What does all this say about the most vaunted institution of higher education in the nation? Cynics shrug and attest, perhaps with a hint of schadenfreude, that the news doesn’t elicit much surprise – that it's yet more evidence of an epidemic of academic deceit. Pragmatists talk of finally instituting an Honor Code on campus. Optimists say – well, there aren’t a whole lot of optimists. But if there’s no silver lining to this cloud, students and faculty could do worse than turn to a new book about the rise and fall of a singular fraudster who betrayed Harvard’s trust less than five years ago.
The name of the book is a neat précis of its content: Conning Harvard: Adam Wheeler, the Con Artist Who Faked His Way into the Ivy League. Its author, Julie Zauzmer, is a Harvard senior who, along with fellow student Xi Yu, covered the Adam Wheeler scandal from the get-go. Drawing upon an impressive range of sources – notably the numerous articles she has written for "The Harvard Crimson" as well as personal interviews with many of the individuals in her narrative – Zauzmer presents a fascinating and meticulously researched account of one young man’s circuitous and fraudulent route to Harvard and his downfall. (As a bonus for the hyper-curious, the book is interleaved with copies of Wheeler’s fake transcripts, test scores, and highly inflated resume.)