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Letter from Harvard dean to students on cheating investigation

Important message from Dean Harris

Dear Students,

I am writing to alert you to deeply disturbing allegations of academic dishonesty involving a significant number of Harvard College students, and to remind you of every student’s duty to embrace our ideals regarding, as well as the specific rules governing, academic integrity.

As detailed in this Harvard Gazette story, the College Administrative Board is currently reviewing allegations that students in one spring class may have committed acts of academic dishonesty, ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism, on a take-home final exam. This summer, a careful and comprehensive review by the Administrative Board of every exam from the class found that nearly half of the more than 250 enrolled students may have worked together in groups of varying size to develop and/or share answers.


Every student whose work is under review has already been contacted by the Administrative Board. If you have not been contacted by the Board, your work is not being reviewed by the Administrative Board.

In the coming weeks, the Administrative Board will meet with each student whose work is in question, seek to understand all the relevant facts, and determine whether any Faculty rules were violated. To date, the Board has come to no judgments.

Although no cases have been decided, this alarming set of allegations requires, in our view, a new campus-wide discussion among faculty, students, and administrators about academic honesty. As a first step, I ask you today to familiarize yourself with the Student Handbook rules - which were approved by the Faculty - regarding collaboration on assignments and all other rules pertaining to academic dishonesty. If you are uncertain how the rules apply in a specific situation, ask a member of the teaching staff.

Similarly, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith has asked faculty members to review their syllabi to ensure that the collaboration policies for their classes are clear, to discuss academic integrity with their students, and to work with each other to share best practices.


More is necessary, though, than simply knowing rules and refining practices. We must all work together to build a community that fully embraces the ethos of integrity that is the foundation of all learning and discovery. Without integrity, there can be no genuine achievement.

To that end, we will, among other measures, work with House Masters and Resident Deans to convene a series of conversations about academic integrity issues in the Houses, taking advantage of Harvard’s unique residential life system to promote House-level dialogue on a community-wide scale.

Harvard takes academic integrity very seriously because it goes to the heart of our educational mission, as Dean Smith has said. Academic dishonesty cannot and will not be tolerated. I join him, President Faust, and College Dean Evelynn Hammonds in hoping we can all use today’s news to foster a culture of honesty and integrity in everything we do as members of the Harvard community.

Sincerely yours,

Jay Harris

Dean of Undergraduate Education

Harry Austryn Wolfson Professor of Jewish Studies