(FiveNation.com)- The U.S. Military Academy at West Point is facing its largest academic scandal since the 1970s.
On Monday, news broke that more than 70 cadets are being accused of cheating on one of their mouth exams. Of those, 58 admitted to cheating. Cadets took the exam remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those who were caught cheating were forced to enroll in a rehabilitation program at the academy. Some will be forced to stay on probation for the rest of the time they spend there. Some resigned from the academy. And some, still are set to face a hearing that could ultimately result in them being expelled.
West Point has a well-known moral code that is etched in stone at the academy. It reads:
“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”
This is much more than just a cheating scandal at a college or university, according to West Point law professor Tim Bakken. He said it’s a national security issue, since cadets eventually become senior leaders on whom the nation depends.
“There’s no excuse for cheating when the fundamental code for cadets is that they should not lie, cheat or steal. Therefore, when the military tries to downplay effects of cheating at the academy, we’re really downplaying the effects on the military as a whole. We rely on the military to tell us honestly when we should fight wars, and when we can win them.”
Others, though, weren’t so harsh. The chief of staff at West Point, Army Colonel Mark Weathers, said he was “disappointed” that the cadets cheated, but he didn’t think it was a serious breach of the Army code. If the cadets had taken the exam in-person on campus, it wouldn’t have happened, he said.
But Jackie Speier, a Democratic Representative from California who’s also the head of the personnel panel of the House Armed Services Committee, said the remote learning is no excuse. She said:
“Our West Point cadets are the cream of the crop and are expected to demonstrate unimpeachable character and integrity. They must be held to the same high standard during remote learning as in-person.”
Instructors at West Point determined that 72 first-year cadets (known as plebes) as well as one second-year cadet (known as a yearling) cheated on a final calculus exam back in May. They realized the cheating when all of the cadets made the same exact error on one portion of the final.
Investigations into the cheating scandal just concluded. Preliminary hearings the cadets went through resulted in two cases being dismissed for lack of evidence. Four cases were dropped due to cadets resigning. That left 67 cases remaining, and 55 of those cadets were found to have violated West Point’s honor code.
Those cadets were enrolled in what’s known as the Willful Admission Program, a sort of rehabilitation program. Three other cadets admitted to participating in the cheating, but they weren’t eligible to enroll in that program.
Part of the rehab program matches a cadet with a mentor. They must write essays and journal entries about their experience. The entire process may take roughly six months. It’s a sort of academic probation.