the rise - probably by about a factor of 2-3 since I started as a prof 10 years ago - the vast majority of university students do not cheat. So while it is always bad to hear of cases like this it is worth getting a little perspective: many students work extremely hard for their degrees and we should not devalue that because some idiots insist on cheating.
      • You know what bugs me, in the U.S. there are all these cheating types who apologize AFTER they get caught, then go on talk shows to try to explain themselves away. Lance Armstrong saw the walls closing in from the Dept. of Justice, THEN he 'fesses up, to try to get to keep as much ill-gotten money as possible. CEO's get caught, usually get little or no jail time, and pay back 'some' of the total amount stolen, and can be free to live out their lives afterward in comfort. And our culture is okay with this, t
  • by flyneye (84093) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:42AM (#42771507) Homepage

    Ha-vahd students too lazy and ignorant to get a clue about Congress. What will they do when Daddy buys them a seat? (besides feel up the interns?)

    • With respect, I don't think has to do with east coast liberal elites. I think this has to do with culture and elitism in general.

      Look at our leadership in congress for instance in both houses. I doesn't take much effort to figure out the meritocracy isn't in play.

      • by flyneye (84093)

        Damn, we had to learn the functions of Congress back in grade school and Middle school. By high school I had two classmates intern.
        Makes me question the quality of school today. The quality of Congress hasn't been a question in my lifetime.

        • by Shavano (2541114)

          Damn, we had to learn the functions of Congress back in grade school and Middle school. By high school I had two classmates intern. Makes me question the quality of school today. The quality of Congress hasn't been a question in my lifetime.

          It could be the college course is a little more detailed.

          • Inconceivable! Surely their math classes go into no more details on "numbers" than the ones I took in 5th grade!

    • by melikamp (631205)
      If you cheat and fail you’re a cheater. If you cheat and succeed, you’re savvy. ~Eric Cartmanez, The White Person Method
    • by Enry (630)

      I work for Harvard (but not FAS, another school), but getting into FAS is no longer strictly about having money or connections. A large portion of the students that go there get some sort of financial aid, and a family making less than $120k gets a massive amount of financial aid if they are accepted.

      FAS Financial Aid Office [harvard.edu]

      • Somehow, though, I don't think the scholarship students are the cheaters. The valedictorian at my high school was accepted for a free ride to Harvard (her father was an Army sergeant, not exactly rolling in the dough there.) She was smart as a whip, scored perfect on the SAT, played the violin at nearly professional level, and was somehow pretty humble and a nice person despite all that. I cannot imagine her being involved in a cheating scandal - she wouldn't need to cheat. Hell, for someone like her, c
  • by Skiron (735617)
    1+1=2 they all had. Obviously cheats.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    No wonder.. take home exams... open book exams.. what do you expect from the low level colleges... Then it actually hit me that this is Harvard.edu we are talking about.

    I guess I was just lucky to finish eng and comp sci from a place where they filtered us from 450 in first year to 5 with diplomas in fourth, without ANY of this open-book-exam nonsense.

    Then again, I'm unemployed at the time and work is tough to find... if I only went for a bigger name university... had the grades, didn't have the money... ah

    • by Cinder6 (894572) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:00PM (#42771651)

      The funny thing (sad thing?) is how lenient the punishments were. Suspension? At my school, a lowly community college, cheating usually results in expulsion, with a 0 in the course being the minimum consequence.

      • by DarkOx (621550) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:03PM (#42771677) Journal

        well sure your community college does not have an outraged parent who just cut a $45k check to answer to; there is little in the way of them having standards.

