ID Section of Lit Hum Final Leaked, Not Included in Final Score

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Here’s to hoping the rumors aren’t true

Dear readers, we wish we were lying. We were intending to take today lightly, give everyone some space to breathe, give you fun things to watch and read, maybe talk about puppies coming to campus (more on that in a later post). Instead, however, we’ve been informed that this fine university possibly has another widespread cheating scandal on our hands.

On leaving the Lit Hum final today, many students were informed that the ID section of the test may be completely invalidated. Apparently, one professor provided the page numbers of the passages to his/her class, who then spread it to a huge amount of people in other classes. The page numbers for the ID were accurate to the test.

We’ve reached out to various adminstrators and faculty, and have been hearing that an email may be sent to the first-year class shortly. Updates, as always, as we get them. Stay strong.

Update, 4:35: Steven Castellano, the man behind P/D/F policy and the honor code, has emailed us with an explanation, breaking down the last 16 hours or so:

Update, 5:19 pm: Gareth Williams, Lit Hum Chair, just sent an email to Lit Hum students confirming the leak; the email is below the jump.

Update, 5:40 pm: We have information on how the exam is drafted; check down below after the jump.

Update, 6:10 pm: Reaction from former Lit Hum Chair Christia Mercer; look–you guessed it–after the jump


“In the name of transparency, I wanted to let you know that there page numbers for the Lit Hum id’s were going around last night …  Essentially, a first year student came to me with a list of page numbers for the passage ID’s that a friend’s teacher disseminated and asked me what to do because he had apparently read about the honor code (thanks to you, I guess).  At the time, I was not able to identify the teacher, though I tried for awhile last night before deciding that it was possibly all a hoax, and more importantly, that I was not the school police officer for academic integrity.

At the time, it did seem quite unlikely that the page numbers going around represented actual ID’s from the final and likely resulted from a misunderstanding on behalf of the students spreading it around.  After all, while 10% of the small sampling of students that I heard from had the same page numbers and believed they would be on the test, many had a wide-variety of review guides from all different teachers with all kinds of different potential ID questions.   In any case, I emailed Gareth Williams the email below as a precaution before the exam, and I just found out from my initial source that all the ID questions did indeed match the page numbers in the email.  My initial contact did also say that most professors already know about it, but I have yet to hear back from Prof. Williams.”

And the email sent to Williams:

“I do not know if this is a false report or not, but a student came forward to me to let me know that students are disseminating page numbers for the Lit Hum quote identifications after a certain professor gave his or her class “approximate page numbers”  for sections to look at for the quote ID’s.  This might be a hoax, but I don’t want a repeat of 2007, especially with the existing cheating scandal.

The numbers were as follows … ”

[Link added by Bwog]

Update, 5:19 pm: Email from Gareth Williams:

Dear Students,

This morning we learned that a Literature Humanities instructor disclosed to students the approximate location of the passages on the ID section of the final exam. This information was circulated to other students at Orgo Night last night. As a result, the ID section (section A) of the Lit Hum exam was compromised.

On behalf of my colleagues, I want to stress how very disappointed I am by this development, as we take careful measures to ensure that no information about the exam is revealed to students before they take it. Because section A of the exam — and only section A — was compromised, I am writing to let you know that only sections B and C of the exam will be included in the calculation of your grade on the exam.

It is very unfortunate that the majority of you, who had no advance information or inclination to gain an unfair advantage, will be affected by this development; however, we have no other choice at this time but to take pragmatic measures to ensure the integrity of the grading. We intend to do everything possible to make sure that this does not happen again.

Gareth Williams
Violin Family Professor of Classics
and Chair of Literature Humanities

Update, 5:40 pm: A faculty member on the Lit Hum staff has informed us on how the final is drafted, making it abundantly clear that culpability lies with the professor.  Due to the 2007 leaking scandal, present Lit Hum instructors are not allowed to take the draft exam (on which they vote on proposed questions) out of the conference room where it is discussed.  An instructor signs out a draft exam, which is given a number, and then has to sign the exam back in to vote on the questions.  Every draft exam is counted for and not left with the teacher.  So essentially, in order for the instructor to have the passage ID pages to give to students, he/she would have had to really taken effort to write down the chosen passages during the discussion and voting process, or some such.  It is explicitly against the rules of the Lit Hum Chair to provide this information to students.

