US Naval Academy kicks out 18 after investigation into cheating on online physics exam

Several midshipmen have been kicked out of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, after an investigation found they cheated on an online exam late last year.

The Navy’s top officer-training school announced Friday a total of 18 midshipmen had “separated from the Naval Academy” as a result of the investigation that included NCIS.

“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,” said Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck. “This incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade.”

A news release from the school said the cheating happened last December during a physics test taken primarily by sophomore midshipmen.

More than 650 students took the online exam and were specifically told verbally and in writing not to access websites to help them answer questions. But the school said it found that more than 100 midshipmen ignored those instructions.

Overall, 82 midshipmen were allowed to remain enrolled at the school — but with sanctions, and they have to complete a 5-month-long honor remediation program. The school said the cheating shows that it has to increase its focus on students’ character and integrity.

The academy is now strongly advising instructors to use paper-based, in-person exams. And midshipmen now have to write out and sign an honor pledge at the beginning of each exam.

Officials found out about the cheating after some students apparently discussed it on an anonymous chat platform, the school said, and the superintendent immediately launched an investigation.

The school said the investigation reviewed thousands of pages of information, including reviewing the midshipmen’s browsing histories during the timeframe of the exam.

Maryland Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the academy’s Board of Visitors’ chairman, said in a statement that he supports the findings of the investigation, which he said appears to be “thorough and fair.”

“The Academy’s Honor Concept is clear and anyone who violates it must be held accountable,” he said in a statement. “Midshipmen must earn the privilege to study at one of our nation’s most prestigious institutions and their character and conduct must be worthy at all times.”

Chris Cruise

Christopher Cruise is a writer, reporter and anchor at WTOP. He has worked at The Voice of America, where he anchored newscasts for the Learning English branch. He is a backup host for Westwood’s morning radio news programs, “America in the Morning” and “First Light,” and contributes to them weekly.

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