      • by quarterbuck (1268694) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @01:10PM (#42772149)
        I believe some of the students were indeed expelled.
        The case is more complicated than simply copying.
        1) This class used to be easy, but this year it was very hard
        2) A lot of athletes etc. got in the class so that they could pass. When it was tough they panicked
        3) They went to teaching assistants with questions about "interpreting" the exam. The TA's helped them freely. This was considered cheating in exams and resulted in suspensions.
        4) Some cheated outright. Many resulted in expulsions with grades for the year getting set to zero and tuition for the year being refunded.
        5) A few students copied class notes, but did not copy in the exam. This was looked at on a case by case basis and resulted in punishments (some expelled, some not)
        • by tibit (1762298)

          WTF is wrong with copying class notes?! It was a normal part of growing up: you missed class, you had to copy class notes, at least for material that was not sufficiently covered in the textbook. I did it in the elementary school, as early as 2nd grade, for crying out loud. I do not mean copying the notes into the exam, of course.

          • NY Times reported that some students were asked to produce class notes 6 months after the incident. If they had them, they were let off, else it becomes unprovable...(or that's what I got from the newspaper)
        • on 2 Harvard is not a sports school or a place with people who are there for sports to take easy classes.

      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        It occurred to me after writing this that a community college also has extra incentive to take a hard stance against cheating. If the college is known for allowing students get away with cheating, it might hurt prospective transfers to 4-year colleges.

    • well real IT is open book and not based on cramming for tests.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You realise that open-book exams give a lecturer a much better insight of what students have actually learned, rather than what they remember from cramming the night before? Open-book exams test insights. If you can recite of the books and other literature for a course, but you never actually did anything, you're highly likely to fail it. Fact memorisation exams don't show that you learned something: rather, they show you memorised things: most students tend to forget those things before the next semester i

      • by Cederic (9623)

        In the UK we call them 'papers' and 'essays'. Write 1250 words describing X.

        Exams on the other hand are exams. They don't ask you to repeat facts, they require you to demonstrate understanding of the underlying concepts, approaches and context. No memorisation needed, just a clear understanding of the subject.

  • by koan (80826)

    Anyone else looked at the syllabus for some of these classes? I was looking at one online and I thought it looked more like it belonged in a community college.
    I was surprised at the poor quality of classes I found, maybe actually being there in the class with the other 150 students makes a difference.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      There's this weird worship for big American universities. In some cases they have excellent research and graduate programs but undergrad is undergrad. Except where you're paying big bucks and being a "legacy" makes some kind of difference. In that case there's a profit motive to make things easy enough for everybody to do well.

  • by HybridST (894157) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:46AM (#42771545) Homepage

    The course is Government 1310: "Introduction to Congress" so I'd think cheating was required.

  • Fight fiercely, Harvard, Fight, fight, fight!
    Demonstrate to them our skill.
    Albeit they possess the might,
    Nonetheless we have the will.
    How we shall celebrate our victory,
    We shall invite the whole team up for tea (how jolly!)
    Hurl that spheroid down the field, and Fight, fight, fight!

    Fight fiercely, Harvard,
    Fight, fight, fight!
    Impress them with our prowess, do!
    Oh, fellows, do not let the crimson down,
    Be of stout heart and thru.
    Come on, chaps, fight for Harvard's glorious name,
    Won't it be peachy if we win the g

  • by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:51AM (#42771581)

    For sure!

  • Not Surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RearNakedChoke (1102093) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:51AM (#42771589)
    The new generation of kids cheat as if that's how things get done.

    I was talking to a 15 year old kid, how his grades suffered because he decided he wasn't going to cheat anymore. He admitted he previously cheated freely and openly, without shame. Why? EVERYONE cheated, so there was no shame in it. But he realized that cheating was shortsighted and sooner or later, he would have to actually learn stuff. So he resolved to stop cheating, but at the cost of his previous good grades.

