Aggregation: Cheating scandal roils Harvard, helps Harvard grad with a book to sell

It’s a Harvard day in news aggregation:

The Harvard Crimson — and much of the rest of the known world — has been reporting on the cheating scandal in its Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” class, in which almost half of its 279 students are accused of plagiarizing answers or collaborating on an open book, take-home final.

The numbers were “unprecedented” in Harvard memory, Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said in the Crimson on Thursday.

If found guilty, the students would have punishments including having to withdraw from the college for a year.

The Crimson followed up Saturday with a story saying “several of the roughly 125 students implicated in the case say they are frustrated by the uncertainty they face as Harvard’s disciplinary board debates if and how to punish them.”

One student said, according to the Crimson’s Mercer R. Cook and Rebecca D. Robbins:

… the Administrative Board process has left him unable to make plans for the new semester that begins on Tuesday as he waits to hear whether he will be forced to withdraw from Harvard.

“I don’t know whether to unpack for the year or not,” said the student, who was granted anonymity by The Crimson because he did not want it known that he is suspected of cheating. “Do I buy textbooks? … Because you can’t go on as if everything’s okay, because everything’s not okay.”

In Salon, an anonymous student paints assistant professor Matthew Platt as selling his course as a blow-off. “That’s why people took the class in the past: fun lecture, goofy class, you go in and go out, you know … we took the class with the same assumption,” he told the site’s Alex Halperin.“Harvard chose to go public with this story to first and foremost save their own asses. They wanted to get the version that they wanted out to the public first. Why did they do this? A large number of the students involved had threatened to go public with this unfair process and an even larger number of students have already lawyered up and are preparing to sue the college, professor platt, and every single TF in the course. Myself included.”

In other Harvard doings, a 2008 graduate once caught up in a cheating scheme has a book out about the school called “That Book about Harvard: Surviving the World’s Most Famous University, One Embarrassment at a Time,” which Deadspin and other Gawker Media properties excerpted Friday. Eric Kester is described as having written a popular column for the Crimson and becoming a featured writer for CollegeHumor.com as well as a contributor to The Boston Globe, someEcards.com and Dorkly.com. But the excerpt focuses on his time on the Harvard football team, mainly on the pseudonymous Coach Mac and the coach’s efforts to get Kester to gain weight:

Other times Coach Mac would try to be discreet, like when he would sneak up to me while I was bench-pressing and stuff powdered donuts in my mouth. He would also sit with me after almost every practice, tossing handfuls of protein bars at me the way a kid might throw peanuts at a depressed animal in the zoo. It was at one of these feeding sessions that Coach Mac first suggested I try a supplement called “creatine,” a performance enhancer that was gaining popularity with athletes seeking to gain muscle.

“It will help you pack on weight, and it isn’t even illegal yet,” Coach Mac explained, handing me a giant bottle of the white powder. “Just mix it with water and drink it before and after every workout. Personally, I like to add a couple scoops to my coffee every morning. Nothing like caffeine and creatine to get your day going. It’s like killing two birds with one sledgehammer!”

“Isn’t this kind of dangerous?” I asked. “What are the side effects?”

Coach Mac snatched the container back from me and inspected the label on the back. His eyes grew wide. “Oh dear,” he said gravely. “It says here that ‘side effects may include getting fucking huge, with occasional bouts of manliness.’” He shoved the can of creatine back in my arms. “Stop being such a Sally and take out your tampon. Get with the goddam program.”

Kester has been talking about the current cheating scandal in the Mail Online and with ABC News, where he said, “When I was a student there, I definitely noticed there was a culture of cheating … There’s a lot of pressure internally and externally to succeed at Harvard and when kids who are not used to failing feel these things, it can really bend their ethics in ways I didn’t expect to see.”

Still, he said, “It comes down to the responsibility of the students. They’re adults, they know cheating is wrong. That’s the bottom line.”

Kester is due to speak 7 p.m. Sept. 13 at The Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square as part of the September Author Series at The Coop.

 

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