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Revealed: Harvard cheating scandal which could see over 100 students thrown out of elite college was discovered because of a TYPO

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By Hugo Gye

PUBLISHED:18:42 EST, 14  September 2012| UPDATED:18:42 EST, 14 September 2012

The Harvard cheating scandal which has rocked  the world-famous university and cast doubt on more than 100 students began with  a minor typing error, it has been revealed.

125 undergraduates are currently being  investigated over allegations they collaborated on a take-home exam paper for a  course entitled ‘Introduction to Congress’.

And a leaked letter from the professor who  uncovered the cheating reveals the similarities between different students’  answers which he believes cannot have been the result of  coincidence.

The tell-tale signs included obscure  political references, phrases repeated word-for-word, and an extra space  inserted into the number ‘22,500’.

Harvard: The elite Ivy League college has been hit by a  mass cheating scandal

Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor of  government, wrote to the university administration on May 14 detailing his  plagiarism concerns in a letter recently obtained by the Harvard  Crimson.

He initially cast suspicion on 13 of the 279  students taking the ‘Introduction to Congress’ course – but when the university  looked in to the allegations, they found 125 possible incidents of  cheating.

Two of those allegedly implicated are the  captains of the university basketball team, one of whom has withdrawn from  college for the year while the other is expected to follow suit.

Members of the football team have also been  named as among the alleged culprits – but Mr Platt originally told officials  that he was particularly concerned about some of the college’s baseball  players.

Revelation: The alleged cheating was uncovered by  assistant professor of government Matthew B. Platt

Some of the evidence marshalled by the  professor involved a number of students answering questions with the same  correct but unexpected response.

A question about the increasing power of the  parties in the House of Representatives elicited references from many students  to Congressman Henry Clay and the 1910 Cannon Revolt, which Mr Platt described  in his letter as ‘somewhat obscure’ answers.

Several exam papers also shared exact phrases  – for example, many students referred to ‘Freddie Mac’s stealth lobbying  campaign’.

And two different students mistyped the  number ‘22,500’ as ’22, 500′, the extra space suggesting both answers drew on a  common source.

Furthermore, Mr Platt wrote, when it came to  a bonus question on the exam, ‘all the answers use the same (incorrect) reading  of the course material in arguments that are identically  structured’.

The students implicated in the scandal are  facing charges of academic dishonesty that could bring a one-year suspension  from school.

‘These allegations, if proven, represent  totally unacceptable behaviour that betrays the trust upon which intellectual  inquiry at Harvard depends,’ President Drew Faust said when the cheating scandal  was uncovered last month.

Each student whose work is in question has  been called to appear before a subcommittee of the Harvard College  Administrative Board, which reviews issues of academic integrity.

Possible punishments range from an  admonition, a sort of warning for a first offense, to being forced to withdraw  from Harvard for a year.

Recent Harvard graduate Eric Kester argued in  a book published earlier this year that the extreme pressure to ‘be the next  Mark Zuckerberg’ drove students to plagiarism, and said that he had frequently  witnessed cheating while he was an undergraduate

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