Cheating at Harvard puts academic culture to a test.

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More than 100 Harvard students received a serious letter from their University that they are under investigation for cheating and may be punished. The letter from the Dean was widely reprinted.
The students were in the political science class “Introduction to Congress” and took an “open-book, open-note, open internet, take home” final examination. As the high number of investigations indicates many of them factually added “open collaboration” to the loose conditions. Details are still under investigation but evidently ideas and drafts circulated and some of them served as prototypes for many papers handed in. Over a hundred of these individually written theses out of the collaborative effort were labeled by the University as possible plagiarisms. However, at least some of the students argued that collaboration is not only frequent with regard to such papers, but its development is also a goal for studying and was not explicitly against any rule.
The case is exciting in the US media. “Harvard” and “educational standards” are more or less synonymous. The incident gives many perspectives depending on political and academic preferences. Conservatives see the “academic honor” coming to an end or are concerned about too easy examinations and too liberal lecturers. However progressives come close to praising the new spirit of collaboration at academic institutions. Some like Alexandra Petri contributing to “The Washington Post” see the incident as a paradigm of the US culture not allowing for failure and consequently pressuring students to take the easiest route. The case is a good example of the importance of formal and informal rules in a changing academic culture. Is everything which is not explicitly forbidden, allowed and to what extent change the social media something which has always happened at school and in Universities, namely to peek into the notes of friends and colleagues?