The Talented Mr. Ripley + Six Degrees of Separation + Clark Rockefeller ...
May 18, 2010 2:18 PM   Subscribe

"Former Harvard student Adam Wheeler was indicted [yesterday] on multiple counts of identity fraud and larceny. According to the Boston Globe, Wheeler allegedly built a 'fraudulent life history that led to his admission to Harvard, and for using forged academic materials from Harvard when he applied for the prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships.'"* In his transfer student application to Harvard "...Wheeler claimed he got a perfect score on the SAT, straight A's at prestigious prep school Phillips Academy Andover and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology...In reality, he had never attended either school..."* He has plead not guilty to the charges.

Wheeler had been a student at Bowdoin College in Maine from 2005-07, but was suspended for academic dishonesty. After that event he carefully crafted a life-story that included forged test scores, realistic-looking secondary-school and college transcripts and recommendations in order to fake his way, as a transfer student, into Harvard. He "paid attention to small details, according to an official in the prosecutors' office. Harvard personnel have reported his recommendations and transcripts arrived on the appropriate letterhead from the other schools." He also plagiarized the work of others to score $45,000 in financial aid. Having been booted from Harvard last fall, he recently applied to Yale and Brown "allegedly used false information."
posted by ericb (164 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
His ruses may have been more widespread.

Today The New Republic wrote that Wheeler had "... recently applied for an internship at the magazine; specifically, an internship for our literary section. We did not accept him. Click here for a PDF of his rather remarkable two-page resume, in which he claims that (a) he's contracted to write several books; (b) he can speak French, Old English, Classical Armenian, and Old Persian; and (c) he's in demand on the lecture circuit."
posted by ericb at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Kid looks like he was just huffing paint in the pic on the "has plead not guilty..." link.
posted by dammitjim at 2:22 PM on May 18, 2010


Kind of (more than kind of) sad, but I love some of his fanciful sole lectures and sole monograph authorships.

Mappings, Unmappings, and Remappings: By restoring the experience of disorientation, I argue that getting lost becomes a radical discourse that reflects back to us how we orient ourselves—what we pay attention to as we move through physical space and how we construe meaning as we move through a text from page to page.

He creepily resembles Donnie Darko .....
posted by blucevalo at 2:25 PM on May 18, 2010


As a graduate of a public college, and the parent of a student at a public college, I take a lot of pleasure in see how easily my nation's Ivy League overlords can be taken in.

Very scared by it also.
posted by Danf at 2:29 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like a meeting of matter and anti-matter, if he met the hipster grifter would they both explode? Inquiring minds need to know.
posted by ob at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"L'audace, l'audace, toujours l'audace."
posted by fatbird at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


wheeler dealer
posted by acrobat at 2:30 PM on May 18, 2010


Good to know that the New Republic is on the lookout for fraud now.
posted by raysmj at 2:31 PM on May 18, 2010 [12 favorites]


My memory might be hazy, but I thought they ask for an official sealed transcript sent from your school's registrar, not from you? If not, wouldn't there be some kind of follow-up with the registrar? I'm kind of surprised to read he submitted it himself and that was that. Of course the potential for fraud would be high.
posted by naju at 2:31 PM on May 18, 2010


Should have just transferred him to the Creative Writing module.
posted by tigrefacile at 2:32 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also, did he fake the official transcript's school watermark?
posted by naju at 2:33 PM on May 18, 2010


"has pled"
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 2:34 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


My feeling is that if he got away with this for as long as he did, he's at least as capable of performing in today's market as any genuine Ivy League grad.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:36 PM on May 18, 2010 [30 favorites]


I do feel sorry for him though. It really sounds like a joke that is gone out of control in some ways, when you see what he lists under languages:

French | Old English | Classical Armenian | Old Persian

posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:37 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


*has pleaded*
posted by ericb at 2:37 PM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


What's most surprising is that some of these facts were easily verifiable, like the SAT scores.

I know at least two people who submitted false test scores and got accepted, it pissed me off to no end. Both were mild, but dishonest infractions ... like using your top math and your top verbal score from different tests. I also know people who had absolutely convinced themselves that whale watching on a summer cruise was a summer "studying marine biology." I would not be surprised if there was a small, but not insignificant number of students at top schools whose applications would not do well to scrutiny.

The perfect SAT scores is a giveaway. Let's say somewhat I met learned about a recent executive hire that had vetted through HR (read: criminal record check). Everyone was abuzz by the perfect SAT score and other accolades. The perfect score alerted was a dead giveaway, besides the fact someone in their 50s was still bragging about their SAT scores. A couple of "check this out" notes later and he was gone. People put a lot of trust in Google, when this guy's name never showed up in impressive thing + name searches people just assumed the information was not online.
posted by geoff. at 2:38 PM on May 18, 2010


And while we're at it: "...he recently applied to Yale and Brown 'allegedly *using* false information.'"
posted by ericb at 2:39 PM on May 18, 2010


He just got caught because of his own hyperbole, but I seriously doubt he is the only one...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:41 PM on May 18, 2010


After similar shenanigans growing up, Bush got elected president. I suppose it's true having powerful friends lie for you and bail you out is valued more than having the initiative to do it yourself.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:41 PM on May 18, 2010


It's kind of shocking that he might have gotten away with it had he not applied for the Rhodes. He'd be graduating now... with an actual Harvard degree.
posted by thesmophoron at 2:43 PM on May 18, 2010


Seems like this kid has a future in PR.
posted by empath at 2:44 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]




“I was just knocked silly by this,’’ said one Harvard professor, speaking on condition of anonymity, who likened Wheeler’s fabrications to a scenario from the film “The Talented Mr. Ripley.’’

Does anyone outside of Harvard Yard use the term "knocked silly by this" anymore?
posted by blucevalo at 2:47 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


The perfect SAT scores is a giveaway.

Not really, don't they start you out at about 700/700 these days for getting your name and date of birth filled in correctly?

All he really needed to pull this off was a couple of seriously lazy people working in the Harvard admissions office.
posted by ecurtz at 2:51 PM on May 18, 2010


*cannot haz teh ivy leegz*
posted by Smedleyman at 2:54 PM on May 18, 2010


He also told them that he is "an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru."
posted by anshuman at 2:54 PM on May 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


The Talented Mr. Ripley?
I can't believe they made a book from that film.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:55 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's most surprising is that some of these facts were easily verifiable, like the SAT scores.

I've never had any idea how carefully, if at all, such things were checked.

When I was a graduate student, there was a stack of department letterhead sitting on the counter in the office, so grad assistants like me could grab a piece to write a cover letter when submitting a paper for a conference, or for a letter for a student. If you printed your own letter on that, put it in a department envelope (also freely available) and dropped it in the outgoing mail slot in the department office, who would ever know it didn't really come from the professor whose name you signed at the bottom? The only thing that stopped me from committing fraud in this way was that I couldn't figure out how to profit from it (much like when I got married at the courthouse, and through the whole process of getting the license and getting married, nobody ever asked either me or my partner for ID. "There's a profitable scam in here," I said to myself, "If only I could figure out what it was.").

