The scope of the case is "unprecedented in anyone's living memory."
Harvard College's disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: "Introduction to Congress" last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class' final take-home exam.
Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the magnitude of the case was "unprecedented in anyone's living memory."
Harris declined to name the course, but several students familiar with the investigation confirmed that Professor Matthew B. Platt's spring government lecture course was the class in question.
The professor of the course brought the case to the Administrative Board in May after noticing similarities in 10 to 20 exams, Harris said. During the summer, the Ad Board conducted a review of all final exams submitted for the course and found about 125 of them to be suspicious.
Platt declined The Crimson's request for comment.
If found guilty of academic dishonesty, students could be required to withdraw from the College for a year, among other possible sanctions.
The final examination in "Introduction to Congress," which included three multi-part short answer questions, a bonus short answer question, and an essay question, came with the instruction: "The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc. However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others-this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc."
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith sent an email to all faculty members about the case, and Harris also sent a message to the student body and their parents on Thursday. That letter said that all students who are under investigation have been contacted.
Harris said the College's unusual step of announcing the investigation was intended in part to launch a broader conversation about academic integrity.
Cheating has been a cottage industry forever in college. Now, it's big business. With so much at stake, some students - and parents - are willing to pay thousands of dollars for papers, test answers, and the like.
"You're only cheating yourself," they used to tell us. Apparently, many Harvard undergrads don't mind doing that at all.