You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Editorial

Quiz bowl cheating: Say it ain’t so, Harvard and MIT

In the 1950s, the whole nation was shocked by revelations that TV game show contestants were secretly given the correct answers. Today, in the age of steroid scandals and voter fraud, it’s hard to shock the nation about any kind of cheating. But it’s still disappointing to learn that Harvard and MIT have been stripped of championship titles in national quiz tournaments after audits revealed that a student from each team accessed questions in advance.

They were able to get at the questions because they also wrote questions for matches involving other universities. Because of a security flaw, they were also able to see the first few words of questions being prepared for many competitions, including their own.

Continue reading below

Both students insist they didn’t use any information gleaned from the college quiz bowl website to their advantage. However, their individual performances dramatically improved afterwards. After investigating the breaches, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments LLC stripped Harvard of championships in 2009 and 2010, and in two categories in 2011; MIT was previously stripped of wins in 2012.

These two institutions represent the gold standard for academic achievement. Yet in this instance, the two students who inappropriately accessed the quiz bowl website were too clever for their own good and for the good of the institutions they represent.

Perhaps they were driven by arrogance or a misplaced kind of competitive drive. Then again, maybe it was pressure to live up to expectations about how Harvard or MIT students should perform in such a contest. Their motivation doesn’t matter. The appearance of cheating does. While it may no longer shock the world, it still has the power to embarrass, and that’s exactly what it did.

Loading comments...
Subscriber Log In

We hope you've enjoyed your 5 free articles'

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Already a subscriber?
Your city. Your stories. Your Globe.
Yours FREE for two weeks.
Enjoy free unlimited access to Globe.com for the next two weeks.
Limited time only - No credit card required!
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.
Thanks & Welcome to Globe.com
You now have unlimited access for the next two weeks.
BostonGlobe.com complimentary digital access has been provided to you, without a subscription, for free starting today and ending in 14 days. After the free trial period, your free BostonGlobe.com digital access will stop immediately unless you sign up for BostonGlobe.com digital subscription. Current print and digital subscribers are not eligible for the free trial.