CAMBRIDGE, MASS. - Harvard University revealed Thursday what could be its largest cheating scandal in memory, saying that about 125 students may have worked in groups on a take-home final exam, though they were explicitly required to work alone.
The accusations, related to a single, undergraduate class in the spring semester, deal with "academic dishonesty, ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism," the administration said in a note sent to students.
Officials said that nearly half of the more than 250 students in the class are under investigation by the Harvard College Administrative Board and that if they are found to have cheated, they could be suspended for a year. The students have been notified that they are suspected and will be called to give their accounts in investigative hearings.
"This is unprecedented in its scope and magnitude," said Jay Harris, the dean of undergraduate education.
Administrators would not reveal the name of the class or even the department, saying that they wanted to protect the identities of the accused students. The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, reported that it was a government class, Introduction to Congress, which had 279 students, and that it was taught by Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor.
Platt did not respond to messages seeking comment.
A professor grading final exams in May noticed similarities in the answers given by some students, officials said, and he brought the matter to the administration immediately.
"The enabling role of technology is a big part of this picture," Harris said. "It's the ease of sharing. With that has come, I believe, a certain cavalier attitude."
NEW YORK TIMES