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Naval Academy investigating ‘inconsistencies’ in final exam after West Point cheating scandal

The U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. (Dreamstime/TNS)
December 23, 2020

The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis is reviewing a final physics exam this week for “potential inconsistencies” and has given all of the students who took the exam an incomplete grade.

In a Tuesday statement, U.S. Naval Academy Provost Andrew Phillips said, “Due to potential inconsistencies noted in the administration of the in-person proctored, computer-based final exam for Physics I (SP 211), all midshipmen who were enrolled in this course during the fall semester have received a marking of ‘I – incomplete.’ The Naval Academy is working to resolve the uncertainties surrounding the final examination as quickly as possible.”

The Naval Academy did not provide additional details on the inconsistencies that may have occurred on the exam.

The academy also did not say how many students were affected when it gave all students enrolled in the course an incomplete grade, though CNN reported some 650 students at the academy took the physics course this semester.

The physics course in question is primarily taken by the academy’s sophomore students, known as 3rd class midshipmen.

The ongoing review of the Naval Academy exam is particularly noteworthy as the announcement comes one day after the U.S. Military Academy at West Point accused 73 of its own students of cheating. West Point has dismissed two students cases for lack of evidence and dropped four more after the student in question resigned, while 59 of the remaining 67 students have confessed to cheating and 55 have been entered into an academic probation program.

In the case of the West Point students, the particular exam in question was administered off-campus, due to coronavirus-related restrictions. In this case, the Naval Academy said the computer-based exam was proctored in-person.

Naval Academy students taking the physics exam were told to bring their laptops in order to submit their test answers through an online portal.

A source for the Naval Academy told CNN that such online submissions were a rare practice prior to the coronavirus, but since the start of the pandemic, about half of exams are administered online, while the rest are done by paper.

The recent West Point cheating incident may be the worst case of cheating at the academy since 1976, when 153 cadets resigned or were expelled for cheating on an electrical engineering exam.

In comments to USA Today regarding the West Point cheating incident, Tim Bakken, a law professor at West Point, called the scandal a national security issue because the service academy’s cadets will go on to become senior leaders in the U.S. military.

“When the military tries to downplay effects of cheating at the academy, we’re really downplaying the effects on the military as a whole,” Bakken told USA Today. “We rely on the military to tell us honestly when we should fight wars, and when we can win them.”