Harvard basketball upset the #3 seeded team in March Madness, New Mexico, last night. Pretty exciting!
But on the same day, news breaks that another Harvard student is involved in a cheating scandal: Andrew Watkins, who, according to InsideHigherEd, “improperly accessed information” that helped him and Harvard win the National Academic Quiz Tournaments* from 2009 through 2011.
“If you can see the questions ahead of time, it’s not just having an advantage, it’s like having the answer key to the test,” said Andrew Hart, a member of the University of Minnesota’s team, in an interview. “[Harvard A] was already one of the best teams in the country, so I think that gave them the push they needed to get over the top. They were able to win these tournaments based on… cheating.”
Watkins, who graduated in 2011 and therefore can’t be kicked out—but can his diploma be retroactively suspended—issued one of the most dubious apologia in all of recorded human history.
“I regret my breaches of question security. I am gratified that NAQT acknowledges that there is neither direct nor statistical evidence that I took advantage of my access; though I know everyone will make their own judgments, I did compete in good faith.”
Neither direct nor statistical evidence! That’s reassuring. Not as reassuring as saying “I promise, I didn’t cheat and here’s why,” but reassuring.
On his Wikipedia page (read it while you can!), clearly self-authored, Watkins says this of himself:
Andy’s philosophy on studying for quizbowl is that you need to study really obscure things to beat good players to good questions. Therefore, much of his knowledge base is actually stuff that rarely comes up. This has also led to Andy’s reputation as among the worst judges of difficulty appropriateness among active writers of good questions.
I think it’d be unfair to draw any correlation between increasing emphasis on athletics and lowered academic standards in this situation, and really, you love to see an underdog win, so kudos to the hoops guys—they must be feeling great right now, and who could blame them?
But this does point up the importance of deans Smith and Hammonds, perpetrators of the recent e-spionage at Harvard and violators of Harvard policy in that situation, acting with more integrity. How can you chastise a student for improperly accessing electronic records when the deans are doin’ it for themselves?
*P.S. What the hell is the National Academic Quiz Tournament?