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CAMBRIDGE, MA – In the midst of a chaotic Harvard University investigation of possible student cheating, the chair of the disciplinary board slapped her hand on the table, Tuesday, and insisted that “absolutely everyone” at the university will stay after classes “until we get to the bottom of this.” Some of the accused giggled a little, and the chair, Sharon Basset glared at them and said, “I don’t think this is funny. Not funny at all.”
School officials said they are not saying who told, but that they heard that over a hundred students may have shared answers or plagiarized on a take-home final exam. They declined to release the names of the students, until notes could be sent home to their parents and employers. The alleged cheating took place over a year ago, and many of the accused have graduated and received high paying jobs, already forgetting many of their friends and experiences at Harvard.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a large representation of accused students strongly denied they had done anything wrong. “The professor clearly displayed a giant PowerPoint slide at the beginning of the semester that explained the final exam was open book, open note, and open Internet,” said one of the accused males. Before the exam, most of the class waited for the smart students to post their exam answers online, and then they accessed them “in line with the teacher’s instructions.”
One of the accused female students said that “proper cheating involves direct copying and pasting within a word-processing document,” and none of them did that. She insists she and others read the smart students’ answers online and then “carefully retyped them with our own laptops in our own rooms next to our own energy drinks.” She said many students greatly altered online answers by leaving out prepositions, and several omitted verbs entirely. “That’s not cheating. That’s creative collaboration.”
The Harvard course in question was an introductory political science course, titled “The Values of Congress.” Some of the accused admitted violating Harvard rules but added that the course “succeeded in instilling congressional values in us.” He explained that the bulk of congressional lawmaking involves “giving special legal privileges to influential and powerful interests so they can excel by holding competitors down. We did just that.”
The professor who taught the course has not been named publicly, but in leaked testimony before the disciplinary board, he admitted that the test was indeed “open book, open Internet” but that he understood that to mean that students might use “an online dictionary or even a line or two from Wikipedia.” He said he suspected at least 5 of the 125 accused students “did a bit more copying and pasting than is acceptable to me. They had far too many identical prepositions.”
In answering the charge that the exam was unbelievably hard and thus created pressure on students to share work, the professor conceded that the exam included material not discussed in his political science class, such as physics and anatomy problems, that that “Harvard students are expected to be able to handle challenges and obstacles,” since, after they graduate, everything gets handed to them.
In fact, the scandal has been a boon to many of the accused students. Many had graduated but still hadn’t found typical Harvard, upper-level employment. When details came out about how well and efficiently some of these students collaborated, several companies snatched up the unemployed students right away. “In the real world, collaboration is key to business growth and creativity. It’s really hard to find good collaborators,” said Brannen & Miller CEO Jeff Keller. He noted that he has to retrain most graduates “to be more open and less selfish with their work.” He didn’t have to do that with these graduates, “except when it comes to keeping secrets from our competitors, then we have to re-Harvard them.”
The university’s disciplinary board appeared largely unmoved by the student explanations. One member of the board, professor emeritus Herbert Narthenson explained, “I understand many of today’s students are more often experimenting with this interweb thing, but that shouldn’t make it easier to share information.” Another board member, Thomas Howell, professor of ancient Greek archaeology, said that the imposition of campus-wide detentions, which includ3e janitorial and food staff, went too far. He suggested that the problem might be more “humanely and narrowly” resolved by offering the current academic dean as a sacrifice to Hermes.
An ad hoc committee formed from representatives of competing Ivy League schools, Yale and Princeton, resisted talk of offering Harvard administrators as burnt offerings, but suggested that the Harvard disciplinary board consider “vacating as suspect” all Harvard degrees granted in the past two decades until the board comes to some final resolution of the scandal. “Just a suggestion,” they reiterated.
©2012 Off the Grid News