The U.S. Naval Academy has expelled 18 second-year midshipmen after an investigation determined they cheated on a remote physics exam in December, the school announced Friday.

All told, 105 midshipmen were found to have “likely accessed unauthorized resources” during the General Physics 1 final exam, according to an academy statement.

Of those, 82 were found to have violated the school’s honor code but were retained in the brigade with sanctions and placed into a five-month remediation program.

Four students investigated were found to not have violated the code, while another student is awaiting a final decision.

The test was conducted remotely late last year due to COVID, and the 653 mids taking that test were told they could not use outside sources, such as other websites, to complete the exam, the academy said in a statement.

But officials soon became aware that some students had used such outside sources, partly due to midshipmen discussions “on an anonymous chat platform” following the exam, leading Superintendent Vice Adm. Sean Buck to direct an investigation.

“Character development is an ongoing process and midshipmen must make the choice to live honorably each day and earn the trust that comes with a commission in the Navy or Marine Corps,” Buck said in a statement. “The incident demonstrates that we must place an increased focus on character and integrity within the entire brigade.”

The investigation involved several judge advocates and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and looked at midshipmen website browsing history during the exam.

It found no coordination between the mids who cheated, according to the academy, which also ascribed the cheating to vulnerabilities in COVID-19 mitigation efforts that prevented in-class exam taking.

“Instructions were clear and explicitly stated that use of outside resources was prohibited,” the academy said. “The biggest vulnerability identified was inadequate proctoring.”

The academy is now recommending that teachers only conduct exams in person, and that a browser security program be activated if a test must be done electronically, or a proctor should be able to see a mid’s screen throughout the test.

Websites that faculty members believe could be used for cheating will also be blocked.

After the investigation, a daylong “honor conference” was held for the entire brigade of midshipmen in April, and the academy plans “a renewed focus on character and professional development throughout this academic year, according the school.

Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at geoffz@militarytimes.com.

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