In this day and age, forgery would be so easy. If you know what a transcript from a certain university looks like, it could be easy to fake, I think, even the "sealed envelope" part. A friend of mine once forged a prescription label before a drug test; she was taking a medication that had been prescribed for her, but she ran out of hers and was using up an old bottle of her partner's. She didn't have time before the drug test to see her doctor and get a new prescription in her name, so she made her own Rite Aid label for an empty bottle and took that with her to the test.
posted by not that girl at 2:56 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


"has pled"
*has pleaded*


**done went and pled**
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2010 [34 favorites]


While not common, perfect SAT scores do happen. But everything together? You're not the return of Jesus Christ, kid, dial it back a bit.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do feel sorry for him though. It really sounds like a joke that is gone out of control in some ways, when you see what he lists under languages:

French | Old English | Classical Armenian | Old Persian


Yeah: even if you study Indo-European linguistics and so might know Armenian and Old Persian, you're almost certainly going to know a bunch more languages than that. Sanskrit, Greek and modern German, at the very least.
posted by dd42 at 2:58 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


This kid is going to do just fine through his life here in these United States. For all the shock, SHOCK that everyone is expressing today, this guy knows what he needs to say and do to get where he wants to go, and that's 90% of what you need to be successful in this country, at the levels he wants to play in.

If he doesn't leverage this into a fruitful book+speaking engagement thang, then I'll be disappointed. Because he was born to sell, and his product is Adam Wheeler.

After a little bit of that merry-go-round, why then he'll actually have life experience. His was a bootstrap problem, and he tried to solve it with lies and forgery. Now he's legitimately somebody, and all he needs to do is make something of it.

See, for a certain personality type, fame and infamy are completely interchangeable outcomes. If you can't get one, the other will do just as well. I suspect Adam has this personality type and will exploit it fully.
posted by Pliskie at 3:03 PM on May 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.

OK, 'larceny' I get. 'Fraud' I understand, although I'm not entirely sure what "Identity Fraud" is in this context. But the remaining charges don't even sound like the kind of things that should even be criminalized.

Sometimes, watching the crushing discretionary power of the prosecutor in action scares me far more than the defendant's alleged crime.
posted by Dimpy at 3:04 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


While not common, perfect SAT scores do happen

However, you probably won't get a perfect Math score if you can't even calculate a percentage.

[That is 1 out of 2803, 0.000356%]
posted by ecurtz at 3:05 PM on May 18, 2010


This seems as good a place as any to tell the cautionary tale of what happened to my sister (a legitimate Harvard grad!) when, as a TA, she discovered one of her student's own acts of plagiarism.

It was the fall of 1989, and my sister was a Ph.D. student in history at Berkeley, specializing in 18th-century Britain. For one of her class's assignment, a student turned in work that seemed... familiar. Strangely familiar. Indeed, personally familiar -- because not only had he plagiarized material that my sister had read, he had plagiarized material that her mentor had published just a few months earlier. But not only that: he had plagiarized the portion of the article that my sister herself had researched, and for which she had been specifically thanked in the acknowledgments for having uncovered.

Well! If ever there was a chance to read someone the riot act, this was it -- and my sister was just the woman to do it. So she called the student in to her office hours, which (due to lack of office space at the history department) she held at a cafe near campus, and proceeded to inform him in no uncertain terms that he A) was CAUGHT; B) would FLUNK the class; C) was going to be reported to the dean for possible EXPULSION; and D) was OUT OF HIS FUCKING MIND if he thought she wouldn't notice that he'd plagiarized her own goddamn work.

It was somewhere between points C and D that there was a rumbling sound, and the ground began to shake. Did my sister's rage truly know no bounds? Possibly! But more likely it was because a 6.9-magnitude earthquake had just begun. My sister -- who had never been in a major earthquake before -- froze. Her student, a native Californian, grabbed her and pulled her under the table just as the cafe windows shattered inward.

Ten seconds passed. Silence, except for the tinkling of glass.

"Boy, you really were pissed," he said.

"Just rewrite the paper and we'll call it even," she said.
posted by scody at 3:06 PM on May 18, 2010 [698 favorites]


His resume reads like a Dos Equis ad.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:07 PM on May 18, 2010 [23 favorites]


For those interested in brushing up on their Old Persian, I found a handy reference guide [pdf warning]. I've been having trouble with my monosyllabic dipthongs; this has really helped me.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:07 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, when they pulled off his mask, it turned out it was really Old Man Withers from the haunted amusement park.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:08 PM on May 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


...they let W in too.
posted by Postroad at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2010


Sometimes, watching the crushing discretionary power of the prosecutor in action scares me far more than the defendant's alleged crime.

Me too, but not this time. He's white and apparently middle-class, daddy can buy him a lawyer, he'll get probation and write a book.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:10 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I bet he regrets getting caught.
posted by ignignokt at 3:12 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's kind of awesome shocking that he would have gotten away with it had he not applied for the Rhodes.

FTFY
posted by killdevil at 3:12 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


If his resume ended with "I'm on a horse," it could have been used as the script for an Old Spice commercial.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:21 PM on May 18, 2010 [19 favorites]


ericb: "Click here for a PDF of his rather remarkable two-page resume ..."

What font is that typeset in? You would think a guy with his qualifications would have the presence of mind not to choose the font with the worst italic ever.
posted by brokkr at 3:22 PM on May 18, 2010


scody:

Assuming that the student in question didn't read the acknowledgments (not sure if plagiarists tend to be the most thorough readers*), I'd be even more freaked out if I was the student,.

Possibly the worst luck in the world (happening to plagiarize the section he did) immediately followed by such a seemingly supernaturally timed bit of good timing (a well-timed earthquake) means that the universe was trying to tell him something



* except in the case in the actual post here


posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:24 PM on May 18, 2010


Ladies and gentlemen, Our 52nd President Of The United States, Adam Wheeler!
posted by briank at 3:24 PM on May 18, 2010


However......... This guy is now a millionaire after cashing in on his life of lies.
posted by y6y6y6 at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


...although I'm not entirely sure what "Identity Fraud" is in this context.

Because he signed other people's names on those letters, my guess is. "Identity theft" is a bugaboo name for a bunch of stuff that was already illegal, but now there are stronger laws on the particulars. On one hand, it's good that laws are taking it seriously; on the other hand, I'm not sure signing somebody else's name really constitutes stealing their identity.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:25 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm totally unsurprised to see how easily my nation's Ivy League overlords can be taken in.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:26 PM on May 18, 2010


What font is that typeset in?
Garamond, perhaps.
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 3:26 PM on May 18, 2010


I know at least two people who submitted false test scores and got accepted, it pissed me off to no end. Both were mild, but dishonest infractions ... like using your top math and your top verbal score from different tests.

Wait, I thought the SAT actually did this: you can take the test however many times and they'll take the highest verbal and quantitative scores whether it's from the same exam or not. Am I misremembering things?
posted by Rangeboy at 3:26 PM on May 18, 2010


What a dork. You don't fake your past to get into Harvard. You fake your Harvard degree to get a fat paycheck and access to the secrets and the bank accounts and the daughters of the rich and famous. After that, you don't need no stinking degree.


Or so I've heard.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:34 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Her student, a native Californian, grabbed her and pulled her under the table just as the cafe windows shattered inward.

