West Point Cheating Scandal: What to Know

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It’s Wednesday. We’ll be off tomorrow through Jan. 4. Happy holidays!

Weather: Increasing clouds with a high in the low 40s. Tonight will be cloudy as well.

Alternate-side parking: Suspended through Saturday for snow removal. Parking meters will remain in effect.

After the pandemic began, cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, like many college students around the country, were forced to do their class work remotely. But as instructors were grading one calculus exam in the spring, they noticed irregularities.

What followed was the biggest academic scandal in nearly five decades at the school on the Hudson River.

Officials have accused more than six dozen cadets of involvement.

[Read more about the accusations at West Point.]

Here’s what to know about the scandal:

West Point officials have accused 73 cadets, all but one in their first year, of cheating on a math exam in May. Fifty-nine have admitted to doing so, while several others have resigned from the academy or face hearings that could result in expulsion.

The vast majority of those who acknowledged cheating have been enrolled in a rehabilitation program that gives a second chance to those who violated a code that is a bedrock of the institution.

The transition to remote learning has led to cheating accusations this year at several academic institutions in Texas, Kansas and Illinois. But at West Point, the infractions violate the academy’s honor code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.”

Representative Jackie Speier of California, the chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, called for more transparency on what had occurred and about West Point’s plans to ensure the cadets “are worthy of the prestige and honor” imparted on those “destined to lead our military and country.”

The last major cheating scandal at West Point was in 1976, when more than 150 seniors were expelled or resigned for cheating on an electrical engineering exam in the spring of their third year, though many were later readmitted as cadets.

Other service academies have endured similar scandals. In 1994, about 125 midshipmen at the Naval Academy were accused of having prior knowledge of answers to an exam. Thirteen years later, 18 cadets would leave the Air Force Academy after cheating accusations.

Tim Bakken, a West Point law professor, told my colleague Ed Shanahan that because the academy is the training ground for the Army’s leaders, the scandal could do damage far beyond the individual infractions.

A failure to handle a cheating scandal aggressively and openly, for example, could affect the thinking of generals and their approach to informing the public, Mr. Bakken said.

Because of virus concerns, the Millrose Games, held in Washington Heights and the oldest indoor track meet in the country, was canceled for the first time. [The Journal News]

At some houses of worship in New York City, logging on to Zoom and convening virtually continues to be routine.

But this week, many churches are facing a new question: Can an online Christmas service feel the same as a traditional, in-person ceremony?

To offer a similar experience, some churches, like Trinity Church Wall Street in the Financial District, are significantly downsizing choirs and orchestras for services they plan to stream without attendees. In the East Village at Middle Collegiate Church, which was heavily damaged in a recent fire, a Christmas video was prerecorded 16 hours before the blaze.

“It will make you weep every tear,” the Rev. Jacqui Lewis, the church’s senior minister, told my colleague Sarah Bahr.

[Read more about what some congregations are doing for the holiday.]

And at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights, where a man opened fire near a crowd of hundreds of people this month, a concert was held on the steps outside shortly before the shooting. The concert was meant to offer an in-person, holiday celebration after months of physical separation, said the Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel III, the dean of the church.

Services will be streamed on both Dec. 24 and Christmas Day, with carols and reflections on the year, he said, and the cathedral will also be open for individual visits. But Mr. Daniel said he hopes churchgoers can find meaning in the virtual aspects.

“We can still be together — just not in the way we would really like to be,” he said. “But this is the most potent way of creating community right now.”

It’s Wednesday — we’ll be back in the new year.

Dear Diary:

I strolled up and down the side streets of the Upper East Side trying to get an early glimpse of the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations going up on the outside of well-appointed townhouses.

The Halloween season had delivered some astoundingly ghoulish decorations this year, from strobe-light ghosts to wall-climbing skeletons. Those macabre mementos were now packed away.

As I soaked in the new and colorful replacements on one building, a man who was older than me walked past, gesturing in admiration.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” he asked, catching my eye.

I nodded.

He stared for a moment and gave his own contented nod.

“And not a body part in sight,” he said.

— HP Newquist

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