Update, 6:10 pm: Bwog reached out to Former Chair of Lit Hum, Christia Mercer, to see her reaction to the leak:

“The first and main offender is the instructor who broke the clear guidelines provided by the Lit Hum Chair. Once the instructor did so, it’s not too surprising that the students in the class shared that information with friends. The students who hoped to use that info were cheating, but it seems important to me that this didn’t begin with the students.”

Bwog right now via Shutterstock

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  1. Anonymous  

    holy shit columbia

  2. loooooooool  

    but really though, sounds like the professor is to blame here



  4. Anonymous  


    (I think)

  5. Anonymous  

    oh my god people seriously?!?

  6. Heisenberg  

    It is complete bullshit if they throw out only one section of the test. Let's say I spent all my time focusing on the ID's and didn't put a lot of time into the other sections, only to have the section I focused on canceled. Let's say when I studied I only focused on trying to identify passages and not overall thematic components. Cancel the whole test or cancel none of it, can't be halfway on this.

  7. the heck?  

    As a mild slacker, I'm offended. There is no reason to cheat on a Lit Hum exam, and the final no less. The IDs are consistently ridiculously easy, and let's not even talk about the "Analysis" required for each one.

    If you're gonna slack, do it with integrity, man. Take ownership of your bad choices! Don't cheat!

  8. This whole year is a joke  

    The professor should get the flack for this, not the students.

  9. CC '13  

    yup, time to blow this popsicle stand

  10. old fart alum

    Can't find an article, but this exact same thing happened several years ago... LIT HUM TEACHERS DON'T GIVE OUT THE ANSWERS TO UR EXAMS. *facepalm*

  11. Anon

    Headline is unfair. It implies that students cheated, when it was an instructor who leaked the exam in a study guide. Please correct the headline.

  12. Anonymous  


  13. Anonymous  

    Don't worry the honor code will prevent this from happening ever again

  14. Anonymous  

    literally lolling alone in my room what is this school corumbia omg

  15. wow  

    I smell next year's varsity show

  16. Archivina91

    why they must cheat for finals?the questions too difficult?they have no time for study?unconfidence? or they just lazy?come on guys.. columbia students should be clever students..

  17. SEAS '15  

    How 'bout those GPAs now, CC?

  18. Anonymous  

    Fuck it. I support the honor code already. What is wrong with this school?

    • lit hum student  

      Yea, I'm fairly shocked, but at least one student didn't just use the answers but thought about the rest of us and the reason we take tests. We're at an Ivy League school; where are our ethics?

  19. alum


  20. CC '13  

    Fucking freshmen...

  21. An athlete

    i dont give enough fucks to bother cheating

  22. anon  

    Well everyone now that this has been the craziest week in the past 40 years at columbia we should just go for broke and make it the craziest week ever. Time to blow up Alma Mater and take over Uris Library from the B-School!

  23. SEAS '13  

    There's always money in the banana stand!

  24. False flags  

    I have it on good authority that Steven Castellano, not a timid and anonymous "first year student," leaked the ID sheet to build support for the honor code. Don't let him get away with it #specsucks

  25. Here is the real scandal:

    A football coached coaxed said teacher to published this "study" guide so that all the athletes could pass.

  26. Street Sampras  

    Shouldn't part of the honor code be not snitching?

    • Anonymous  

      Are you dense? The whole point is to hold each other accountable for fairness and equity. If students can't feel comfortable trying to protect the integrity of their exams, this really is a meaningless, useless statement.

      Moreover, no one snitched. All their identities were kept anonymous.

  27. Theories  

    All this cheating since very coincidentally timed with Steve Castellanp's honor code, so I put forth two theories:

    1) he has a time machine, but since learned that even time travel and instituting an honor code cannot eliminate the inevitabilities of fate

    2) he did indeed incite all the cheating after hacking into administrative databases for answers in an ironic journey to forestall subsequent cheating through making it a largescale problem in the present.

