Harvard was only the beginning. Eight months after allegations of widespread cheating rocked the Ivy League university — off which spinned allegations of spying on faculty email accounts — another cheating scandal emerged on Tuesday afternoon at an affiliate college of Columbia University. According to Columbia's gossip blog Bwog, a 123-student English class at the all-female Barnard College is under investigation for systemic cheating. Apparently the course lacked teaching assistants, allowing students to easily trade quiz answers via cellphone:
Students allegedly passed answers back and forth and confirmed responses on their phones during regular reading quizzes, which consisted of basic poem identifications. Without a TA to help her grade the work of such a large class, Senior Lecturer Peggy Ellsberg, who is teaching the course this spring and has been at Barnard for over 20 years, allowed her students to self-grade. Ellsberg became suspicious of cheating after the majority of the class was consistently receiving 90+ percent on their quizzes. All quizzes, many with nearly identically-marked answers, are now being held by Barnard as 'evidence.'
Smartly, Ellsberg declined to send an easily-leaked email to the entire class. Instead, she confronted her students in person: "While no students have yet been expelled, Ellsberg did call for witnesses and confessions during class, emphasizing that anyone who came clean would avoid expulsion, but would receive a zero in the course." Furthermore, Ellsberg decided to schedule a final exam that students will take in separate rooms under heavy proctor surveillance.
Today's allegations probably won't help Barnard and Columbia's famously tense relationship, demonstrated most recently when President Obama decided to give a commencement address at Barnard in May 2012, passing over his own alma mater across the street. That said, the class's online course entry indicates that students from all of Columbia's undergraduate schools — including Columbia College and SEAS — were permitted to enroll. It's unclear, based on Bwog's report, who these alleged miscreants are, exactly, and which school of Columbia they attend.
Ellsberg did not respond to an email from The Atlantic Wire seeking comment, and her office voicemail inbox was full when we called her on Tuesday afternoon.
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