More than 70 West Point cadets are facing accusations of cheating on a math exam last May. It’s the worst cheating scandal at the school since 1976 when 150 cadets resigned or were expelled for cheating on an electrical engineering exam.
The exam in question — a calculus final — was administered remotely due to concerns over the coronavirus. The giveaway was that all the cadets in question made the same mistake in one section of the test.
Fifty-nine cadets admitted to cheating. Instructors had originally accused 73 cadets but two were later cleared for lack of evidence and four more resigned.
Fifty-five cadets have enrolled in a program for rehabilitation know as the “Willful Admissions Process,” officials confirmed.
Within the process, cadets write journals and essays, are paired with a mentor and enroll in other programs, USA Today reported.
Four other cadets who admitted to cheating are not eligible for the program, which can last up to six months, officials confirmed.
The remaining individuals are facing administrative hearings over the accusations, and they could face a range of penalties, including being expelled, USA Today reported.
West Point’s honor code is very strict: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”
“West Point honor code and character development program remains strong despite remote learning and the challenges brought by the pandemic,” Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt said in a statement to The Hill. “The Honors process is working as expected and there have been no exceptions to policy for any of these cases. Cadets are being held accountable for breaking the code. While disappointing, the Honor System is working, and these 67 remaining cases will be held accountable for their actions.”
It used to be that a violation of the honor code led to a quick expulsion. But this is the new West Point, where, apparently, giving second chances and “do-overs” is in vogue.
Nearly all of those who admitted guilt have been allowed to remain at the academy on the condition that they complete a rehabilitation program that includes meeting with a mentor and after-hours classes about the honor system and the importance of being a better leader, Ophardt said. Students will also be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy.
The opportunity for rehabilitation is relatively new at West Point; previously, cadets would be expelled after violating the rules. In 2015, Ophardt explained, the academy made changes to the honor code allowing for second chances.
One professor at West Point believes the scandal is a national security issue. “A cheating scandal at a military academy is critical because it indicates a culture that needs correcting,” said Tim Bakken, a 20-year law professor at West Point. The West Point administration isn’t sweeping the scandal under the rug, but with so many first-year cadets involved, are they sure they got everybody who tried to cheat?