As an ex-Berkeley denizen, now I'm dying to know what cafe that was.
posted by blucevalo at 3:34 PM on May 18, 2010


The hilarious thing about this is that like many college students, this dumbass never realized that it's actually less work to succeed legitimately at a university than it is to lie and cheat. I've gotta hand it to him though, it takes special dedication to get indicted for academic shenanigans. He definitely has a book in his future, I only hope he writes it in character.
posted by Humanzee at 3:37 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Stanley Clifford Weyman regularly claimed to be all sorts of dignitaries in the 1910's and 20's. When he was found out, he would get thrown in jail or a psyche ward for a few months or a few years, and then be right back out to do it again. He figured out that if you walked the walk and talked the talk, you could be anybody, and that sounded like a pretty good deal to a nondescript guy from Brooklyn.

- Inspected the USS Wyoming as the "general consul to Romania"
- Introduced the Princess of Afghanistan to President Harding as an "officer of the State Department"
- Became the personal physician of Pola Negri, lover of Rudolph Valentino, after meeting her at Valentino's funeral.
- Interviewed Queen Marie of Romania as "the Secretary of State"
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:40 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wait, I thought the SAT actually did this: you can take the test however many times and they'll take the highest verbal and quantitative scores whether it's from the same exam or not. Am I misremembering things?

I'm nearly positive that it was a school-by-school basis and the most common one seemed to be up to take the test up to 3 times and the highest cumulative grade is used. I could be wrong though.
posted by geoff. at 3:41 PM on May 18, 2010


You fake your Harvard degree to get a fat paycheck and access to the secrets and the bank accounts and the daughters of the rich and famous. After that, you don't need no stinking degree.

Some people commit massive fraud and identity theft in order to get a world-class education, you know. Philistine.
posted by naju at 3:42 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He sounds like a tool, but his resume/credentials are hilarious.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2010


Perhaps if I'd had a world-class education I'd know who this Phyllis Dean lady was?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:46 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, I thought the SAT actually did this: you can take the test however many times and they'll take the highest verbal and quantitative scores whether it's from the same exam or not. Am I misremembering things?

No, you're correct, at least for some schools. I can't remember how it worked out, but I know my official report score for things was my highest math + highest verbal.

That said, the testing group sends colleges each and every test score you get, so it's up for them how to look at it.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2010


Both were mild, but dishonest infractions ... like using your top math and your top verbal score from different tests.

This is called superscoring, and most colleges allow it with regard to SAT results, including everywhere I applied to. I promise you I wasn't defrauding anyone when I gave subscores from different administrations of the test.
posted by decagon at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2010


I burst out laughing as soon as I saw his big blue eyes. He looks so sincere as to be obviously, comically guilty, like a puppy. When you see a young man enhugening his eyes like that, grab your wallet and cross your legs, because somebody's about to get some smoke blown up their ass.

As someone who went to Andover: he better not have said he had "straight A's." They don't use A's there, or at least not in my time. It's a percentage grading scale which -- okay, shutting up now.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:53 PM on May 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


"My memory might be hazy, but I thought they ask for an official sealed transcript sent from your school's registrar, not from you? If not, wouldn't there be some kind of follow-up with the registrar? I'm kind of surprised to read he submitted it himself and that was that. Of course the potential for fraud would be high."

You've got to pay for transcripts to be sent and they look just like the ones you get sent to you so they aren't hard to forge. And there isn't some secure back channel the transcripts are sent through, they come regular mail. You can usually even get the correct post mark just by dropping the fake into a campus outgoing mail box.

Dimpy writes "
indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.
"OK, 'larceny' I get. 'Fraud' I understand, although I'm not entirely sure what "Identity Fraud" is in this context. But the remaining charges don't even sound like the kind of things that should even be criminalized.
"

How about if it was an engineering degree he was faking?
posted by Mitheral at 3:53 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


OK, 'larceny' I get. 'Fraud' I understand, although I'm not entirely sure what "Identity Fraud" is in this context. But the remaining charges don't even sound like the kind of things that should even be criminalized.

I assumed it was the application for various scholarships and fellowships ($$$), at which point the criminality light started blinking.

But it's a good point. I'm curious which actual laws are broken by which acts, here.
posted by rokusan at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2010


"Enhugening," Countess Elena? That word (neologism?) alone makes me glad I read this thread.
At Nightingale-Bamford A's were rare as peace too.

As for Harvard professors saying "I was knocked silly," um, yeah, they definitely did and probably still do. I hope it doesn't sound cynical, but I'm pretty sure that at all times there's a handful of swindlers free-floating about. It's the ones who get caught who get all the attention.
posted by emhutchinson at 4:09 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somewhere around 40% of the students at Harvard College are admitted thanks at least in part to the legacy preference. This kid may be a liar and a fake, but at least he did the lying himself to get it.
posted by 1adam12 at 4:15 PM on May 18, 2010 [15 favorites]


I'm going to hell because I actually think all of these paper titles from his "resume" sound super-interesting, right?

“Prospero’s Maps: Cartography, Location, and Invention in The Tempest”
“The Body in the Garden: The Metapoetics of Husbandry from More to Marvell”
“Not Penshurst: Enclosure, Arcadia, and the Panegyric of Place”


And his "book under contract"!
The massive proliferation, from the fifteenth through the seventeenth century, of technologies for measuring, projecting, and organizing geographical and social space produced in the European cultural imaginary an intense and widespread interest in visualizing this world and alternative worlds. As the new century and the Stuart era developed, poets and dramatists mediated this transformation in the form of spatial tropes and models of the nation. I examine the geographical tropes by which Tudor and Stuart writers created poetic landscapes as a mode of engagement with the structures of power, kingship, property, and the market. Accordingly, each of the texts that I examine betrays an awareness of writing as a spatial activity and space as a scripted category. The critical topographies that these writers created are maps of ideology, figural territories within which social conflict and political antagonism are put into play.
Ah, sweet sweet cultural history... maybe if I start googling I can find the originals that he plagiarized from? I'm getting all sorts of unseemly excitement going on here...
posted by jokeefe at 4:22 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I burst out laughing as soon as I saw his big blue eyes. He looks so sincere as to be obviously, comically guilty, like a puppy. When you see a young man enhugening his eyes like that, grab your wallet and cross your legs, because somebody's about to get some smoke blown up their ass.

It would be interesting to see how much of Wheeler's trickery was pure salesmanship -- faked transcripts and juiced-up resumes simply open doors; they don't necessarily seal the deal.

I have known people who were only barely qualified for their jobs, but they were so likable and so good at saying the right things to the right people that they breezed through their interviews and evaluations. This is one of the harder lessons, I find, about the work world: sometimes, qualifications are beside the point.
posted by spoobnooble at 4:23 PM on May 18, 2010


The trick to lying successfully with statistics is to be precise, and stay away from round numbers. Like this:

As of 2008 (the last year with complete records posted online), 41.2% of all Harvard College admissions are based at least partially on legacy weighting. This kid may be a liar and a fake, but at least he didn't go to Princeton!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Me too, but not this time. He's white and apparently middle-class, daddy can buy him a lawyer, he'll get probation and write a book.

Well, as of this afternoon Adam is being held on $5,000 cash bail ... and as of early this evening no one has yet paid it. There's no indication of his family's background. All we know at this point is that he's from Milton, Delaware and attended Caesar Rodney High School there.

Adam Wheeler, Harvard faker, headed for book deal?
posted by ericb at 4:29 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Harvard Faker Calls Self ‘Sententious, Crypto-tendentious, Slightly Pedantic’
“….Those who knew Wheeler in the past said in interviews with The Crimson that he kept his personal life discreet, rarely drawing attention to himself in conversation.

