Nearly Half of Harvard’s Incoming Freshmen Admit to Cheating

Harvard administrators seemed surprised that they had to deal with a much-publicized cheating scandal last year, but perhaps they should have seen it coming — at least if the makeup of the university’s latest freshman class is any indicator. According to survey results published by The Harvard Crimson newspaper, nearly 50% of incoming freshmen admitted to cheating either on their homework, exams or other academic assignments in their K-12 academic career.

According to Sean Piccoli of The New York Post, the fact that the young Harvard students don’t consider academic integrity to be a particularly worthy trait is a pretty good indicator that they didn’t take to heart the university administrators’ claims that the school took cheating seriously.

When 70 students were kicked out after the conclusion of an investigation into cheating on a take-home final, administrators claimed that the event was a watershed. If the results of the Crimson survey are to be believed, however, it might be just the beginning.

Of the 1,300 students surveyed, 42 percent admitted they had cheated on homework, and 17 percent took shortcuts on take-home assignments.

The school’s jocks cheat more than the nerds, and boys cheat more than girls, the survey found.

Overall, one in 10 freshmen owned up to cheating on an exam.

The president of the Crimson, Bobby Samuels, told The Post he was appalled that “every one in 10 people you see walking around the halls cheated on an exam.”

Still, Bobby Samuels, who is the president of the Crimson, pointed out that the university could prove to be an opportunity for self-reported cheaters to grow up and develop a stronger sense of morality. As proof he pointed to the survey of outgoing seniors who reported much lower instances of cheating than the incoming freshmen did.

The good news for Harvard is that “84 percent of respondents put academics first when asked to rank their anticipated priorities among academics, extracurriculars, varsity sports, paid employment and social life,” the Crimson reported.

The survey found that 36 percent of respondents planned to study between 20 and 29 hours a week — and 26 percent said they anticipate spending between 30 and 39 hours hitting the books.

According to Piccoli, the rate of cheaters at Harvard is about the same as the nationwide average based on recent studies. Rutgers University professor Don McCabe, who researches academic dishonesty and is founder of the International Center for Academic Integrity, believes that this would ordinarily make Harvard students no more likely to cheat than their peers in other schools – except, of course, for the additional pressures that come with being a student at one of the top universities in the world.