    HE is an encouraging example. But the rest of his classmates aren't. Cheating is the norm and our future is screwed.
    • by tibit (1762298)

      I'm also amazed at how differently one can define cheating, depending on where you went to school. In most of former Eastern Europe, for example, cheating in exams meant that you had small pieces of paper with painstakingly "minimized" equations, facts, etc. These things were memory aids, and should not have been forbidden in the first place because unless you knew how to apply them, you wouldn't pass anyway. Verbatim copying of papers made little sense unless the teacher was very unobservant. Some things,

    • I'm not sure why you think this is unique to the new generation of kids.
  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:52AM (#42771595) Homepage Journal
    Harvard, Yale, etc. are the source of our leaders -- our elites -- and as we all know the first rule of an elite is to never get caught screwing the little guy.

    Clearly these esteemed institutions have failed in their mission.

    • Harvard, Yale, etc. are the source of our leaders -- our elites

      And what has it gotten us? The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and a president who doesn't know his asshole from his elbow when it comes to economics. You'd be hard pressed to find less common sense or street smarts anywhere else than in the average Harvard class.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:54AM (#42771609)

    One has to be careful with these sorts of stories. A few years back at my University, newspapers went wild when an entire engineering ethics class was given an F for cheating. The reality of it? The professor gave no instructions on how to properly cite things, gave an assignment, and 'taught everyone a lesson' by failing them all for plagiarism when they didn't follow the exact standards of reference citing. These were engineers- imagine how little they know or care about perfection in reference citing. Nobody was intending to cheat the system, except for a professor who wanted to make some kind of point, by ruining the GPAs of a hundred students.

    In this situation, I see certain similarities- one professor, one paper, and few details.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 02, 2013 @01:58PM (#42772455)

      Here are some details, from the various Harvard Crimson articles on the topic.

      The cheating occurred on a take-home exam. The instructions for the exam stated that it was open notes, open book, and open Internet, but that talking to other people about the exam was forbidden.

      The exam was a different format from previous years' final exams. Previously, the only questions on the exams had been essay questions. This year, short-answer questions were added to the exam. Many students thought the short-answer questions were more difficult than the essay questions. In fact, in previous years, the course had been widely regarded as easy, in part because of the easy exams, but students in the year in question did not find it to be easy. Many students also thought the short-answer questions were confusing. During the period in which the exam was assigned, the professor sent out at least one email providing clarification on the short-answer questions due to mass confusion.

      After the exams were collected, it was noted that many students turned in very similar answers on the short-answer questions. This suggested that they had collaborated, in violation of the exam instructions.

      • What is entirely possible is that they all found the same paragraph in the text book that seemed to answer the question, and paraphrased it in the same way.
    • Let me guess, that's your story and you're sticking to it?
  • Take-home exams? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Saturday February 02, 2013 @11:54AM (#42771611) Homepage

    on a handful of take-home exams

    There's your problem right there.

    I wonder why oral exams aren't more common in the United States. When I came to do graduate studies in Europe, they really forced me to shape up and learn my stuff. Not only do they make cheating impossible, but when you are judged on how fast you provide the answer, you also internalize it better.

    Sure, written exams are the norm for science fields where one must note down specialist notation like mathematics or chemistry, but in the humanities -- and the "political science" of this article -- they seem an excellent way of judging student progress.

    • Re:Take-home exams? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ceoyoyo (59147) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:08PM (#42771723)

      Graduate studies in North America make use of oral exams as well.

      Nobody wants to listen to a thousand undergrads stumble over the same questions.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      I wonder why oral exams aren't more common in the United States. When I came to do graduate studies in Europe, they really forced me to shape up and learn my stuff. Not only do they make cheating impossible, but when you are judged on how fast you provide the answer, you also internalize it better.

      Because giving hundreds of students oral exams would require effort on the part of the faculty and they believe that they have better things to do.

    • by Improv (2467)

      Are you trying to say this is Harvard's "fault"? Surely I'm misunderstanding somehow.

      To me, this is just a happy filtering out of some students who needed a lesson in humility and ethics. No fault to Harvard or the professor.

    • need hands on based tests and they test understanding of a topic and not just cramming.