‘He was a good guy who didn’t talk about his academics or his life history much, but he came off as very smart,’ a source close to Wheeler, who did not wish to be named, said in an interview Monday. ‘We just allowed him his privacy.’
posted by ericb at 4:47 PM on May 18, 2010


But is he capable of flinging small stones?
posted by kyrademon at 4:57 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Isn't it Yankee ingenuity to try to beat the system?
posted by Cranberry at 5:02 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


As someone who went to Andover: he better not have said he had "straight A's." They don't use A's there, or at least not in my time. It's a percentage grading scale which -- okay, shutting up now.

He apparently submitted an MIT transcript with letter grades. MIT uses a numerical grading system.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:07 PM on May 18, 2010


It's sad that he wanted to be a humanities scholar that badly. I could sort of get why he might want to go there and get a nice i-bank job, but to go there and want to do something that hardly pays?

I wonder if he had any of those tweed jackets with elbow patches.
posted by anniecat at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2010


Garamond, perhaps

Looking at the font info in the PDF, it is indeed Garamond, which has notoriously bad italics. That's because Claude Garamond didn't draw any when he came up with the typeface, and later some folks brought in italics an assistant of his made. Some newer Garamonds like Adobe Garamond have much nicer-looking italics.
posted by zsazsa at 5:08 PM on May 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


‘[At MIT], I was, to put it poorly, suckled upon the teat of disdain. That being said (fortified by a reflexive snort), I was inspired therby [sic] to apply to Harvard, where the humanities, in short, are not, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium,’ Wheeler wrote.

Wow. That's awful.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:10 PM on May 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


Huh. I had no idea that the phrase "full of lies" translated into Old Persian was draujana-.
posted by blucevalo at 5:17 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


, now I'm dying to know what cafe that was.

Was it Cafe Milano's?
posted by anniecat at 5:25 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, about that Googling people thing: My real name is Roger Williams. It's right there on my birth certificate, driver's license, US passport, and TWIC card. There's a reason I don't mind telling you this; try Googling me. Really. I dare you.

And just because you find someone named Roger Williams in Mandeville, LA, don't get cocky and think you've found me. There are at least four others.

This is often a good thing. It's a bad thing whenever I try to re-enter the country after an overseas vacation, as there is always some asshat who's used my name as an alias and my government is too stupid to build a database where the index is something useful like my driver's license or passport number.
posted by localroger at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


not that girl says When I was a graduate student, there was a stack of department letterhead sitting on the counter in the office, so grad assistants like me could grab a piece to write a cover letter when submitting a paper for a conference, or for a letter for a student. If you printed your own letter on that, put it in a department envelope (also freely available) and dropped it in the outgoing mail slot in the department office, who would ever know it didn't really come from the professor whose name you signed at the bottom? The only thing that stopped me from committing fraud in this way was that I couldn't figure out how to profit from it

Well, I don't know if it counts as fraud, but I've got two words for you: EXAM COPIES. I have gotten hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars worth of books for pennies on the dollar (oftentimes free) by using my dept. letterhead to get exam copies from academic publishers. I tell them, Hey, I'm going to be teaching a class in such-and-such next year, send me this $50 book for $5, and presto, my library grows.

As for this Wheeler guy... how fucking stupid are people to believe that an UNDERGRAD would have published books or have books under contract with academic presses? No publisher would consider a scholarly book by someone who was an undergrad. And who would believe this random assortment of scholarly interests? Zoroastrianism and Shakespeare? Old English and Armenian? The guy clearly just threw a bunch of random shit together. I'm really surprised anyone would believe this stuff.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:27 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


HAHA IVY LEAGUERS
posted by jonmc at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2010


Shows that once you're in, however, you clearly don't need to be overwhelmingly smart to succeed (unless all of his papers/tests were plagiarized or involved cheating). He would have graduated with a real Harvard degree if he hadn't gone over the top seeking those scholarships.
posted by Maias at 5:29 PM on May 18, 2010


Wheeler wrote that he was not a fan of sports, calling them ‘a neighborhood faux-pas of epic proportions,’

Huh, wonder what his Metafilter username is.
posted by inigo2 at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm curious what his defense will be. "Not Guilty," eh? So, you DID get a perfect score on the SAT? Or not? And did you SAY that you did on your application? Or not? All righty then.
posted by ctmf at 5:39 PM on May 18, 2010


I'm actually really curious what this guy did get on his SAT.
posted by effugas at 5:48 PM on May 18, 2010


He left two universities for academic dishonesty. What are the details there?
posted by breath at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2010


Oh, his real scores are up there in ericb's comment, effugas.
posted by breath at 5:50 PM on May 18, 2010


But is he capable of flinging small stones?

if you read his bio/College Essay Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear & his resume Accordingly, each of the texts that I examine betrays an
awareness of writing as a spatial activity and space as a scripted category
, he's sure throwing *something* around.

i can't believe that he isn't totally mystified & amused by getting so far with this. i can imagine him writing that stuff & doubling over with laughter that he'd be so brazen as to even think about submitting it. i can't imagine how loud he howled when someone actually believed it.
posted by msconduct at 5:54 PM on May 18, 2010


Notice also that he claimed to be co-author of some of Marc Shell's books, which is so easily verifiable as false: just email Marc and say, "Hey, did this 22 yr old write 4 books with you?" I'd love to hear Shell's take on the situation.

I searched around on a few academic databases and couldn't find any articles matching the titles on Wheeler's CV. I don't know if he just threw together some random words he'd seen in other article titles or if he plagiarized other people's papers.

However, I found what appears to be the source of his "work in progress":

Wheeler's Mappings, Unmappings, and Remappings => Ondrea Ackerman's Getting Lost

This kind of shit pisses me off to no end. In my English department, there's a fellow graduate student who is well-known for ripping off other people's ideas. Nothing as blatant as this, but anytime someone mentions that they are interested in some topic, he immediately becomes interested in it and tries to replicate their work -- once after hearing me give a paper on a particular film, he started talking up my argument to other people as though it was something he was working on in an article. He's won teaching awards using other people's teaching materials, but because they refused to complain that their syllabi and lesson plans got him the award, nothing happened to him. He even accused another student of plagiarizing his work, even though she had been working on the topic since before he even enrolled in the program, and both his and her advisors said that he had never even worked on anything resembling that material. He's a pathological liar and douchebag, but even though the administration knows about this stuff they refuse to punish him in any way besides "a stern talking to". I get really angry when I see people getting away with this, because it poisons the collegial atmosphere of academic sharing and collaboration and it insults people like me and my friends who bust their asses to do good work. I'm very, very glad to see Wheeler get busted, and I hope that all similar plagiarists and liars get caught and hammered.
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:55 PM on May 18, 2010 [16 favorites]


Sorry for the rant, it's just a very sore spot with me
posted by Saxon Kane at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2010


Mitheral : How about if it was an engineering degree he was faking?

He didn't fake the classwork, just the prereqs, which brings up a point it surprise me no one has raised yet...

Namely - He dropped out of high school, yet did fairly well in coursework at an ivy league school. What does that say about
A) A "real" high school diploma, and
B) The actual value of a Harvard Education?


