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The school has suspended students for academic dishonesty before. At least one case was famous: As a freshman in 1951, future senator Edward Kennedy had to withdraw for two years after sending a friend to take a Spanish final in his place.
Harvard’s Administrative Board voted on 197 new cases of academic misbehavior in 2009-2010, the most recent year for which data were available. It chose to intensely monitor 144 of those students, suspend 42, and ask four to permanently withdraw. In only seven cases did it take no action.
Other elite universities have suffered large cheating scandals in recent years.
In 2007, 34 first-year students at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business collaborated on a take-home exam and other assignments; 24 were punished with suspension or expulsion. In 2000, Dartmouth College investigated 78 students accused of cheating in a basic computer science course. A college committee interviewed 27 students and pored over 500 pages of evidence. Then, its members threw up their hands — they still could not determine who had cheated and who had not, and had to absolve all 78 students for fear of wrongly punishing one.
Yet Thursday in Harvard Yard — where freshmen have just started moving in — the situation seemed straightforward enough to some. Megan Taing, 18, said she was confused and surprised.
“I can understand the pressure of having a really hard assignment,” she said. “But they have to own up to it.”
Globe correspondent Melanie Dostis contributed to this report. Mary Carmichael can be reached at email@example.com.