Harvard University is reexamining its academic honesty policies
and reiterating them to students amid an investigation into some 125
students who may have plagiarized or collaborated inappropriately on
a take-home final exam last spring.
The case could resonate far beyond the Ivy League colleges
Cambridge, Mass., campus as universities nationwide struggle with a
major gap between students and faculty members sense of what
constitutes acceptable behavior, higher education experts say.
Collaborating and taking material from the Internet are becoming
part of the student psyche, so they dont report it as cheating, says
Donald McCabe, a professor of management at Rutgers University.
In surveys from 2006 to 2012, 60 percent of nonfreshmen college
students said they had cheated, Mr. McCabe says. Thats down from 68
percent in 2002-06 but rather than a decline in actual cheating,
his research suggests fewer students now realize that what theyre
doing counts as cheating.
Thats echoed in other recent surveys. About 6 in 10 four-year
colleges report an increase in cheating and plagiarizing since 2001,
and 46 percent say students understanding of plagiarism has
declined, says Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson
National Fellowship Foundation and co-author of a recent book on
Mr. Levine recounts the view of one dean of students: that soon,
course syllabi will be as big as the Manhattan phonebook, because
faculty have to spell out everything: what constitutes plagiarism,
whether they are allowed to use digital devices in class, even that
they are not allowed to come to class intoxicated.
Harvard announced Thursday that its Administrative Board reviewed
more than 250 take-home final exams after a faculty member reported
similarities between some answers. That resulted in about half of
those students being brought before the board. If found guilty of
academic dishonesty, one possible result could be a one-year
suspension from Harvard.
These allegations, if proven, represent totally unacceptable
behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at
Harvard depends, said Harvard President Drew Faust.
I respect Harvard for taking this out in the open, says McCabe,
who notes that many campuses try to avoid publicity when cheating
Students on Harvards campus Friday say cheating is not widespread
and that students do understand the importance of the academic code.
Its implicit in the student body, says sophomore Taylor Phillips.
That is the advantage of coming to a school like this.
Collaboration rules are set on a class-by-class basis, students