As for his crimes, Perhaps one of our resident whitehat lawyers could elaborate on when "merely lying" crosses over into 20 variations on "fraud"?
posted by pla at 6:04 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


pla: IANAL, but I would be that his acts constitute fraud at least in part because he falsified information and plagiarized in order to get multiple thousands of dollars in fellowships and awards.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:20 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This guy makes life hard: how on earth am I supposed to choose between

MetaFilter: a neighborhood faux-pas of epic proportions

MetaFilter: sententious, crypto-tendentious, slightly pedantic with a streak of contrarianism

and

MetaFilter: the teat of disdain?
posted by escabeche at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2010 [20 favorites]


He dropped out of high school, yet did fairly well in coursework at an ivy league school. What does that say about
A) A "real" high school diploma, and
B) The actual value of a Harvard Education?


I think it says there are lots more kids capable of doing adequate coursework at Harvard than fit into Harvard, which I think we already knew.
posted by escabeche at 6:26 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kid lies like a rug... an Old Persian rug.
posted by benzenedream at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


"He didn't fake the classwork, just the prereqs, which brings up a point it surprise me no one has raised yet..."

He's still gaining something under false pretences and while that may be fine for philosophy there are times when it matters at the safety and health level which is why it may have been made illegal either specifically or as a special case of some broader law.
posted by Mitheral at 6:34 PM on May 18, 2010


What A tool.

The thing is, he never would have been caught if he'd just stayed at Harvard and laid low. But he just had to keep pushing it and pushing it. It's not surprising that these places would be magnets for every dishonest egomaniac out there. I think the fact that he kept pushing and pushing it indicates that he's actually kind of insane. He just needed more and more, and more then he was capable of. Oh well.

In fact, for every pathological conman out there, there are probably 10 pathological liars who never cross the line into breaking the law, or being academically dishonest at places like this. The same mindset, just a little more sanity.

--

My mom found a plagiarist in her job once. What happened was that one guy had written a paper summarizing a particular article, and another student had copied the paper he summarized! So, she went and dug up the article Student A had written about and it was identical to the guy's paper. She emailed her about it, and she wrote back saying, "No, it's not plagiarized, I really am a good writer!" as if the quality, rather then the fact it was identical to another article was the problem. She had already forwarded it to the student affairs, and they said they would take care of it.
posted by delmoi at 6:41 PM on May 18, 2010


OK, 'larceny' I get. 'Fraud' I understand, although I'm not entirely sure what "Identity Fraud" is in this context. But the remaining charges don't even sound like the kind of things that should even be criminalized.

*shrug* feel free to be operated on by a surgeon with a fake medical degree. That's the general case for prosecuting those who pretend to hold a degree.
posted by happyroach at 6:45 PM on May 18, 2010


1. He didn't drop out of high school (the article posted by ericb says he graduated in 2005).
2. He left Harvard because of academic dishonesty, so I don't think we can confidently say that the few grades he did earn (which included at least one D) were earned legitimately.

The point: if you're looking for proof that Harvard classes are easy, this is probably not where to find it. While I'm sure it's true that there are lots more kids capable of Harvard work than fit there -- and I don't think even most people at Harvard would disagree -- that doesn't mean this kid was necessarily capable of it.
posted by forza at 6:47 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


‘My own, brief, assessment of my character is that I am sententious, crypto-tendentious, slightly pedantic with a streak of contrarianism, a fascination with any pedagogical approach to Shakespeare, and a decent sense of humor.’

‘[At MIT], I was, to put it poorly, suckled upon the teat of disdain. That being said (fortified by a reflexive snort), I was inspired therby [sic] to apply to Harvard, where the humanities, in short, are not, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium.’


'Furthermore to this beer, I would like also three of your finest, cheapest cigars. Here's my ID, which confirms my adultivity.'
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:04 PM on May 18, 2010 [47 favorites]


Wait, I thought the SAT actually did this: you can take the test however many times and they'll take the highest verbal and quantitative scores.
Exactly. Just had this conversation with my daughter's guidance counselor and he described this process. The next round of SAT scores are due Thursday. Juniors everywhere are sweating.
posted by etaoin at 7:12 PM on May 18, 2010


Oh, about that Googling people thing: My real name is Roger Williams. It's right there on my birth certificate, driver's license, US passport, and TWIC card. There's a reason I don't mind telling you this; try Googling me. Really. I dare you.

I think I found you!

You are a university, right?
posted by decagon at 7:18 PM on May 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


He apparently submitted an MIT transcript with letter grades. MIT uses a numerical grading system.

Uh, no they don't. I'm a current MIT student, and my transcript has letter grades (with pluses and minuses, even, although those may only be for the internal report). The only real oddity in our grading system is freshman year; your first semester is graded P/NR (pass/no record), and second semester is graded ABC/NR.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:28 PM on May 18, 2010


scody--

My exact reaction to that story:

"That can't be right. I grew up in San Francisco, and I think I'd know if there was a 6.9...wait, '89 you say?"

Awesome.
posted by effugas at 7:29 PM on May 18, 2010


During his time at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del., Wheeler was a member of the National Honor Society, earned himself a place in the top 10 percent of his class...Wheeler took the SAT twice, achieving scores of 1160 and 1220.

Those are pretty mediocre SAT scores for someone who is in the top 10% of their high school class. I think he went to college thinking he was The Shit, discovered he was just average and his ego wouldn't let him accept it.
posted by zinfandel at 7:36 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


How has no one brought up James Hogue and David Samuels' excellent book The Runner yet?
posted by sappidus at 7:46 PM on May 18, 2010


Impossible is nothing!
posted by kcds at 7:52 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He apparently submitted an MIT transcript with letter grades. MIT uses a numerical grading system.

Um, no, it uses letter grades, though the grades on your official transcript (and the grades used to calculate your GPA) are only the flat letter grade, without a plus or minus. MIT does however use a 5.0 rather than a 4.0 GPA; I wouldn't be shocked if he screwed that up.

This was, however, endlessly amusing:

‘[At MIT], I was, to put it poorly, suckled upon the teat of disdain. That being said (fortified by a reflexive snort), I was inspired therby [sic] to apply to Harvard, where the humanities, in short, are not, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium,’

I mean, seriously, kid.
posted by ubersturm at 7:55 PM on May 18, 2010


He dropped out of high school, yet did fairly well in coursework at an ivy league school. What does that say about...A) A "real" high school diploma, and...B) The actual value of a Harvard Education?

Well, it appears he plagiarized much of his academic work.

As for his actual academic performance during his time at Harvard, it was hardly stellar, but quite medicocre.
"He also allegedly doctored a transcript to make himself a straight-A student. Court documents show Wheeler had a far less impressive record — some A’s, a few B’s, and a D."*
posted by ericb at 7:58 PM on May 18, 2010


> What font is that typeset in?
> Garamond, perhaps.
> posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 6:26 PM on May 18 [+] [!]

Remember you're a Womble (who could forget)
posted by jfuller at 8:02 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Click here for a PDF of his rather remarkable two-page resume, in which he claims that (a) he's contracted to write several books; (b) he can speak French, Old English, Classical Armenian, and Old Persian; and (c) he's in demand on the lecture circuit."

He also claims to have studied at the Bread Loaf School of English at University of Oxford, which I thought was an obvious joke, until a quick googling led me to find out that a) there is a Bread Loaf School of English, primarily based in Vermont, but with an Oxford campus.

