Massachusetts prosecutors say 23-year-old Adam Wheeler claimed he had earned a perfect academic record at Phillips Academy in Andover and at MIT before enrolling at Harvard, when in reality he had never attended either school.
The Milton, Del. man is accused of duping Harvard out of $45,000 in financial aid, scholarship money and academic awards.
The Boston Globe gives more details. One wonders how the Harvard admissions people could have been so superficial in their "analysis" of Wheeler's application documents -->
The Globe reports today [18 May 2010] that Wheeler allegedly forged his way into Harvard University by submitting false transcripts saying he had attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the elite Phillips Academy in Andover. He also said he scored a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT. After transferring to Harvard, he earned some $45,000 in scholarship, grants, and financial aid.
Investigators later allegedly found that Wheeler’s initial Harvard application was bogus. They discovered that he had forged a transcript from MIT with letter grades, though MIT uses a numerical system for scoring, and that he had claimed to take classes at Phillips that the academy did not offer.
Wheeler was caught only because of his activities in applying for post-graduate education. If he had just taken his Harvard degree and stopped, he might have gotten away with his fraud! The Harvard Crimson wrote:
Wheeler's transgressions came to light when a Harvard professor [ James Simpson ] noticed similarities between Wheeler's work and that of another professor during the application review process for the Rhodes Scholarship. The professor then compared the two pieces and voiced concerns that Wheeler plagiarized nearly the entire piece.
Wheeler’s file was referred to University officials, who decided—upon discovering the falsified transcript—to open a full review of Wheeler’s academic file. Wheeler was invited to present his case at a disciplinary hearing convened by University officials, but decided to await the decision at his home in Delaware rather than attend the meeting, according to the press release.
The Boston Globe noted:
His “web of lies,” according to Assistant Middlesex District Attorney Verner, unraveled when he applied for prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships last fall using falsified credentials, including a fake transcript and work he plagiarized from a Harvard professor.
IPBiz notes that the irony of a Harvard student plagiarizing from a Harvard professor is sublime. However, this story confirms that when students get caught plagiarizing, really bad things happen. Wheeler did offer the typical plagiarist excuse:
When confronted with the plagiarism allegation, Wheeler allegedly said, “Ah, I must have made a mistake. I didn’t really plagiarize it,” Verner said.
Boston Globe story: Bail set at $5K in alleged Harvard student scam
A secondary story here is that Wheeler was awarded a Hoopes Prize in the spring of 2009 for a project that he had completed during his junior year. The Harvard Crimson story [Former Harvard Student Indicted For Falsified Applications, Identity Fraud ], and comments thereto, suggest issues here. One comment-->
If I recall correctly, the Hoopes prize goes to both the student and his or her faculty adviser. Assuming Wheeler's piece was fabricated or plagiarized, his adviser was sloppy. Anybody know the topic of his research, or what faculty member oversaw the work?
According to this Boston Globe article (http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/...), Wheeler did indeed plagiarize portions of his thesis. While this oversight is sloppy on the part of his graduate student advisor, I'm also shocked neither of his thesis readers caught it or the Hoopes Prize committee. Makes you wonder.
From the list of 2009 Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize Winners -->
Wheeler, Adam for his submission entitled "The Mapping of an Ideological Demesne:
Space, Place, and Text From More to Marvell" - nominated by Ms. Suparna
The Daily Beast (once home to plagiarist Gerald Posner) noted that Wheeler leveraged his Prize:
One of the places he applied—the political magazine The New Republic—has gone ahead and made his resume public. Its claims include that he is currently writing or in contract to write six different books; that he speaks French, Old English, Classical Armenian, and Old Persian; that he has a 4.0 GPA; and that he was the first non-senior to ever win the Thomas T. Hoopes Prize from Harvard.
**Pretending to hold a degree a chargeable offense?
The Detroit Free Press/AP article included an odd charge against Wheeler: Adam Wheeler is scheduled to be arraigned today in Middlesex Superior Court on a variety of charges including larceny, identity fraud and pretending to hold a degree.
This charge also appears in the Harvard Crimson story: Adam Wheeler, 23, was indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.
ABC article Harvard Imposter? Adam Wheeler Pleads Not Guilty in Education Fraud Case: "The crux of these offenses are identity theft, fraud, larceny and falsification of documents," Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone said.
