Lit Hum exam leak (2007)

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Wen Jin, section leader who leaked exam information

The 2007 Lit Hum exam leak (not to be confused with other Lit Hum exam leaks) took place in Spring 2007. Prior to the exam, Wen Jin, a Lit Hum section leader leaked information that helped some students study for the passage identifications.[1] These notes identified which quotations would appear on the final exam, and sketched out the essay questions. Students who received this study guide passed it on to other students in the Class of 2010, and it eventually spread to a significant proportion of the class. By May 4th, when the exam was given, hundreds of Lit Hum students had seen the study guide. Jin is now an Assistant Professor in the English Department. [2]


Email to students

In an email to students on Monday, May 7th, 2007, the Core Office sent an email to students confirming "that there was a significant misjudgment on the part of one Lit Hum instructor, which has resulted in a complicated situation". The office announced that they were "looking into [the] matter". The email was sent from Patricia Grieve, Chair of Literature Humanities, and Deborah Martinsen, Associate Dean of the Core Curriculum.

Email to instructors

Earlier on Monday, May 7th, 2007, Deborah Martinsen had sent an email to all Lit Hum instructors that also confirmed "an unfortunate breach in Lit Hum final exam security". She explained that the Core Office had a copy of the notes. Furthermore, Martinsen told instructors that one quotation had been substituted at the last minute. Thus, while the leaked info identified the quote from Crime and Punishment as coming from the Epilogue, it in fact came from another part of the novel. Martinsen said that students identifying the quote as coming from the Epilogue likely had access to the study notes. Also, instructors were told to suspect students who "correctly identified all of the other passages" and/or "the exact Canto in Dante".

Martinsen told instructors that the Core Office is still "trying to determine how widely these answer sheets circulated". She asked instructors to "refrain from submitting your final grades" until she gets back to them with grading recommendations "later in the day". All of this year's Lit Hum blue books will be submitted to the Core Office.

Decision to offer second exam

On Tuesday, May 8th, 2007, a faculty ad hoc committee including Dean Austin Quigley and Core Curriculum administrators concluded that exam security had been severely compromised, and that freshmen would be offered the choice of taking a second Lit Hum exam or having their grade on the previous Lit Hum final not count for their final semester grade.

The study guide

Part I- Possible Identifications

Too[sic] the lighthouse- Will be a difficult passage, know the candles reference -p. 97 cyclical, she hinted it may be this passage but would not say.
Crime and Punishment- will be from the epilogue
Pride and Prejudice- will be a Mr. Bennet quote, there are only a few in the book
Don Quixote (Cervantes)- will be from the last chapter
St. Augustine- easy
Virgil- Book 11
- Battle scene (female)
Divine Comedy- Ulysses
- Book 26
Montaigne- Easy, probably from one of the first two essays we read
Boccaccio (Decameron)- will be from the prologue
Shakespeare- slightly difficult

Part II- Passage Analysis

A passage from each of these books Virgil, Shakespeare, Woolf
- spatially versus temporally
- contradictions and/ or paradoxes

Part III- Essay possible topics she hinted at

1. death, mourning, burial practices (corpses, tombs, graveyards, funerals); intimacy, love relationships
2. daily practices and material objects (gardens, flowers, food, clothes, books, décor, and art)
3. ending to narratives (intense drama, character information)
4. reality as a fictional construct
-material objects
-Books in Cervantes

The passage identifications

The Crime and Punishment passage identification exposed many students who had used the study guide, as the guide had predicted the excerpt from Crime and Punishment would be from the epilogue.

We keep imaging eternity as an idea that cannot be grasped, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast? Instead of all of that, imagine suddenly that there will be one little room there, something like a village bathhouse, covered with soot, with spiders in all the corners, and that's the whole of eternity. I sometimes fancy something of the sort. -Crime and Punishment, Part Four, Chapter 1 (not the Conclusion)


  1. "Students Must Drop or Retake Exam", Columbia Spectator, 5/9/07 (spec lists article post date incorrectly as 5/2/07)
  2. "Faculty Profiles", Department of English and Comparative Literature

See also

External links