People better informed than me might want to comment on the propriety of saying Oxford > Breadloaf, when it seems to me that it is Middlebury College that runs the programme (which, of course, melts away with the whole didnt-go-to-any-of-the-listed-colleges bit, but still)
posted by the cydonian at 8:03 PM on May 18, 2010


> I'm curious what his defense will be. "Not Guilty," eh? So, you DID get a perfect score on
> the SAT? Or not? And did you SAY that you did on your application? Or not? All righty then.
> posted by ctmf at 8:39 PM on May 18 [+] [!]

He's a consultant for Richard Blumenthal right now on that very problem.
posted by jfuller at 8:11 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


He dropped out of high school, yet did fairly well in coursework at an ivy league school.

To be clear -- he did not 'drop out' of high school. He graduted from a public high school in Delaware, was accepted at Bowdoin College in Maine from which he was suspended for 'academic dishonesty.' After such, he carefully wove a pattern of deception and fraud. His academic performance at Harvard is now under scrutiny. Some (much?) of which may have been plagiarized.
posted by ericb at 8:13 PM on May 18, 2010


He apparently submitted an MIT transcript with letter grades. MIT uses a numerical grading system.

New York Times:
"When Mr. Wheeler, now 23, applied as a transfer student in 2007, for example, he sent along fabricated transcripts from Phillips Andover Academy and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In fact, he had graduated from a public high school in Delaware and had attended Bowdoin College, in Maine.

One tipoff could have been that M.I.T. does not give letter grades in the fall semester of freshman year, like the straight A’s that appeared on the grade report that Mr. Wheeler submitted. And the names of the four M.I.T. professors who wrote his glowing recommendations? The letters were fakes. And while the professors were real, each teaches at Bowdoin."
posted by ericb at 8:16 PM on May 18, 2010


“....Other prestigious colleges have seen similar cases before. Two years ago, Yale determined that a student who successfully transferred from Columbia had forged his transcript to give himself straight A’s. Connecticut authorities later charged him with larceny, over the $32,000 in scholarships he’d received.

In 1993, another man pleaded guilty to theft by deception in New Jersey, for obtaining $22,000 in financial aid from Princeton.

Edward de Villafranca, dean of college counseling at the Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J., said that such applicants can sometimes slip through admissions screening because ‘there is an expectation that students in this situation act honorably and truthfully.’

‘It is not in our inherent nature in our industry to be suspicious,’ added Mr. de Villafranca, who has worked in admissions at Manhattanville College and the University of Richmond. ‘This is not ‘C.S.I. Harvard.’ ‘

Mr. de Villafranca said that Mr. Wheeler had likely exploited one potential loophole: because he applied to Harvard as a transfer student several years removed from high school, his school counselor — ostensibly at Phillips Andover — might not have been contacted by Harvard about his application.

Mr. Wheeler had come close to being caught at Harvard after his admission interview with a Harvard alumnus. It took place in 2007 at Bowdoin, which, Mr. Verner said, was a red flag to the alumni interviewer, who had been told he was meeting a student from M.I.T.

But, as was apparently so often the case with Mr. Wheeler, he had a ready answer for the alumnus, who was not identified.

Mr. Wheeler said he had finished his M.I.T. coursework early, telling the alumnus, ‘Instead of wasting time I decided to come to Bowdoin to help a professor work on a book,’ according to Mr. Verner.

It was not immediately clear whether the alumnus’s skepticism, and Mr. Wheeler’s response, were ever passed on to officials at Harvard. (As Harvard would later learn, he had been suspended from Bowdoin for ‘academic dishonesty,’ according to the indictment.)

Even before Yale reached out to Mr. Wheeler’s parents this spring, officials and professors at Harvard had their own concerns.

In September, when Mr. Wheeler began his senior year at Harvard, an English professor read his Rhodes submission and saw similarities between it and the work of a colleague. When confronted by Harvard faculty members, Mr. Wheeler remarked, ‘I must have made a mistake, I didn’t really plagiarize it,’ according to Mr. Verner. He soon withdrew from Harvard.

Harvard officials then began reviewing his transfer application, and discovered it had been falsified — including the M.I.T. and Andover transcripts, Mr. Verner said.

Harvard said in a statement Tuesday that ‘in the rare instance where we discover that someone has falsified his or her application materials to Harvard College, we typically rescind that individual’s admission’ and ‘revoke’ any course credits received.

Separately, Yale began its own inquiry when Mr. Wheeler applied for transfer admission earlier this year.

Officials at Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del., from which Mr. Wheeler graduated in 2005, said they were contacted in April by Yale admissions officials. Yale wanted to confirm that he was the class valedictorian (he was not, though he was in the top 10 percent of the class) and that his SAT scores were perfect (they were several hundred points lower.)

Mr. Wheeler’s father taught shop and drafting at the high school, and retired last year. ‘It seemed out of character that the young man we knew would would try to pull off this type of hoax,’ said Kevin Fitzgerald, the district superintendent, who was principal of Caesar Rodney when Mr. Wheeler attended. ‘That conversation between our guidance office and the Yale admissions officer sent up the red flags.’

But there were other red flags. In February, Mr. Wheeler applied for an internship at McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, in which he ‘provided fraudulent information regarding his credentials and student status at Harvard,’ the hospital said in a statement.

In applying to Yale and Brown, though, he not only suggested he was a McLean employee, but also submitted a false letter of recommendation from the McLean official who had refused to hire him.

He also provided Yale and Brown with a falsified recommendation from David Smith, his resident dean at Harvard, the district attorney’s office said.

It was Dr. Smith who had informed Mr. Wheeler of the plagiarism accusations regarding his Rhodes application.

The New Republic reported Tuesday that Mr. Wheeler had recently applied for an internship at the magazine, and it posted the resume he submitted online.

It included references to his being able to speak French, as well as ‘Old English’ ‘Classical Armenian’ and ‘Old Persian.’’’*
posted by ericb at 8:25 PM on May 18, 2010


has plaid
posted by infini at 8:41 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


What font is that typeset in?

Garamond.

The roman capital “T” and its lopsided serifs is a dead giveaway for Garamond flavors. And the crossed Vs in the capital “W.”

I now return back down into the hole where they keep crotchety old type weenies like myself.
posted by zuhl at 9:01 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why does school kid get criminally charged when school officials just resign when doing the same thing?
posted by zeikka at 9:17 PM on May 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


All those Armenian related lectures are actually by (Harvard professor) James Russell. If you google the titles, you'll see them.

NAASR is a real organization but it isn't based at Harvard. Russell gave one of the lectures that this kid listed there though. (link)

I send a message to Russell to ask him what was up!?!?!
posted by k8t at 9:19 PM on May 18, 2010


scody: I can't believe your sister told you that happened to her. It actually happened to me, and she stole it.
posted by anshuman at 9:19 PM on May 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Also I wrote this post.
posted by anshuman at 9:20 PM on May 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I went to a really competitive high school where perfect SAT's weren't that uncommon. Maybe it's tougher now with the written essay portion, but I'm sure it's perfectly easy to figure out what the graders want on that part as well. Let's not forget that it isn't a test of intelligence, but of how good you are at taking the SAT. Hence the huge industry in SAT prepping.

Interestingly, people I knew who got perfect scores of 1500+ (when the highest score was 1600) were really quick to downplay the whole thing. I mean, our high school days were coming to an end and a perfect score meant you were going to a good school. (Then again, the Ivy League and Stanford routinely reject applicants with perfect scores if their extra-curriculars aren't up to snuff.) Bragging about perfect SAT scores was considered very poor form during our senior year. Bragging about getting into Harvard? Well, that was expected. You'd been busting your ass for over a decade for this, how could you not?