  28. Where I come from  

    Snitches get stitches

  29. Theories  

    Also, I blame Barnard for all of this Lit Hum cheating.

  30. Anonymous

    Professor was Ivan Lupic

  31. SEAS the Dick  

    I don't even have to take Lit Hum. I enjoy your tears.

  32. Confused Senior  

    I thought each professor set their own exam paying attention to what they emphasized in class? Did this change or was I under the wrong impression all along?

  33. SEAS '13  

    *grabs popcorn*

  34. Anonymous

    Poor vshow, why couldn't all of this have happened before?

  35. YCC16  

    I am just going to give my humble opinion here: if these answers were being passed around, if it was strongly suggested that these were the answers, how is it that anyone can say this wasn't cheating? If that had just been any other little study guide, it wouldn't have gotten passed around as much as it did. A friend of mine offered it to me, and I said no because I had enough integrity to know that it was wrong. For those of you who used this, YOU KNEW what the implication was. The professor is at fault here. I COMPLETELY AGREE. But so are the students who used this. Accept your responsibility in this scandal too. Accept that you did something wrong too, and don't blame it on JUST the professor.

    - CC16

    • Logic

      If the teacher fucked up, without any involvement from the students, the students should have every right to take advantage of the situation. If someone secretly stole a bunch of apples from Westside, set up a stand across the street, and started giving them out for free, the people who take those apples from him aren't thieves.

      • YCC16  

        Okay, lets play with logic. If the people who know that these apples were stolen still go get them are they not at fault as well? If you read my comment carefully and with "logic" you'll see that I do not imply that the student and teacher had equal amounts of severity in their actions. Obviously the teacher messed up worse than the students did, but the students need to accept some responsibility for having not corrected a wrong and perpetuated onwards the cheating. Just like the people taking the "stolen" apples are not committing a crime as severe as going and stealing the apples directly from west side, the fact that they are conscious of the crime and instead of saying something take them and run shows a level of wrong from them as well. And let's be real that's not a fair example. The apple stealers didn't sign an honor agreement like the one at the beginning of lithum. Don't try to trivialize what happened. It's not fitting.

      • St Augustine

        pears > apples

  36. Anonymous  

    Okay, this is bad, and academic integrity is important and all...

    what a dick move by steven castellano.
    (if i were a cynic i'd say he just wanted to get his honor code passed)
    (oh wait, i'm a cynic)

    what a tool.

    • ??  

      First of all, this is confusing because the honor code already did pass. But even so, what do you recommend he do exactly? Not follow up on an issue of an academic integrity when a concerned student comes to him as someone he can trust on these matters? What exactly was dickish?

      Pardon if this was a joke like the comments above. Can't tell sometimes.

    • Honestly  

      Shame on the people blaming Steven Castellano, you know what's a "dick move" blaming someone for having integrity. You know what's a "dick move"? Not having said something if you knew. If this had been told to administration early on by the students in the class themselves than it wouldn't have been such a big scandal. Steven Castellano is not at fault here, shame on all of you. Every single one of you who isn't taking the time to realize that the students and the professor are at fault here. And PS. the reason this was done was to ensure that the test was fair FOR YOU. So yes blame Steven for that, for having integrity and wanting something to be fair. So yes blame yourselves for having no sense of what "right" is at an academic institution (BECAUSE THAT MUCH is not up for debate, you see cheating your report it. It's common sense).

  37. Anonymous  

    good lord this school is falling apart

  38. Anonymous


  39. Anonymous  


  40. CC16  

    They should have pulled the ID's last night when they got the hint. Shouldnt have made the entire Freshman class studying hours upon hours for a section of the exam which ended up being pulled. I could have been studying for something else.

    And for that matter, the ID's werent even that hard!!! The amount of context clues in them was crazy!

    • CC14

      I wouldn't be surprised if the point of making them do the IDs anyway was to see which students ended up getting 100% IDs correct, and then considering them for "investigation".

