In an apparent disclosure about the Harvard cheating scandal, a top university official said Friday that more than half of the Harvard students investigated by a college board have been ordered to withdraw from the school.
Of the remaining cases, approximately half the students received disciplinary probation, while the rest of the cases were dismissed.
Smith's e-mail does not explicitly address the cheating scandal that implicated about 125 Harvard students. But a Harvard official confirmed Friday that the cases in the email solely referred to one course.
In August, Harvard disclosed the cheating scandal in a Spring 2012 class. It was widely reported to be Government 1310: Introduction to Congress.
"Consistent with the Faculty's rules and our obligations to our students, we do not report individual outcomes of Administrative Board cases, but only report aggregate statistics," the e-mail said. "In that tradition, the College reports that somewhat more than half of the Administrative Board cases this past fall required a student to withdraw from the College for a period of time. Of the remaining cases, roughly half the students received disciplinary probation, while the balance ended in no disciplinary action.''
Smith wrote that the first set of cases were decided in late September, and the remainder were resolved in December.
The e-mail said that "The time span of the resolutions in this set had an undesirable interaction with our established schedule for tuition refunds. To create a greater amount of financial equity for all students who ultimately withdrew sometime in this period, we are treating, for the purpose of calculating tuition refunds, all these students as having received a requirement to withdraw on September 30, 2012."
In a statement released when the cheating scandal became public, Harvard president Drew Faust said that the allegations, “if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends. . . . There is work to be done to ensure that every student at Harvard understands and embraces the values that are fundamental to its community of scholars.”
As Harvard students returned to classes for the current semester, professsors included explicit instructions about collaboration on the class syllabus.
On campus Friday afternoon, students reacted to the news.
Michael Constant, 19, said he thinks the college wanted to make a statement with its decision. But when over half of the students in a class cheat, not punishing them is the same as condoning the behavior.
“I think it’s fair,” Constant said of the board’s disciplinary action. “They made the choice to cheat.”
Georgina Parfitt, 22, said the punishment for these students was too harsh, and that many students in the class could have been confused about the policy.
Parfitt said she does not know what the college is trying to achieve by forcing students to leave.
“Sending someone away for a semester or a year, it’s awful,” she said. “It changes someone’s life.”
Harold Eyster, 19, said that while he thinks students who cheat should be punished, he has mostly been disappointed with the college’s response to the scandal. Professors are now forbidding collaboration among students, which Eyster he feels could negatively impact learning at Havard. For example in math classes, students are increasingly not allowed to work with others on their problem sets.
“It’s bad,” he said. “Collaboration is so important in academic learning.”
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