In But when does it go too far?

In September of 2012, over 100 students at Harvard were accused of cheating on their Introduction to Congress final. Taught by Matthew B. Platt, was known as one of the easiest classes at Harvard, with good grades handed to the students sometimes without even showing up to class.     The final, given in May of 2012, was a take-home final. Meaning, the students did it on their own time, and had several different resources at their fingertips. Considering the reputation of the class, many students were shocked at how difficult the open-notes take-home exam was. The students solution to such a hard exam was to work collaboratively, something they believed to be encouraged in the classroom. However, the rules spoke otherwise, clearly stating that besides the open book, open internet, etc, it was to be treated like a regular in class exam, meaning no collaborating.     Farhad Manjoo, from The Slate, argues that in the working world, there will not be many times were you cannot work together. Collaboration is important to share different ideas, stories and experiences. But when does it go too far? The students at Harvard claim that the questions on the final were written to “trick them”. The questions went beyond memorizing and recalling facts, but rather made them think before writing. Administrators said that some students gave completely identical answers to the essay questions, even having the same spelling mistakes. With the same spelling mistakes it was clear the students had worked together or plagiarized them. Students fought back to that accusation saying the misspellings were due to sharing notes or sitting in a session with the same teaching fellow. Many other students have argued that when sharing notes, there are bound to be similar answers, that doesn’t mean anyone cheated.     Of the 279 students enrolled in the class, about half were suspected for cheating, and after review of their cases, about half of them were actually disciplined. The dean of Harvard, Michael D. Smith, wrote letters to students and faculty sharing that the half who had been fully accused cheating, were to be withdrawn from the school. The remaining other half, who had only been accused of cheating but not withdrawn from the school, received disciplinary probation but could be enrolled into the school after two to four semesters.     After this cheating scandal, and after a year off of school, those who were asked to take a year or two off returned back to Harvard. As a result of the cheating, teachers at Harvard have become much stricter about their ethical standards of the class, there is also a cheating presentation that is now presented to the incoming freshman. The university is also showing the importance of academic integrity, and enforcing how much the honor code really means to the school. In March of 2013, administrators admitted to searching through emails of the junior teachers also  accused of assisting in cheating, in attempt to find the source of the cheating. This led to a protest by faculty called the breach of trust, many employees found the invasion of privacy very uneasy. With the uneasy faculty members, and the self conscious students walking the paths of Harvard, students still feel unsure about what happened. The students are convinced they did nothing wrong, and the teachers should have clearly explained how they expected the take home test to be done. On the other hand, the teachers believe it is the student’s responsibility to read the syllabus about the restrictions of collaboration of take home exams. Harvard is held to a very high standard, and the students are as well, but at what point does a miscommunication between students and teacher become nationwide news?  


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