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Graduate Faculty

Professor’s research on cheating sheds light on Harvard scandal

September 10, 2012

In recent research on cheating among affluent high schoolers, assistant professor Mollie Galloway found that over 93% had cheated in at least one way (such as copy answers, using electronics, or plagiarizing), while 25% had cheated in seven or more ways.

These findings may point to some of the causes of a recent scandal at Harvard University, in which 125 students are suspected of collaborating inappropriately on a take-home exam.

Ingrained cheating behavior seems to be especially high among students from privileged backgrounds, says Galloway. “We live in a society where getting ahead of the next guy is a primary value. It’s what defines success in our country. Students feel caught up in this system where it requires them to sacrifice their integrity or do whatever they can to get ahead.”

Harvard officials say they are considering establishing an honor code. But Galloway says the systemic issues that lead to cheating are not easily solved by an honor code. “I hope this incident will spur educational institutions at all levels (K-12 through college) to engage in real dialogue around our traditional notions of success; notions that pit students and schools against each other, focus primarily on individual over collective advancement, and reward a few while marginalizing those who have perennially lack power in our educational system.”