Staples co-founder blasts Harvard over cheating scandal

Tom Stemberg
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Tom Stemberg is a co-founder of Staples.

Harvard alumnus Thomas G. Stemberg, co-founder of Staples, Inc., has written a strongly worded letter to President Drew G. Faust condemning university officials for their handling of last semester’s cheating scandal and calling their approach “Orwellian.”

Harvard College officials recently announced that they have issued verdicts to the approximately 125 students who were accused of cheating on their “Intro to Congress” final this past spring, and will announce the results of the investigation at the beginning of the upcoming semester.

In the letter, which was first leaked by The Harvard Crimson and later obtained by the Globe, Stemberg said that as an alumnus of more than 40 years as well as a Harvard parent, he had never felt the need to write a letter of complaint.


Stemberg said that he personally knows a number of the undergraduates who are being punished, but that he decided to write a letter after speaking with two former deans at Harvard.

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“I write this only after discussing the matter with two former Deans of Harvard College, who not only confirmed my dissatisfaction, but amplified it,” he said.

He wrote that some students in the Congress class “clearly went too far” by cutting and pasting answers, and it was appropriate to reprimand those students.

But he added that “others did no more than write answers from notes that were derived in the collaborative atmosphere the class encouraged,” and that punishing this group was wrong.

Stemberg goes on to write that the university has damaged the reputations of innocent students.


He ended the letter with, “as an alumnus, how can one come to any conclusion other than the University has a bloated bureaucracy so intent on being politically correct, that its students and its mission are forgotten?”

A Harvard spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment.

In a statement released when the cheating scandal became public, Harvard President Drew Faust said that the allegations “if proven, represent totally unacceptable behavior that betrays the trust upon which intellectual inquiry at Harvard depends. . . . There is work to be done to ensure that every student at Harvard understands and embraces the values that are fundamental to its community of scholars.”

The Globe and other news organizations have reported that Harvard athletes were among those implicated.