Eighteen midshipmen have been expelled or resigned from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., after an investigation concluded they cheated on a remote physics exam in December 2020, according to school officials.
On that month, 653 midshipmen took the final exam for General Physics I through the online platform myopenmath.com in order to limit in-person contact during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a statement from the academy released Friday.
Officials said students, who were mostly sophomores, were given written and verbal instructions prohibiting them from using any "outside sources to complete the exam, including other websites."
Vice Adm. Sean Buck, the academy’s superintendent, requested an investigation after learning that many midshipmen may have used outside sources during the test. Some of the allegations came to light in an anonymous chat platform students used to discuss the exam after taking it, according to the academy.
Investigators identified 105 midshipmen who may have accessed unauthorized resources during the test despite efforts from the school's Physics Department to prevent cheating such as requiring midshipmen to submit their calculations from the test on a sheet of paper.
Of the students identified, 82 were found to have violated the school’s honor code, and were retained in the brigade with sanctions and entered into a five-month remediation program, officials said. Four other shipmen were found not in violation and one is awaiting adjudication by the Brigade Honor Board.
Of the 18 midshipmen who exited the academy, some chose to submit resignations while others were expelled, according to the academy.
Buck said in a statement that this "incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade."
"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," he said.
Additionally, the entire brigade of midshipmen conducted a day-long conference in April that included “intensive training and discussions on honor” as a result of the investigation, officials said.
The academy now “strongly advises” instructors to use paper-based, in-person exams and use browser security programs during online exams after the investigation also concluded that the "biggest vulnerability identified was inadequate proctoring," according to a statement from the school.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., who chairs the Naval Academy’s board of visitors, voiced his support towards the investigation and its findings in a statement Friday. The board oversees matters related to discipline, financial affairs and curriculum at the academy.
“The Academy’s Honor Concept is clear and anyone who violates it must be held accountable. 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,” Ruppersberger said.