    • lit hum instructor

      The point of the IDs isn't really the identification. It's what you say ABOUT the excerpts (why they're important to the work, what they represent in terms of themes, poetic/rhetorical techniques, etc.) that earns you the bulk of the points. The purpose of the ID section is to give you a chance to show, in brief, that you know something meaningful about all the texts on the syllabus, not just the 3 or so that you choose to write the essay on.

  41. Math Major

    This is probably a really bad time but I could not help but notice that UCLA, Carnegie Mellon and SUNY Stony Brook beat out pretty much the whole Ivy League (minus Harvard) and Stanford and Caltech at this years putnam math competition. What the hell. WHY DO WE SUCK AT MATH!?!?!

  42. Matt s  

    Steven castellano is a snitch and weasel. Future politician right there

    • Anonymous  

      I have yet to hear what he possibly did wrong?

      Professor Mercer is spot on: it's mainly the teachers fault, but students were still spreading and using information that gave them an unfair advantage.

    • Anonymous  

      I'd like to add that if he sat on the information after a student reached out to him, he'd be much more in the wrong. And more importantly, he'd be violating his own principles of academic integrity that this campus sorely lacks. Is that a serious suggestion?! I'm disgusted by this place.

    • Anonymous

      If he revealed no student names, how exactly is he snitching?

    • Anonymous  

      Definitely props to him for acting on this and letting the right people know.

      What I think is annoying here is that he decided to send this information to Bwog for "full disclosure." It's as if he wanted press for "doing the right thing"--he wanted his name publicly attached to this as the hero of academic integrity. That's a clear politicians move if you ask me.

      • Anonymous  

        So we want him to participate in administrative opacity and not be transparent? Trust me, he's a really nice, humble guy, and he couldn't care less about getting more credit for the honor code when it has already received far too much controversy.

        • Anonymous  

          I agree. I'd be annoyed if he was reporting things to the Lit Hum department and not to the students. Even the student below who isn't coming forward seems sketchy, but I respect his/her right to privacy. Still, the identities of many students involved in a variety of scandals are being kept secret this week, and I'm glad to have one clear line of communication.

      • Anonymous  

        Just noticed this comment. I can say on good authority that bwog reached out to him, likely after Spectator did. A few of us knew he was contacted last night when were concerned about the cheating and told Spec accordingly.

    • Matthew Sheridan

      Dear Matt S,

      Stop giving Steven shit. He is one of my best friends here and has always put the needs of the community before the needs of himself. Bringing up the leaked passage IDs to the people in charge of lit hum was the right thing to do. And my name is Matthew Sheridan. Use your full name or something. Columbia is not big enough for two Matt Ss. Steve kinda thinks (but not really but maybe) I called him a weasel.

      Lets not make it come to this, lol


      Matthew Sheridan

    • The Voice of Reason  

      Positive this isn't really Matt S.

  43. Anonymous

    Cheating is actually a lot more common here than one might think. I cheated on at least half of the finals I've taken here and got away with it just fine. And I've known many others who have done the same thing. In the end its the networking that matters so why not spend more of your time on that? (you won't find me btw I created a fake email account just for this comment.)

  44. ANON  

    LIT sucks anyways. Who cares what books you know in the real world? Easy class with or without the answers but that's just because lit hum = bs

  45. Honestly  

    @Matt s: He's a student representative, he's going to care. And for your information he's a CUE leader, that's why he always "hangs around those kids". We look up to him for advice and he looks out for us, if you knew him, if you even had ONE conversation with him you would know he's amazing. I respect the fact that you think this is out of self-interest but it's not, if you ever get the chance to meet Steven Castellano talk to him. You will know within a couple of minutes he could of only had the best intentions when doing this.

  46. Anonymous  

    c'mon guys. all this shit that's going on is distracting us from what really matters

    the varsity show sucked

  47. Anonymous  

    If a professor gave you information and you shared that information with other students how are you a cheater? Clearly since a professor handed it out you thought it was fair game to use.

