WASHINGTON – West Point officials have expelled eight cadets and required more than 50 others to repeat a year of instruction after the most extensive cheating scandal in more than 40 years at the Army's renowned academy with a reputation for moral rectitude.
The academy also halted a program that had allowed students violating the school's vaunted honor code to stay at West Point by admitting fault and accepting punishment, the academy announced Friday. Most of the cadets caught cheating in May had enrolled in the program, known as the Willful Admission Process. A review of the program found that it failed to meet its goal of increasing self-reporting and decreasing toleration. Its end means expulsion will be a potential punishment for any honor violation.
First reported in December: West Point accuses more than 70 cadets of cheating in worst academic scandal in nearly 45 years
“The tenets of honorable living remain immutable, and the outcomes of our leader development system remain the same, to graduate Army officers that live honorably, lead honorably, and demonstrate excellence," Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the superintendent of West Point, said in a statement. "West Point must be the gold standard for developing Army officers. We demand nothing less than impeccable character from our graduates.”
Of the 73 cadets accused of cheating, six resigned during the investigation, four cadets were acquitted by a board of their peers, and two cases were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Among the 61 cadets found guilty of cheating, 51 were turned back one full year, and two were turned back six months. Eight were expelled, five of whom were offered the chance to enlist in the Army and reapply at West Point.
USA TODAY reported in December that instructors determined that 72 plebes, or first-year cadets, and one yearling, or second-year cadet, had cheated on a calculus final exam in May 2020. Those cadets all made the same error on a portion of the exam. The exam was administered remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The cadets who remain at West Point will be on probation for the remainder of their time at the academy.
In all, 52 of the 73 cadets accused of cheating on a calculus final exam in May were athletes, many of them on the football team, according to figures released to USA TODAY by West Point.
“The consequences for the cadets are serious, but most of them have a second chance to prove themselves and serve the nation, and we can’t ask for more than that," said Tim Bakken, a West Point history professor. "It’s the right place to start in building trust and developing honor for the benefit of the country in the future.”
The cheating scandal was the worst since the 1976, when 153 cadets were caught cheating on a mechanical engineering exam. That incident resulted in reforms at West Point that cracked down on hazing and moved the academy from a model that emphasized attrition toward one that develops leadership qualities in cadets.
Carved in a stone monument at the school, the academy's honor code states: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: West Point's worst cheating scandal in 45 years expels eight