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Harvard stripped of four National Quiz Bowl titles, is filled with shame

Mar 22, 2013, 6:46 PM EDT

Harvard banners hang outside Memorial Church on the Harvard Getty Images

Bigger gathering of villainy: the cantina in Mos Eisly spaceport, or Harvard University? The basketball team may be riding high right now, but things are not going so swell back on campus.

This past August Harvard officials announced that 125 students were under investigation for allegedly cheating on a take-home test. And now, Harvard has had four National Academic Quiz Tournament championships vacated due to a cheating scandal.

Also there was Billy Ray Valentine wearing Louis Winthorpe’s Harvard tie. Los Angeles Times:

Harvard Quiz Bowl teams that won four championships between 2009 and 2011 have had those wins vacated because of a cheating scandal involving one student.

A security review revealed that a member of the Harvard Quiz Bowl team accessed information about competition questions prior to games, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC, which oversees the competitions, said in a statement posted this week on its website.

The NAQT said it had no evidence that the accused student, Andy Watkins, took advantage of the information he accessed during competition, “but the mere possession of it goes against competitor’s expectations of fair play,” read the statement on its website.

Dean Wormer was not amused.

The Quiz Bowl, for those who don’t know, is a competition pitting students from different universities in a contest of knowledge on history, science and popular culture: kind of like an elaborate game of Trivial Pursuit.

Another black eye for the Crimson means good fortune for Goldy the Gopher. Harvard’s vacated titles have now been awarded to: 2009, University of Minnesota (Undergraduate champion); 2010, University of Chicago (Division I champion); 2011, University of Minnesota (Division I champion) and Virginia Commonwealth University (Undergraduate champion).

  1. teganx7 - Mar 23, 2013 at 6:27 PM

    I would like to make one correction to this story. Quiz Bowl is like trivial pursuit in the same way that paintball is like an elaborate war game exercise played out by the military. Quiz Bowl and Trivial Pursuit both involve questions and answers, but that is where the similarities end.

    The questions asked in quizbowl matches are very much deeply academic, and have for the better part of the last 15 years steered away from trivia. You will still get some trivia at the high school and middle school level, but it is absent in the college game at this point. Well designed questions are written specifically to differentiate players who have deep knowledge of a topic from those with more casual knowledge.

    What was once a leisurely game played for fun is far more competitive, and at a much higher level of knowledge than in the past. Matches are impressive to watch, though the speed and esoteric nature of the questions don’t make them enjoyable to watch to casual fans.