    • Anonymous  

      cause it gave students an unfair advantage and it's well-known that the ANSWERS to the test should not be distributed. That's not helpful study tips; that's straight up cheating. I agree with YCC16 above.

  48. anger  

    Honestly, I have nothing to say to this idiotic teacher. We all worked all on this exam. This is not fair. Whoever did this hideous act, should come out, confess to everyone, and embrace suffering and shame!

  49. this is actually the worst  

    Last time the exam was leaked, the entire exam was dropped. I knew about the passage IDs and knew that last time the exam was compromised the entire thing was thrown out, so I really didn't put in as much effort as I should have. Fuck.

  50. CC 14  

    Christia Mercer is the best. She will sort this mess out when she gets back, for sure.

  51. Anonymous  

    This decision made to selectively drop the ID section on the exam isn't fair to those who didn't cheat...either cancel the test all-together, or give everyone full points on the ID section. There are undoubtedly people who did well on the ID section, but not so well on the other sections; it doesn't make sense for those who didn't cheat to get a lower score on their test because of this. No one's grade should be negatively affected by this, as this DID originate from a teacher. Give everyone full points on the ID section to make it fair for all the students, or drop the test entirely.

  52. Meh...

    Kinda sucks for people who perhaps didnt try their hardest on the essays because they knew they nailed the passage ID section. I think cutting the section out seems to punish many over the crimes of a few.

  53. Anonymous  

    Yeah let's blame the entirety of Columbia! The professors, students, and even the janitors all conspired to marginally effect your LitHum grade!

    Seriously tired of all this negativity toward the school, as if there's some kind of institutional problem. There isn't. This was a mistake on the part of one person (who isn't even teaching here next year

  54. Anonymous

    Hm I'm sure a honor code would do wonders, considering how clearly written rules for the very people writing the test does dick all about cheating.

    • Anonymous  

      I am skeptical about the honor code's implementation, but this is just dumb. It seems very clear that the teacher may have never been caught in his cheating had the honor code not been in place. Whether this will change a culture, so just promote a few small-scale conversations has yet to be determined though.

      • Anonymous

        The honor code is currently not in place. The student approached Steve of their own accord, not because some spoken words at commencement compelled them to. As Steve is currently the most visible member of the community pushing for it, it seems logical the student will go to him. To me this just shows that people who are against cheating will continue to be against it, and people who aren't will continue to break the rules. I guess the point I am highlighting here is that the saying/writing an unspoken rule doesn't have as great of an effect as proponents of the honor code may think. The professor is unlikely to have not known what the rules were and probably signed some sort of agreement acknowledging it.

        • Anonymous  

          People will always cheat, yes. But I disagree on two counts.

          First, honor codes do put academic integrity on students' minds. I'm skeptical this student would have reached out to someone else had this not been such a large conversation and had not the ideas of academic integrity literally been on multiple bwog posts this week.

          Second, I think everyone agrees that some people will cheat no matter what and others will report suspicious activity no matter what. That is obvious. A quick google search, however, does show that signing statements does indeed reduce cheating among those in the middle for the reasons posited above:

        • CC'13  

          I think we all agree that some students and professors will always cheat, and others will always report what they did wrong. However, it does seem clear from a quick google search that honor codes discourage cheating for those in the middle (one example: In this case, I'd agree that perhaps students wouldn't step forward had this not been such an active conversation this week. Their particular decision to reach out to Steven of all people again seems indicative of the fact that they were thinking about integrity because of him and wanted to know what to do. In short, I think you are off mark in this instance, but I agree that it will hardly work miracles in the future, particularly when viewing some of the views on cheating that are being put forth by other students

  55. Ana Vargas  

    Pissed that the Center for the Core is totally throwing the ID section out and making students who studied legitimately pay because some fool Ph.D. leaked his notes? Do you want a fair solution to the problem that builds on what the Center did back in 2007 when the same thing happened? If so, sign this petition ASAP so that students can be allowed a retake of the section IF they want it. Even if you personally don't want to retake it, support students who do. It's the fair thing to do.

