Harvard stripped of four Quiz Bowl championships after student improperly accessed information

Question: Who was just disqualified for breaking the rules during four National Academic Quiz Tournaments?

Answer: Harvard University.

In a statement posted on its website, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments organization said it has reviewed the logs of its computer servers and discovered that a member of the Harvard team for three years, Andy Watkins, improperly accessed information on questions prepared for use during the competitions.

Watkins, the organization said, apparently did not use his knowledge once the games began. Watkins was one of three writers for the group who also participated in the academic competition for their colleges.

The NAQT has previously sanctioned another writer, Joshua Alman, who had competed for MIT, for similar infractions, although they also alleged that he accessed questions and answers. In his case, the group said, its review of his performance in competitions showed marked improvement.


“Unlike in the previous case, NAQT has neither direct nor statistical evidence that these writers took advantage of their prior access in game situations, but the mere possession of it goes against competitors’ expectations of fair play,’’ the group said on its website.

The disqualifications were first reported by the website Inside Higher Ed. They come as Harvard is still grappling with the after-effects of a widespread cheating scandal.

In February, more than half of the roughly 125 Harvard students investigated by the college’s disciplinary board for cheating on a take-home exam last spring were forced to temporarily withdraw. In the class, an introduction to government, students were accused of jointly coming up with answers or copying off one another.

The NAQT stripped the Harvard’s A team national championships in the following categories and years:

2009: The new undergraduate champion is University of Minnesota

2010: The new Division 1 champion is the University of Chicago.

2011: The new Division 1 champion is the University of Minnesota.

2011: The new undergraduate champion is Virginia Commonwealth University.

The posting included a statement attributed to Watkins, who admitted he erred in accessing the information, but insisted that he did not cheat.

“I know everyone will make their own judgments, I did compete in good faith,’’ he wrote.


Watkins also said that despite the decision to strip his teammates of their national titles, he will “hold my teammates from all three years to be champions today exactly as they were yesterday. I hope that they will consider themselves in the same light, even if my indiscretions mean that the record books cannot.’’

He added an explanation for his actions: “My immaturity damaged my much-prized relationship with NAQT and cast undue doubt on three remarkable accomplishments by three Harvard teams. It will surprise no one that my mental health as an undergraduate was always on the wrong side of ‘unstable,’ but that does not excuse my actions, nor does it ameliorate the damage done. I apologize to my teammates, to NAQT, and to the community for how my actions sullied three amazing years of competition.’’

Loading Comments...