As for this douchenozzle, he'll go far in life. Seriously. He knows how to play the strings of of those highly classist and elitist folks who would be shocked -- shocked! -- if you ever accused them of classism or elitism.

It's not like Stephen Glass went and disemboweled himself after getting caught. I'm sure he's living a very nice life these days as published novelist.
posted by bardic at 9:54 PM on May 18, 2010


*perfect scores _or_ 1500+
posted by bardic at 9:58 PM on May 18, 2010


[type pedantry]

The Garamond weirdness doesn't have anything to do with type cut by an assistant of Garamond's, though the idea that the italic came from a different typecutter is correct.

But then, so did the roman.

The roman of the typeface we know as Garamond wasn't cut by Claude Garamond, or Garamont, (ca. 1480–1561) at all, but by a typecutter who lived a century later, Jean Jannon (1580–1635). The italic in most modern "Garamonds" was cut by yet another typographer, Robert Granjon (1545–1588). At the time these faces were cut, romans and italics were not used interchangeably the way they are today. Each roman or italic was considered a complete face unto itself.

[/type pedantry]
posted by ocherdraco at 11:06 PM on May 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


The funny thing is...there are more kids at harvard and other high caliber schools that have students like him who haven't been caught.

He may be rare...but he isn't the only one.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:43 AM on May 19, 2010


Heh, SATs. I miss those. Adults don't get nearly enough multiple choice tests.
posted by ryanrs at 1:30 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The best part about this story was when the Boston Metro called it "a real-life Catch Me If You Can."
posted by giraffe at 5:44 AM on May 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I went to a modestly prestigious undergrad college, then a state university with no real national reputation for grad school.

When TAing my first undergrad class, I was pretty surprised to find out that the coursework was actually much more rigorous than I had at my supposedly prestigious undergrad! But cheating was depressingly common. I could only flunk a couple of students for cheating, but I was sure quite a few others were getting away with it.

So I had formed a hypothesis that while state schools and private schools offer pretty similar educations, a private school degree is more valuable because it provides some assurance that a student actually did the work.

But if private schools don't even offer that guarantee, what's the point?
posted by miyabo at 6:01 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


One tipoff could have been that M.I.T. does not give letter grades in the fall semester of freshman year, like the straight A’s that appeared on the grade report that Mr. Wheeler submitted.

I thought everybody knew that MIT grades pass/no record for the first freshman term.
posted by peeedro at 6:23 AM on May 19, 2010


‘This is not ‘C.S.I. Harvard.’ ‘

No, but that would be great.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:33 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this the thread where we all post our SAT scores?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:47 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


You'd think the New Republic would've hired him. I mean, he applied for their literary section, and he obviously has a lot of experience with fiction.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:19 AM on May 19, 2010




When this guy gets out of jail or pays his restitution or whatever it is he'll need to do, Frank Abagnale will have a job waiting for him.
posted by zizzle at 7:29 AM on May 19, 2010




‘This is not ‘C.S.I. Harvard.’ ‘

No, but that would be great.


Campus Security: We got the call at 4:30 this morning. There's a body in the quad. Lots of facial bruising, No ID on him.

CSI: You did the right thing calling us. Looks like he's wearing boat shoes. We can start with those.

Campus Security: Thanks for coming so quickly. We're all just knocked silly by this.

CSI: You did the right thing. To put it poorly, your department is, in short, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium. We may be sententious, crypto-tendentious, and and slightly pedantic, but at least this case won't end up suckling at...

(CSI sound effect, CSI guy puts on sunglasses)

...The teat of disdain.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:58 AM on May 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


Please ignore numerous typos.

Guess it's back to the teat of disdain for me.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 7:59 AM on May 19, 2010


[i]Making (Up) the Grade: Top All-Time Harvard Grifters.[/i]

I see Blair Hornstine was cheated out of her rightful #1 spot, as usual.
posted by escabeche at 8:01 AM on May 19, 2010


suckled on the teat of disdain

Have to admit, that phrase alone is fame-worthy. Ignatius J. Reilly-level worthy.
posted by blucevalo at 8:08 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just in case it makes anybody feel better, my experiences as an MIT undergraduate and a graduate student at the Boston University School of Medicine, have been remarkably free of academic dishonesty. I knew of one person who cheated on an exam during my first year at MIT, but I haven't been personally aware of any other instances of cheating.

Both at MIT and BUSM, tests are frequently administered in small rooms by professors who leave for 15-20 minutes for whatever reason (or who just leave for the entire time), and I've never seen or heard anything that would suggest cheating. The people I work with are extremely careful never to plagiarize, and some of them actually worry a lot about accidentally plagiarizing by summarizing too closely, or forgetting to cite a figure. This spring, one of my classmates was very ill and spent 2 weeks in the hospital, during which time she missed a midterm. Everybody went out of their way to NOT tell her what the test was like, and she took it 3 weeks late without (and I really believe this) any prior knowledge of what would be on it.

Academic honesty has always been discussed in my classes, at both schools - and in many of them I've been required to sign a paper saying that I promise to do ALL my own work.

I've actually been really impressed with the academic honesty of my peers. Although I have heard of instances of cheating at both schools, none of them ever happened in any of my classes and I have to conclude that the incidence is relatively low.
posted by Cygnet at 9:43 AM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Although it took them far too long, Harvard caught Wheeler out in the end. The other post-secondary institutions he applied to seem to have been swifter and more on the ball. The university college I worked at, sometimes helping the registrar decipher the reality behind impressive-sounding foreign degrees and certificates of study, was very diligent regarding application follow-up. Maybe Harvard needs to hire more admissions staff and/or retrain current employees.
posted by drogien at 9:49 AM on May 19, 2010


Just in case it makes anybody feel better, my experiences as an MIT undergraduate and a graduate student at the Boston University School of Medicine, have been remarkably free of academic dishonesty.

Didn't the Craigslist Killer attend Boston University School of Medicine?
posted by anniecat at 11:27 AM on May 19, 2010


Someone mentioned Blair Hornstine upthread, which lead to finding this torturously written website (likely by a family member, close friend, or Blair herself, given the amount of detail, especially in the "where is she now" section).
posted by availablelight at 11:48 AM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read about Blair Hornstine. She's graduated from William & Mary's law school. Suzanne Pomey, who embezzled lots of money from Harvard while she was a student there, is now a practicing attorney, and graduated from Wake Forest's law school.

And that Kaavya Viswanathan girl who plagiarized her way into a major book deal is at Georgetown's law school, and will be a Summer Associate at Sullivan & Cromwell this summer. Plagiarist Stephen Glass also attended Georgetown's law school.
posted by anniecat at 11:59 AM on May 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


While not common, perfect SAT scores do happen. But everything together? You're not the return of Jesus Christ, kid, dial it back a bit.

I thought this same thing, until I interviewed a Harvard junior for a summer internship at my company a few months ago. This kid's resume, I kid you not, read something like this:

Harvard GPA: 4.00
High school GPA: 4.00 (unweighted)
SATs: 2400
SAT II, Math IIC: 800
Placed 11th in the nation, 1st in his state, on Le Grand Concours (national French language exam)
Languages spoken: English, Chinese, Japanese, French, Conversational German
And so on, that certainly wasn't the end.

