The U.S. Military Academy at West Point accused 73 cadets this week of cheating on a math exam that was administered virtually due to coronavirus restrictions earlier this year.
The cheating was discovered among 72 first-year students and one second-year student who took a calculus final exam in May. In a statement to American Military News, West Point spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Ophardt said the calculus exam was administered remotely but the military academy identified the cheating when instructors grading the exam found irregularities in the mathematical work submitted by cadets.
Ophardt said of the 73 alleged cases of cheating, two cases were dismissed for lack of evidence and another four were dropped after the accused cadet resigned, leaving 67 cases with students accused of cheating.
Of those remaining cases Ophardt said, 59 of the accused cadets have already admitted to cheating on the exam. 55 of those who admitted to cheating have been enrolled in West Point’s academic rehabilitation program, known as the Willful Admission program. The four remaining cadets were found ineligible for the rehabilitation program and their cases will be handled by the Cadet Advisory Board.
The West Point’s honor code reads, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”
Ophardt said, “West Point honor code and character development program remains strong despite remote learning and the challenges brought by the pandemic. The Honors process is working as expected and there have been no exceptions to policy for any of these cases.”
Ophardt said “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.”
According to USA Today, the scope of the cheating makes it the worst cheating incident at West Point since 1976 when 153 cadets resigned or were expelled for cheating on an electrical engineering exam.
In a statement provided to USA Today, West Point superintendent Gen. Darryl Williams said, “The honor system at West Point is strong and working as designed. We made a deliberate decision to uphold our academic standards during the pandemic. We are holding cadets to those standards.”
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, the Army’s senior civilian leader, said, “The Honor process is working as expected and cadets will be held accountable for breaking the code.”
Army Col. Mark Weathers, West Point’s chief of staff, told USA Today that he was “disappointed” in the cadets for cheating but did not consider the cheating incident to be the most serious breach of the honor code and said the cheating would not have occurred if the students had taken the exam on campus, as opposed to remotely.
In comments to USA Today, Tim Bakken, a law professor at West Point, called the scandal a national security issue because West Point cadets 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.”
The students who were allowed to enter into the academic rehabilitation program will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy.