On the Flip Side
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 22:02
Policies Need Clarification
by Brenna Cass
The gray area that exists in the Harvard cheating scandal is too big to have had any of the students withdraw from the university because of it. The lack of clarity in the schools’ policy on collaboration definitely caused confusion among students in the class. In addition, the investigation of cheating is difficult, yet the punishment is very severe.
Before Harvard can condemn the students for cheating, the university needs to streamline their policies about what falls under “collaboration” and what falls under “cheating.” With a take-home final, instructions from professors and teaching assistants can often be vague about how much students are allowed to use input from other students in completing the assignment. Though blatant cheating, such as submitting identical answers to an essay question, should always be condemned, the university needs to determine how much leeway there is in collaboration so that there is no confusion among students when they are going into a take-home final or homework assignment.
Some Harvard students have pointed out the fact that not allowing collaboration at all would ruin part of the essential college spirit of a shared living environment in which ideas are shared among bright young minds. Forcing withdrawals of students who have collaborated could stop students from working together in any environment for fear of disciplinary repercussions, and end a culture of shared ideas that is as old as the institution itself.
The range of punishments for the students involved in the cheating scandal is also a difficult issue. Some students were forced to withdraw while others were put on disciplinary probation and still others were not punished at all. Though the school completed a thorough investigation of the students in the class, it is difficult to decide how much one person has cheated in relation to another. Perhaps one group of students that worked together could have been better at disguising their collaboration than another group. Though the difference in the cheating could have been minimal, the difference of punishments between having to withdraw from a university and being placed on disciplinary probation is huge. Being forced to withdraw can have a dramatic effect on a student’s life, especially at a school as prestigious as Harvard. The fine line of cheating and collaboration is one that needs to be better addressed at all educational institutions and made more clear to the students who are most affected by it.
Punishments Set Example
by Meghan Kelleher
Many would argue that the punishments surrounding the Harvard cheating scandal were too extreme. Because such a large number of students, many of whom were athletes, were involved, it would be easy to blame the wrongdoing on unclear expectations or instructions by the professor. This class was apparently known for being an easy class on campus. This laid back feel of the class probably led students to believe that their actions in collaborating on material would be ignored. However, Harvard’s disciplinary punishment for academic dishonesty has asked students to withdraw for two semesters, and if this case was not approached the way it was, Harvard would be making cheating more acceptable. At what is supposed to be the most prestigious university in the country, academic dishonesty should always be taken as seriously as possible. If Harvard is supposed to be setting the tone for our academic standards, the administrators at the university should do all that they can to promote individual work and to punish cheating in any way possible. The scandal tainted Harvard’s reputation for academic excellence, but if Harvard did not respond harshly, the lack of reaction would have reflected even more poorly on the university. The scandal surrounds a take-home exam from last spring semester at Harvard. If administrators did not punish as many students as they did, as harshly as they did, this form of testing would immediately appear to be a lesser form of testing than in class exams and would, therefore, allow students to believe that they can collaborate on take-home exams in the future. The punishments affected the athletes involved more than the non-athlete students because of the rules surrounding how many years of college sports an athlete is eligible to play. At most Division 1 schools, the athletics make the school, or at least make the school more appealing. Athletes, especially Division 1 athletes, are under much tighter media watch than non-athletes. Although all students represent their schools, athletes do so in a much more public manner. Many often forget that these idolized athletes are, first and foremost, students of the university at hand. Harvard administrators needed to punish students the way they did. The many athletes involved should not have received different punishment than any other student at the university. If Harvard allowed athletes to get away with the cheating in this scandal, it would reflect poorly on the university and on student athletes everywhere.