I wish I had thought to keep a copy of it. I literally thought it had to be a joke when I first read it. I honestly started laughing. Luckily, he hadn't shown up for the interview yet.
posted by CharlieSue at 1:44 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


[giant text dump shortened - folks, if you're linking to something online you don't also have to copy/paste the whole thing here]
posted by jessamyn at 2:14 PM on May 19, 2010


There's also Aleksey Vayner, so this kid isn't even original. Plus, his resume sounds incredibly boring. He could have at least put something like "one of three people in the world trained in the science and art of Tibetan bone setting." At least Vayner was entertaining.
posted by anniecat at 2:32 PM on May 19, 2010


anniecat --

Yep, the Craigslist Killer did attend BUSM. Which sucks.

But the point is, not everybody at the school is a twisted murderer... in fact pretty much everybody I've met has been great, as well as honest and hard-working.
posted by Cygnet at 2:58 PM on May 19, 2010


So I had formed a hypothesis that while state schools and private schools offer pretty similar educations, a private school degree is more valuable because it provides some assurance that a student actually did the work.

That's one hell of a generalization--not only that there's more cheating at state schools, but also that degrees from state schools are of less value.

To me, the obvious conclusion is that as a TA, you were in a better position to discover and observe any cheating happening, and you were only a TA at the state school; at the private school, you just didn't see everything that was going on.
posted by sallybrown at 3:24 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought this same thing, until I interviewed a Harvard junior for a summer internship at my company a few months ago. This kid's resume, I kid you not, read something like this

Yeah, the very same Marc Shell who supposedly collaborated with Wheeler is the father of Hannah Shell, who at 32 is a Harvard Fellow, holds a Harvard PhD in the History of Science, is currently a prof at MIT, has been a lecturer and course designer at the Rhode Island School of Design, and is a filmmaker with an award-winning documentary about the trade in second hand clothes between the US and Haiti; she's also a visual artist, and an actual winner of the Hoopes prize (the one Wheeler also claimed he'd won). It took me a couple of read throughs of her site and CV to even wrap my head around the work she's doing in American history and the history of science. I'd be interested to know what Marc Shell's take on Adam Wheeler is, or if they had any contact at all; on Wheeler's fake CV his lists giving three papers at the week-long retreat that Shell (along with his wife, an equally distinguished scholar who specializes in Kant) offer at their summer house. Why Shell, in particular, I wonder; was he just a likely-sounding member of the faculty? Or was there something more to it?
posted by jokeefe at 3:32 PM on May 19, 2010




an actual winner of the Hoopes prize (the one Wheeler also claimed he'd won)
IIRC, Wheeler DID win the Hoopes prize, but it was taken back after it was revealed that his submission had been plagiarized.
posted by Saxon Kane at 4:51 PM on May 19, 2010


As Mike Taibbi reports, some former classmates "suspected he was a phony right from the start." One student he interviewed said Wheeler "didn't engage" with others or attend any orientation events.

Hell, I guess that means I was a phony my first couple of weeks in college as well.
posted by blucevalo at 7:05 PM on May 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


thank god I dropped out of two grad programs on two continents in two centuries... the life of an overachiever leads to ulcers
posted by infini at 10:32 PM on May 19, 2010


I feel sorry for Gina Grant, who doesn't seem to belong in that list of Harvard Grifters. Why on earth should they rescind her offer for that!?
posted by jacalata at 10:53 PM on May 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Someone who graduates Harvard with nothing but Cs and Ds still has a Harvard degree, very rare is the employer who actually looks at an applicant's grades.
posted by Vindaloo at 8:05 AM on May 20, 2010






Harvard student?
Dishonest?
Dissimulating?
Disreputable?

Sounds like classic Facebook executive material. Has Zuckerberg recruited him yet?
posted by meehawl at 11:13 AM on May 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Has Zuckerberg recruited him yet?

In related news: Facebook CEO Faces Accusations Of Securities Fraud.
posted by ericb at 1:17 PM on May 21, 2010


I'm kind of surprised at the eyebrows being raised by perfect SAT scores and GPAs (both Wheeler's and in the case of the kid that CharlieSue mentioned). I had something like a 1580 (out of 1600, old format) on the SAT, and a 750 & an 800 on my SATIIs without any real preparation -- and I'm hardly an academic titan. The tests aren't incredibly tough in the first place and the prep classes are extremely well developed, so if you're reasonably bright, have the composure to study and/or funds for a tutor you can score almost arbitrarily high.

As per filthy light thief's link above, there's a couple of hundred perfect marks each year, which is really not that low. For comparison, the intel STS competition only has 40 semi-finalists annually -- and I personally know at least two (as a measure of likelihood of encounter).

There were a fair number of students at my high school who would optimize every single aspect of their academic career and maintained a near-perfect GPA that likely continued straight into their enrollment at the Ivies. Many had very impressive summer/evening research or internship positons. A few were published co-authors in reasonably respectable journals before the end of their (high school) senior year. Incidentally, this was also the group that would most ruthlessly cheat, plagiarize and exploit other students while being lauded by the teachers and administration, but what can you do.

I went to a fairly atypical high school (fairly selective admissions process, a sizable and largely first or second-generation immigrant student body, not private) but the point is that the admissions people at top universities must be desensitized to neck-craning overachievement to at least some extent. I'm guessing Phillips Academy Andover graduates applying at NE schools often carry eye-popping credentials (given that it's high-end prep they probably also have hyperinflated GPAs and heavily padded recommendations, in addition to any actual merits). Granted, the particular combination of bullet points on Wheeler's resume is kind of ridiculous and not entirely self-consistent, but an incoming freshman with a working knowledge of ancient aramaic, knot theory and aboriginal polynesian art would not immediately strike me as an impossibility.
posted by parkan at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2010


"Someone mentioned Blair Hornstine upthread, which lead to finding this torturously written website (likely by a family member, close friend, or Blair herself, given the amount of detail, especially in the "where is she now" section)."

This just sounds like her law school admissions essay. IOW, a google search would be most unflattering, so why not make her own website the first hit.

I am as open minded and caring as they come, but I find it strange that this 'rare autoimmune disorder' that she was afflicted with that no one has ever named could give her federal disabled/special needs status. And then, bam, after the lawsuit, she's back to form and 'in remission'. Some people, me included, just want to call a spade a spade. We went to school with the Blairs of this world.

I'm sure she didn't forget how her father lobbied the school to have one of her PE grades removed from her record. She made an A in the course. Why would anyone want an A removed from the record? Well, it wasn't an honors course, so she would have only gotten a 4 from it, which would have brought her GPA down. It's funny business like this that caused so much skepticism. I don't think there is anyone that would go after a special needs student unless there was too much BS sitting right in front of them to ignore. And because Blair proved herself to be litigious, it was just easier to go with her argument, since undoubtedly the paperwork was on her side. Uggh.
posted by WilliamMD at 5:58 AM on May 24, 2010


And if you do a Google search for Blair Hornstine, you find not just that first site, but most of the search results on the first page are variations, with really similar content:

www.blairhornstine.net
www.blairhornstine.com
www.blairhornstine.org
blair-hornstine.com
www.blair-hornstine.biz
blairhornstine.tumblr.com
blairhornstine.gather.com

Truly effective whitewash of the search results - but nothing can touch wikipedia's top spot.
posted by clerestory at 4:32 PM on May 27, 2010


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