Thursday, February 28, 2013

The culture of cheating at Harvard College

On a Thursday night in the spring of 2012, students huddled in study groups in Lamont Café, racing against the clock to finish an assignment due the next day. Notes and textbooks were shared, suggestions passed back and forth. There were dozens of students there, or at least enough that voices echoed to amplify the buzz of discussion.

The task’s guidelines for completion were hazy, and the fact that the course had many section leaders with varying expectations heightened the confusion. It was easy for members in the crowd to help each other out. For those who didn’t understand, didn’t have time, or just didn’t care, group work turned into copying.

That summer, after Lamont had emptied out for the semester, the accusations came. The cheating was “unprecedented in anyone's living memory,” according to Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris.

But the students who had collaborated in Lamont that spring evening faced no accusations. They had not been enrolled in Government 1310.

The students in Lamont, who were described by a fellow classmate, had been working on a problem set for Economics 10. ...

“Collaboration,” recalls Igor Liokumovich ’15, who took Ec 10 last spring, of the general environment surrounding the course. “It wasn’t that. It wasn’t collaboration on homework; it was passed down very much the same as I heard the scandal was.” He pauses. “But I feel like it’s like that with any large class, you know? I don’t think it was specific to Ec 10.”

Liokumovich jokingly recalls “200 freshman in Lamont Café, trying to scramble to get stuff together” as they completed their problem sets.

“Because only your section TF grades your work, and if you have friends from six different sections,” he adds, “there’s no way you’d get caught.”