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MIT grade changes not caused by hacking

When it transpired that 22 student test scores had been changed on a computer system at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week, the mainstream press immediately cried "hackers".

The Register did not, and all for the best.

As it turns out, a teaching assistant accidentally altered the grades of 22 students in an MIT biology class by sorting them incorrectly on a spreadsheet, Biology Department Chairman Robert Sauer announced yesterday.

Biology Professor Harvey Lodish last Thursday announced to his class that he had uncovered a cheating/hacking scandal.

"The lesson that I hope was learned here is that you have to move slow and be cautious in these kinds of cases," Sauer said in an interview with the local Boston Globe newspaper. "The initial interpretation was the wrong one. And that interpretation was shocking."

Institute officials said they discovered the true cause after determining that the biology department's computer system had not been compromised, MIT spokesman Ken Campbell said.

MIT officials have declined to identify the teaching assistant, whose mistake was entirely innocent. Professor Lodish, who jumped to accuse his students of cheating, will take the heat. And rightly so, we might add. .

-- Carl Jenkins (, March 12, 2000

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