Bright young things
Last week, Barnard and Columbia were rocked by reports of cheating during final exams. But who’s to blame? Lizzie Crocker investigates.
Earlier this week, two cheating scandals erupted at New York City’s prestigious Columbia University and its sister school, Barnard College, smearing their sterling reputations. On Wednesday, The New York Times reported rampant cheating in a popular English survey course at Barnard; apparently, students had been cutting corners for most of the semester, taking advantage of the loose structure of the class and its laid-back teacher. Three days later, Columbia became embroiled in its own scandal when it was revealed that a professor had leaked hints about a final exam to students in his section of Literature Humanities, a.k.a. Lit Hum, part of the Core Curriculum that is described by many graduates as the hallmark of a Columbia education.
The latest incidents at Barnard and Columbia come only eight months after allegations of widespread cheating at Harvard, which resulted in the expulsion of dozens of students. Of course, cheating is an evergreen issue in education, but it incites particular shock and horror when it occurs at the most highly esteemed of private institutions. Finger-pointing inevitably ensues, along with heated debates among students, parents, professors, and administrators. But when cheating is systemic, the issue of whom to blame is rarely black and white.