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West Point Scraps Second-Chance Program in Crackdown on Cheaters

Responding to its worst academic scandal in decades, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point will scrap a program that provides a second chance to cadets who violate the honor code that is central to its mission, officials said on Friday.

The program, which the academy adopted several years ago, became a subject of sharp criticism by some West Point graduates in December when officials disclosed that 73 cadets had been accused of cheating on a calculus exam last spring.

Critics of the program said it reflected an approach that was too lenient for dealing with serious honor-code infractions of the sort that are at issue in the cheating scandal. On Friday, West Point officials said in a statement that the program had “not met its intended purpose.”

The announcement that the academy would abandon the second-chance program came as officials disclosed that 51 cadets who had been accused of cheating would have to repeat a full year, two others would have to repeat half a year and eight would be expelled.

Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, the academy’s superintendent, personally decided the punishment of each of the cadets caught up in the scandal.

“The tenets of honorable living remain immutable, and the outcomes of our leader development system remain the same, to graduate Army officers that live honorably, lead honorably, and demonstrate excellence,” General Williams said in a statement. “West Point must be the gold standard for developing Army officers. We demand nothing less than impeccable character from our graduates.”

Academy officials disclosed the moves, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal, four months after revealing that 73 cadets had been accused of cheating on the exam, which they had taken remotely rather than on academy grounds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The cheating came to light shortly after the test was administered in May when instructors who were grading it identified irregularities in the work the cadets had submitted, officials said. An investigation was opened and continued after cadets physically returned to the academy in June. Those suspected of cheating were confronted about it in the fall.

All but one of the cadets caught up in the scandal were plebes, or in their first year at West Point; 52 were athletes representing 10 different teams, officials said.

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