With news that nearly half of the 279 Harvard undergraduates enrolled in an “Introduction to Congress” class have been accused of cheating on the final exam, the university has been immersed in some understandable soul-searching. Blame has been cast far and wide — on everything from today’s entitled youthto the temptations of the take-home final to Harvard’s tendency toward grade inflation.
In the end, culpability will lie with the 125 students in question, who allegedly turned in strikingly similar answers on a take-home test last spring. So far, some have complained that the test instructions — which described the exam as “open-book, open-note, open-Internet etc.” — were misleadingly vague. But the instructions also stated that “students may not discuss the exam with others.” The trouble is that students approached the test with the understanding, it seems, that no one, from their classmates to their professor, took the course as seriously as they should have from the start.