    • by Milharis (2523940)

      Here in France in the Classes Préparatoires [wikipedia.org], students have written and oral exams. And it's not only in humanities, but in science as well.
      Basically, you've got 20 minutes to prepare 3 exercises on paper, and 20 minutes to present them. And unless you're really good, you don't have the time to prepare everything before going to the black board, so you have improvise.
      It works quite well, people are rarely contesting the grades, and there's no way a student can cheat.

    • You wonder why oral exams are not more common?

      There were 279 students enrolled in this class. Assuming a ten minute oral exam for each and two minutes to grade the answers it takes 55.8 hours to examine all the students. This oral exam would take at least two weeks in a 14 week semester, and ten minutes is really too little time to judge the work of an entire semester.

      If anyone other than the professor grades the student, then they cry foul.

      If the exams begin in the fifth week of the 14 week semester, the s

  • by edibobb (113989)
    Cheating on a take-home exam is just plain lazy!
    • by dunezone (899268)
      Even though the students should not be cheating its stupid for the professor to not expect this when handing out a take home exam. I remember in 7th grade my teacher giving us all a take home. She also sent home a letter that our parents had to sign saying we didn't use any class room material or the books on the exam. My father was laughing his ass off when he was signing that document.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I see some new, expensive buildings being donated to Harvard in the near future.

  • Look, how surprising is this really? I'd say about as surprising as the sun rising. Our cultural icons don't just cheat (think performance enhancing drugs) but when they are caught the repercussions are so minor (at least as portrayed by the media) that it makes cheating almost mandatory because everyone does it and when things are competitive or, say, graded on a curve, you're kind of screwed into following suit.
  • by pscottdv (676889) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:39PM (#42771945)

    Who could have seen that coming?

  • by rknop (240417) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:46PM (#42771987) Homepage

    Getting caught!

    Our colleges are supposed to train our students to succeed in society. That means, we need to wee out the ones who are going to get caught when they cheat. The truly successful in our society are the ones who cheat without getting caught.

    I feel so cynical today.

  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday February 02, 2013 @12:59PM (#42772081) Homepage

    You can take this course on line. [harvard.edu] for $1,045 to $2000. At Harvard, I would have expected "Introduction to Congress" to be taught by an former member of Congress, but it's just an ordinary instructor.

    I'm watching the first video. At the beginning, the instructor says that all you need to know to start this course is that "Congress" exists. At 00:02:35, he's talking about the proposal to change the rules to prevent filibusters from stalling Congress (only the Senate, actually). The speaker is interesting, but if you don't already know a lot about American politics and the structure of Congress, you'll be totally lost.

  • With rampant grade inflation going on these days, especially at the high end schools (where everyone is above average, remember) these kids didn't have to cheat - just wait for the As to roll in.

    • by blanchae (965013)

      I agree whole heartedly. When I went to college and to a post secondary institute, you needed 90%+ to get an A, 80-89% got you a B. Now in the institute, I work at,
      an 80% will get you an A-, then 85% gets you an A and 90%+ gets you an A+. This marking scheme makes it almost impossible to get a poor grade.

  • CTTDBRATO (Score:4, Funny)

    by kreyg (103130) <(kreyg) (at) (shaw.ca)> on Saturday February 02, 2013 @01:56PM (#42772441) Homepage
    Can't Tell The Difference Between Reality And The Onion.
  • What were the instructions to the students taking the exam? What restrictions or instructions?

    I'm a teacher in a post secondary institute and all of my quizzes are take-home 'do it at your own time" within a specificed time frame using whatever resources you can find. It allows me to create exams that test more than just rote memorization and I can ask higher level questions that require an understanding of the problem. If you can't understand the question then you won't even know what to google for. I also

  • by drwho (4190)

    I wonder how many of the suspended students were from China. Having papers ghost-written, paying for smuggled out exam questions and answers, is quite an industry there. Then, they come to the US, and expect to be able to game the system the same way. In some schools, that works. Harvard is a bit more careful, generally, though this take-home exam was a really bad idea.

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