Blair Hornstine, the N.J. senior who successfully sued her school to be the lone valedictorian on a discrimination complaint (she's been exempt from various required courses, like physical education, due to an immune deficiency), has reportedly had her acceptance to Harvard rescinded. According the Harvard Crimson, the decision was prompted by Hornstine's admission that she had plagiarized material for articles she contributed to her local paper, the Courier-Post, as well as the growing public sentiment that Hornstine did not deserve to go to Harvard, especially with a petition of over 2700 signatures calling for Harvard to drop her from the Class of 2007. And if the news is true, Gothamist says, thank God. Special needs aside, what any school is doing accepting a high profile plagiarist is beyond us. And if you're going to try to game the system, Hornstine, then everything is up for grabs.
Hornstine, who is now in the middle of a $2.7 million suit against her town for punitive and compensatory damages, apologized for the plagiarism, saying, "I am not a professional journalist. I was a 17-year-old with no experience in writing newspaper articles." Gothamist says bullshit. Gothamist went to high school over a decade ago, and even back then, teachers were extremely emphatic about the dangers of plagiarism. We find it extremely hard to believe that a young woman who was the valedictorian of her high school did not realize what plagiarism was. In fact, according to her high school's handbook (scroll to "Academic Dishonesty / Cheating"), Plagiarism, the failure to acknowledge the ideas of someone else, and submitting work that is not your own is considered cheating. It will not be tolerated in any school work. In a course requirement (i.e., junior English research paper), cheating will result in a failure for that course and may forfeit your right to enroll in the same course in summer school. Hornstine's school work is also being reviewed again, and her journalistic plagiarism will probably be used in the school's defense. Gothamist can understand why Hornstine has raised a lot of ill will from members of her community and others, as her position of privilege (educated, wealthy family) has afforded her the opportunity to challenge the school district.
Another beef we have, and it's not just about Hornstine, is the idea of beefing up the GPA with AP classes. While conceptually, yes, AP classes are more rigorous and demanding, but what if there's the bad AP teacher who doesn't push students while students taking the non-AP classes have the more challenging teacher (a scenario Gothamist is very familiar with from both sides)? Wouldn't that beg the question of weighting classes with the tough teachers more? And what about the students who don't have a classified disability that find it hard to do the work but still muster through it somehow? Perhaps it's about time colleges try to explain that while AP classes are fine and dandy, it's about the well-rounded application, versus the taking all hard classes. The cachet/perceived value of AP classes has diminished in our opinon as well - students can still take AP exams even if they aren't enrolled in AP classes.
New Jersey has always had some crazy physical education requirements, like gym everyday. At the district level, it could even mean letter grades. When Gothamist ended up cutting too much gym (a combination of not having a lunch period and fighting with upperclassmen), we'd have to write reports about sports activities.
Hornstine's father, a state superior court judge, Hornstine, and brother attended Harvard. Her spokesperson, Steven K. Kudatzky, is a Harvard graduate as well.
Examples of Hornstine's plagiarized work and the reactions of the authors of the work she borrowed from. One article Hornstine submitted as her own won an award, which surprised Steve LaMontagne, analyst at Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
The Metafilter thread on Blair Hornstine.