18 Midshipmen Are Expelled or Resign From Naval Academy Amid Cheating Inquiry

When the academy administered a physics test last year, it had to be flexible because of Covid-19 restrictions. It later learned that dozens of midshipmen had used outside resources during the exam.,

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Eighteen midshipmen were either expelled or resigned from the United States Naval Academy after an investigation found that students there had cheated on a physics final exam last year, the academy said.

Of the more than 650 midshipmen who took the online exam for a general physics course on Dec. 20, 105 were investigated because they appeared to have used “unauthorized resources,” the Naval Academy said in a statement on Friday.

As of last week, 18 of those midshipmen had either been expelled or resigned, and 82 had been placed in a “five-month honor remediation program.” Four were found not to have violated the academy’s honor principles, and one was still awaiting adjudication.

“Character development is an ongoing process, and midshipmen must make the choice to live honorably each day and earn the trust that comes with a commission in the Navy or Marine Corps,” Vice Adm. Sean Buck, superintendent of the academy, said in the statement. “This incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade.”

Naval Academy students attend the institution, in Annapolis, Md., on full scholarships and are expected to serve five years of active duty after they graduate. The physics test administered in December was taken mostly by sophomores. Those who were found to have cheated were mostly men, and a majority were varsity athletes.

The academy had to be flexible about how the exam was administered because of Covid-19 restrictions, the academy said.

Measures had been in place to prevent cheating on the test: Students were asked to turn in scrap paper showing their work and had been “given written and verbal instructions stating they could not use outside sources to complete the exam, including other websites,” according to the statement, which did not name the students who were found to have cheated.

The superintendent called for an investigation after the administration was alerted to possible violations, in part through “post-exam midshipman discussions on an anonymous chat platform,” the statement said.

“The investigation team reviewed website browsing history during the exam time frame for all midshipmen who took the exam,” it added. “The investigative team determined that violation of the exam rules was primarily carried out by individuals visiting websites independently and without any coordinated effort.”

In an email on Monday, Cmdr. Alana Garas, a spokeswoman for the academy, wrote: “Prior to Covid, a majority of the examinations administered were paper, with the professor proctoring the entire section in one room. . Social distancing measures during Covid during the 2020-2021 academic year required six-foot distance between students and limited the number of students in one room, so classes were spread out over multiple rooms.”

The academy said in its statement that it “now strongly advises instructors to use paper-based, in-person exams.”

“In addition,” the statement continued, “when an electronic device is required for an exam, either a browser security program must be activated for all online examinations or a proctor must be able to view each midshipman’s screen throughout the exam.”

The physics test at the Naval Academy was administered around the same time that the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., was confronting its worst academic scandal in decades, after dozens of cadets there admitted to cheating on a May 2020 calculus exam, which they had taken remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 1994, an investigation at the Naval Academy implicated about 125 midshipmen in a scheme that involved having advance knowledge of answers to an engineering exam. John H. Dalton, who was then the secretary of the Navy, ordered the expulsion of 24 of them.

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