West Point cadets caught cheating in biggest exam scandal to hit the elite US military academy in decades

Nick Allen
·2-min read
West Point Graduates throwing their caps in the air at graduation - Julie Jacobson/AP
West Point Graduates throwing their caps in the air at graduation - Julie Jacobson/AP

Dozens of cadets at West Point have been accused of cheating on a maths exam, which was taken online, when they were studying remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A total of 73 cadets were said to have cheated on the calculus test in May after instructors noticed similarities in their answers.

It was the biggest cheating scandal in decades at the academy, which trains future military leaders.

All but one were "freshmen" in their first year at the academy, part of a class of 1,200. The other was in their second year.

Cadets at West point adhere to a code which reads: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do."

Lt Col Christopher Ophardt, a spokesman for West Point, said: "West Point honour code and character development programme remains strong despite remote learning and the challenges brought by the pandemic. Cadets are being held accountable for breaking the code."

He said the cadets were caught after they "shared answers and made the same mistakes".

The announcement followed an investigation by a committee of trained cadets.

Two cases were dropped for lack of evidence, and four were dropped because the cadets resigned.

Of the other 67 cases, 55 cadets admitted cheating and have been enrolled in a six-month rehabilitation programme on ethics.

They will be on probation for the rest of their time at the academy.

The remaining cadets accused of cheating faced hearings to determine if they had violated the honour code.

If so, they could face penalties including expulsion.

The cheating scandal was the worst at West Point since 1976, when 153 cadets were expelled or resigned following an electrical engineering exam.

Lt Col Ophardt said the 1976 case was considered more serious because it involved older cadets and the "whole system broke down".

At that time the Secretary of the Army appointed a commission to review the case, and more than 90 of those caught cheating were eventually reinstated and allowed to graduate. 

Tim Bakken, a law professor at West Point, said the latest case was a "national security issue" because it "indicates a culture that needs correcting".