Harvard’s Four Quiz Bowls Titles Revoked in Cheating Scandal


Harvard University has been stripped of a series of 'Quiz Bowls' titles after the organizers, the National Academic Quiz tournament, revealed that one of the team members had accessed questions about the competition.

Andy Watkins, a member of Harvard's 'A' team and a 2011 graduate, accessed the NAQT website that featured first 40 characters of the questions that were to be asked in the tournament.

As a result, the teams' titles won in 2009, 2010 and 2011 were taken back and given to the next best team.  The revoked titles were:

1.   2009: University of Minnesota (Undergraduate champion)

2.   2010: University of Chicago (Division I champion)

3.   2011: University of Minnesota (Division I champion)

4.   2011: Virginia Commonwealth University (Undergraduate champion)

Watkins had access to the tournament website as he had written questions for a school quiz competition and competed in the national university-age contest.

Following this cheating scandal, he has been suspended as NAQT's question writer.

"I did compete in good faith. I regret my breaches of question security. It will surprise no one that my mental health as an undergraduate was always on the wrong side of 'unstable', but that does not excuse my actions, nor does it ameliorate the damage done," Watkins said in a statement to NAQT.

He added that he considered all his fellow teammates to be champions despite this cheating scandal and hoped they will continue to think of themselves in the same way.

The cheating scandal was brought to light when the quiz organisers decided to examine the server logs of its questions database after observing a sudden improvement in the performance of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology student.

They also found that, apart from Watkins, three other university students, who were quiz writers for primarily middle and high school competitions, also accessed question pages on NAQT's administrative website.

"People who are writers for the organization have access to an entire database [to which] people could gain access as writers for high school questions and then see [university] tournaments in which they plan to compete," Marshall Steinbaum, a member of the University of Chicago's team, told Inside Higher Ed.

NAQT's weekly security reviews for its upcoming 2013 championships have, so far, not detected any violations yet.

Quiz Bowl competition consists of teams of four members each, which are questioned on topics ranging from history, science to popular culture.

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