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One in ten Harvard freshmen admitted to cheating on exams

Posted by Your Town  September 6, 2013 11:58 AM

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In a survey of the Harvard freshman class, one in ten students admitted to cheating on an exam, and 42 percent said they cheated on a homework assignment or problem set, according to The Harvard Crimson.

The student newspaper surveyed more than 1,300 students from the class of 2017, or nearly 80 percent of the freshman class.

A year ago, Harvard announced that it was investigating whether a “significant number” of the 250 students in an undergraduate course cheated on a final exam. In February, the school confirmed that more than half of the Harvard students investigated by a college board were ordered to withdraw from the school.

According to the results of the survey, ten percent of the incoming class admitted to cheating on an exam, and 17 percent said they had cheated on a take-home assignment or paper. Forty-two percent said they had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set.

Jeff Neal, a spokesman for Harvard, said in an e-mailed statement that studies by Rutgers University Professor Donald McCabe and other experts have shown that cheating is a national problem, and that it is made worse by technology.

"Even though this is a national problem, the numbers reported from the student newspaper’s informal survey align with the decision Harvard College made last year to take action," Neal said in the statement.

The Crimson also said that the class of 2017 reported higher rates of cheating than did the most recent graduating class. In a survey last spring 7 percent of seniors said they had cheated on an exam, and 7 percent reported cheating on a paper or take-home exam. A total of 32 percent said they had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set during their time at Harvard.

Neal wrote that Harvard has taken steps to reduce cheating; for example, the university gave presentations to students during orientation.

"While the vast majority of Harvard and other students do their work honestly, beginning this year Harvard College has implemented a new, more robust strategy of communicating with all students, particularly first-year students, about the importance – and the ways to achieve – academic integrity," Neal wrote.

Neal said that a committee of faculty, staff, and students is working on recommendations to "better support academic integrity on our campus."

"At the end of this process, we hope that Harvard will not only continue to beat national averages in reports of cheating, but also strengthen Harvard's culture of integrity, in which cheating is the rare exception," he said.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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