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They lied, they cheated: West Point cadets caught in largest cheating scandal in 45 years

They lied, they cheated: West Point cadets caught in largest cheating scandal in 45 years
Over 70 cadets at the US military academy have been accused of cheating on a math exam, defying the famous motto once mocked by alumnus Mike Pompeo. The scandal has become the school’s worst in nearly half a century.

Some 58 cadets have admitted to cheating on the remotely-administered calculus exam, the school revealed on Monday. Four resigned rather than face punishment. A total of 72 first-year students and one second-year were accused of cheating after they all made the same error on the May exam, though two of the cases were dropped for lack of evidence.

Those who haven’t admitted cheating will undergo administrative hearings that could result in expulsion, while their penitent peers who admitted to the misconduct face six months of academic probation.

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Law professor Tim Bakken described the scandal as a national security issue, noting that “when the military tries to downplay effects of cheating at the academy, we’re really downplaying the effects on the military as a whole.” And indeed, the military has been wrangling some public relations disasters lately, with an investigation of the army’s troubled Fort Hood base leading to over a dozen firings and suspensions – including the base’s top enlisted soldier.

However, West Point’s chief of staff, Army Col. Mark Weathers, blamed the cheating on the fact that the exam was administered remotely, insisting it wouldn’t have happened at all if the cadets had been on campus.

The cheating outbreak was the worst academic scandal to hit West Point since 1976, when 153 third-year cadets were expelled or resigned after they were caught cheating on an electrical engineering exam. More recently, the institute has weathered multiple sexual assault scandals – but no cheating.

West Point enrollees are at least theoretically supposed to live by the motto: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do,” and the school is known for its strict adherence to military discipline.

However, West Point graduate and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo infamously riffed on that motto in an address he gave last year at Texas A&M University.

I was the CIA director. We lied, we cheated, we steal — stole,” he quipped during a question-and-answer session following the speech, comparing dealing with ‘difficult’ countries diplomatically to “how you think about problem sets when I was a cadet.”

Lest anyone have any doubt he was endorsing such behavior, he boasted of the CIA, “We had entire training courses! It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.”

Who can blame the West Point students for looking up to one of their academy’s most prominent alumni? Pompeo, as his publicists never tire of telling the world, graduated first in his class from the military academy. 

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