    Sign here:

  56. Sorry if already addressed but  

    How could students possibly be accused of cheating in this scenario? It sounds like the instructor gave this information as a "study guide" without telling students exactly what it was. Any dissemination among students would be no different from that of the multitude of existing LitHum study guides.

    Did the instructor clearly say that these would be on the test? Sorry if I missed this.

    • Heisenberg  

      I'm in the class. He said that they would be in relative proximity to the quotes. I assumed he meant either chapters or volumes of books but in reality they were all within a page or so. However, this was very unclear at the time. Also, he never gave us a quote on Shakespeare. Hope that clears it up.

      • Anonymous  

        Let's not be silly. Clearly, they were presented as answers. Check out the Facebook post in Spec. Also, why would an email to Gareth Williams be warranted if these were truly just suggestions and not framed as answers.

  57. puppies

    when are they coming!!!!!!!!!

  58. instructor

    Wish someone had told the prof in question that it's actually less work to make up a "study guide" of passages that AREN'T near the actual IDs than to carefully keep track of where the real IDs are and pick passages from right next to them. I think the guy actually meant well and is usually a non-idiot; if only he'd been a little lazier this time. . . .

    Lit Hum usually has multiple grading opportunities--a couple of papers, a midterm, class participation. Dropping one section of one exam is not very likely to make or break anybody's grade, so as annoying as this is, students don't really have much to worry about.

  59. Anonymous  

    could someone please explain WHY a professor would do this? i really cannot think of a reason... selling out for evaluations? how can risking this be worth it? if low grades were the problem, i thought Lit Hum grades were strictly curved

  60. the real scandal at hand  


  61. Faust  

    Alas, I have studied Virgil,
    Cervantes as well as Dostoevsky,
    and to my sorrow, Augustine;
    studied them well with ardent zeal,
    yet here I am, a wretched fool,
    my passage IDs have gone to waste.

  62. CC '13  

    I had Christia Mercer for Lit Hum 1st semester freshman year. She got rid of the IDs entirely for our class section and had us write a second essay instead.

    God (if he/she/it exists) bless Christia Mercer.

  63. Anonymous  

    steven is doctor who @Theories:

  64. Anonymous

    After that study guide gets spread far enough, it's no longer cheating. It's evening the playing field.

  65. Anonymous

    Who was the prof?

  66. Regan  

    It's funny how all you liberal idiots take the conservative view on this.. You didn't cheat and earned the good grade so you should be penalized by the people who cheated(did wrong) no one is born to think like a liberal.. Just Brained washed

  67. I always despised this person

    Class dismissed... Teacher, teacher, you forgot to assign us that homework you mentioned earlier

  68. Twitch  

    It's always been a problem with student government that they live in an echo chamber with too much interface with the administration, and they stop realizing that they represent the interests of the students, not the bureaucracy.

    Can their be a clearer illustration of the betrayal of the students' interest than what Steven did? I have no doubt that he had the right intentions. But where are his allegiances--to the students whose grades he effectively lowered? Not in this case.

    Maybe he should have read Dante more closely.

    • Anonymous  

      I see this is already grayed-out and might not warrant a response, but

      1) A student came to him concerned and he responded to it
      2) Don't think many students other than you support cheating and like in this case, most do it cause they feel they need to cause others do it.
      3) He actually effectively raised the grades of non-cheaters.
      4) He didn't decide to drop the ID section if you're worried about the few unlucky ones: complain to Gareth about that.

  69. ID's

    Yesterday I decided to write the essays first, and do the ID's last.

    I benefitted from someone else's cheating.

    Anyone else want to get this whole thing dropped? I can't in good conscience make a better grade than others in my class simply because some kids had the answers.

    I salute the kids who got screwed by this and say they should have studied harder instead. For you guys, I'll gladly try to have this chaned

  70. my 2 cents

    If you didn't study hard enough or if in any way this negatively affects you its your own fault. You should have put in more effort. End of story.

  71. Slutty lesbian  

    Crowd surf the raccoon

  72. Ayn Rand  

    Anyone who didn't cheat on the exam screwed themselves over and deserves a worse grade than people who were smart enough to give themselves advantages.

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