Incoming Cheaters of 2017
Plenty of incoming Harvard freshmen admit to having cheated on schoolwork. But it’s likely not Harvard’s problem alone.
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The Responsibility Project
In the past year, Harvard University has been the object of a fair amount of derision for its cheating students. Last year, we wrote about the Harvard Crimson’s report that the university’s disciplinary board was investigating nearly half of the 279 students that took an Introduction to Congress class after evidence of plagiarism and cheating arose. In February, after the investigation, the school forced nearly 60 students to withdraw from school for up to a year. Just one month later, the school was stripped of four quiz tournament titles from the National Academic Quiz Tournament from 2009 to 2011 after organizers found that a student had access to the questions before the tournaments.
Is Harvard full of cheaters? The Crimson itself wanted to know, and conducted a survey of 1,300 incoming freshmen – nearly 80 percent – of the Class of 2017. After going public a year ago with the investigation, the Crimson wrote, “Administrators went to great lengths to promote a culture of academic integrity in the Harvard community.” But the results of the survey, which asked incoming students about their academic honesty, showed some less than stellar results. Ten percent of surveyed freshmen admitted to cheating on an exam before coming to Harvard, and 42 percent admitted to cheating on a homework assignment or problem set.
The likeliest cheaters: recruited athletes – 20 percent of whom admitted to cheating on an exam, compared with 9 percent of non-recruits. Across the board, it noted, the incoming freshman class reported higher cheating rates than last year’s senior class. Male freshmen were also twice as likely as females to have cheated on an exam and one-and-a-half times more likely to admit to cheating on a paper or take-home assignment.
But in a Bloomberg article about the survey, Zara Kessler wrote that “we shouldn’t be overly harsh on Harvard; the percentages probably wouldn’t be much different elsewhere.” And despite the cheating admissions from the Class of 2017, 84 percent anticipated that their first priority at school would be academics. Also interesting to note, although you might expect that external pressure would be the primary culprit for encouraging cheating behavior, 82 percent of the students said their greatest source of pressure was their own expectations.
Anecdotally, do you believe cheating is more prevalent now than ever, or does technology just make it easier to cheat? Does external pressure breed cheaters, or are ambitious, competitive people just more likely to cheat? Are you alarmed by the rising numbers in the Harvard poll? Weigh in.