The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is facing a cheating scandal involving at least 73 cadets. The students stand accused of sharing answers on an online calculus test last spring.
Of the involved students, 72 were first-year students, better known as “plebes” around the academy. A single additional student was in his second-year. So far, 58 of the accused cadets have admitted to cheating on the May exam, which they were forced to take online as a result of the pandemic. Six additional cases were dropped; four of whom were students who resigned from West Point and two for lack of evidence.
Last spring, a test grader noticed that multiple students made a similar uncommon error on the calculus exam. The irregularity led to an investigation that launched upon the return of cadets to campus in June. By fall, over seventy students received notice that they had been named in the inquiry. Lt. Col. Christopher Ophart, a West Point spokesperson, attributes the widescale cheating entirely to the fact that students had to test remotely, as opposed to in-person.
And while the massive breach would be troubling at any university, it casts a particular shadow over West Point. The Military Academy is one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions and it functions under a strict honor code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”
It is not yet clear how the academy plans to punish those students who do not admit their involvement in the scheme. Those who have confessed, however, will become subject to the school’s “willful admissions” probation system. That includes mandatory classes on ethics and the honor code.
Blame the Pandemic
Despite the heat, the academy’s leadership is advocating for a judicious process. Col. Mark Weather, the West Point chief of staff, said he was “disappointed” in the behavior, but did not consider the cheating to be a proper breach of conduct. He argues that most of the cadets would not have cheated had they taken the exam in a classroom. (This argument sounds weak coming from an institution that touts an honor code. It implies the code only works when people are being watched, a low standard).
Of course, West Point is not the only school to report issues of academic integrity amid the pandemic. Last week, a “large number” of University of Chicago students were accused of copying code from each other for final exams, though the university has not clarified how many. Additionally, many primary and secondary schoolteachers have reported difficulty in monitoring student behavior, and ensuring high levels of academic honesty as they teach remotely.
As for West Point, USA Today, which first reported the story, says that the Academy has not faced such a cheating scandal since 1976, when 150 cadets were involved.
Reprinted with permission from https://werax.com/over-70-cadets-under-fire-in-west-point-cheating-scandal/
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