***from WBUR How Could This Happen? Plagiarism, Fraud In Academia
a commenter noted: It’s that when grades matter more, people tend to cheat more. Making academic performance a greater determinant of success than familial connections, race, or wealth is a major advance. If the spread of cheating is the corollary, we should do all we can to combat it – but understand it in those terms, and not with smug superiority.
***Wheeler, as a Delaware person and 2005 grad of Caesar Rodney High, made KYW local news on 18 May 2010. He was in the top 10% of his class but wasn't valedictorian in 2007.
Information from the Harvard Crimson indicates that Yale University (not Harvard) made some inquiries to the people at Caesar Rodney High, and that the folks at Rodney, noting the factual discrepancies, initially thought the real Adam Wheeler was a victim of identity theft:
Kevin Fitzgerald, who was the principal of Caesar Rodney during the time of Wheeler’s attendance, said he believes that the Yale admissions office did not contact Caesar Rodney in April out of suspicion regarding the authenticity of Wheeler’s application, but to conduct a standard vetting procedure of applicants. But with the emergence of the various warning signs, the Yale admissions office contacted its counterpart at Harvard, which Wheeler had left in the fall of 2009 when faced with charges of academic dishonesty.
In fact, when the high school began to learn of the inconsistencies between the claims made in Wheeler’s transfer application and his actual time in high school, the initial concern on the minds of administrators at Caesar Rodney was the possibility that Wheeler was a victim of identity theft.
“That was our first reaction, that the Adam Wheeler that we’re seeing on this application does not fit the Adam Wheeler that we knew when he was in high school,” Fitzgerald said. It was only after the application had gone through a verification process that the high school “confirmed that that was our Adam Wheeler…It really seemed out of character for him.”
***An alternative view of Adam Wheeler appears in a comment on the post Adam Wheeler–Boy Genius :
So before we demonize him for his lack of hygiene, lack of morals, and lack of class, allow me to spin an alternative (and admittedly selfish/revenge-driven) perspective on Adam Wheeler. Yes, he lied. Yes, he cheated. Yes, he claims to have achieved that which I ACTUALLY achieved, and his ass actually got in and received SCHOLARSHIP money, yet I was rejected. HOWEVER, I am willing and able to overlook all of that due to my profound respect for his mastery of the craft of using Harvard’s bullshit tactics against them, in order to infiltrate from the inside out, for 3 YEARS, only to horribly embarass them in the end, and to unmask in true Scooby Doo style, the fact that the “nice black lady from the admissions office” is actually a bitter old corner store owner named Mr. Clemens who would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for this damned kid. So rather than unnecessarily stating the obvious that Adam Wheeler is a toolbox that embodies everything that is wrong with the freakshow circus that is the American education system, I will instead tip my cap to him, and offer him a genuine heartfelt THANK YOU for returning the favor on my behalf to an institution whose moral and ethical codes are questionable at best, and criminal at worst.
Adam Wheeler: The Audacity of an Academic Con:
After Harvard discovered the fraud, Wheeler was dismissed from the university in October but still managed to continue defrauding institutions. He applied for an internship to McLean Hospital in Massachusetts in January and tried to get into both Yale and Brown as a transfer student.
The New Republic posted the resume that Wheeler sent to it. Therein, Wheeler asserted co-authorship of four books with Marc Shell, who really is a professor at Harvard.
And, as to IP-->
“Prospero’s Maps: Cartography, Location, and Invention in The Tempest”
Recall episode 12 of "Mad Men", titled Nixon v. Kennedy, which included the incident wherein Pete Campell tells Bert Cooper that the person called "Don Draper" is not really Don Draper:
Pete threatens to go to Cooper, but Don calls his bluff and walks out to give Cooper the news. Confused at how Don would rather lose it all than see him succeed, Pete follows Don into Cooper's office with him. Don tells Cooper he's hiring Duck, then looks to Pete. Pete returns the glance and tells Cooper how Don is really Dick Whitman, a deserter and criminal.
"Who cares?" Cooper replies as Don calmly lights another cigarette. "This country was built and run by men with worse stories than whatever you've imagined here."
Cooper notes that a man is who he is in whatever room he is in right now. As to Wheeler, was the real man the one who faked admission papers or the one who won the Hoopes prize or someone else?
Mad Men: Nixon vs Kennedy
UPDATE: The Adam Wheeler Facebook Group
Faking Your Way Through Harvard--Almostby Charlotte Allen contains lots of detail on the Wheeler saga.