Cheating Scandal To Be Reviewed Case-by-Case

After a report circulated over the past few days claiming that Harvard had devised a tiered punishment scheme to uniformly sanction any students found guilty of cheating in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress,” a Harvard spokesperson reaffirmed the College’s statement that it will resolve each case in the sweeping plagiarism investigation on an individual basis.

On Sunday, IvyGate, a blog that covers news and gossip from the eight Ivy League universities, published the contents of an email from “a tipster” claiming to know how the Administrative Board will issue decisions to students in the scandal.

Citing his or her resident dean, the tipster identified four ways the Ad Board would proceed in specific circumstances—ranging from possible exoneration for students whose similar answers resulted from notes or study guides shared before the exam came out, to a failing course grade and a requirement to temporarily withdraw from the College for students who discussed the exam while it was out.

One student under investigation, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because he did not want it known that he is being investigated for academic dishonesty, said he had also heard “through the grapevine” that administrators had drafted a tiered punishment scheme. Like other students, he said he has not yet heard from the Ad Board what, if any, punishment he personally is likely to face.

The Crimson received an email nearly identical to the one which was published on IvyGate, from a source who identified himself only by initials and an anonymous Yahoo email address. The source would not provide his name to Crimson editors, even on condition of anonymity, and Faculty of Arts and Sciences spokesperson Jeff Neal reiterated in an emailed statement that the Ad Board will investigate and issue decisions to students on a case-by-case basis.

“Every case will be reviewed by the Administrative Board individually and will be resolved in accordance with its ordinary policies and procedures, based on the rules of the faculty and the particular circumstances that pertain to the particular student,” Neal wrote.

According to the Ad Board website, the Board must be “sufficiently persuaded” of a student’s guilt to issue punishment. The severity of those penalties depends on both the gravity of the infraction and any “extenuating circumstances,” including a student’s past disciplinary history.

Sanctions for an academic integrity infraction can either preserve or remove a student’s “good standing” at the College.

Possible punishments that do not change a student’s status include an admonition, a mandatory re-do or a failing grade on the assignment in question, a course grade penalty, or a transcript mark equivalent to no credit for the course.

Sanctions that take away a student’s “good standing” at Harvard including a probationary period or a requirement to withdraw from Harvard, typically for a year.

Neal declined to comment on whether the Ad Board has issued decisions yet to any students implicated the scandal.

The same anonymous student who had heard rumors about a punishment scheme said that Ellison told him in a personal meeting that he could expect a decision by November at the latest.

Neal also declined to comment on possible punishments for students under investigation who took the course as seniors and have already left Harvard.

An anonymous alumnus, who graduated in May and learned this summer that he was being investigated, said he is still in the dark about the repercussions he could face.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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