Admissions of Guilt?

Adam Wheeler was hardly the first student to be accused of faking his way into the most hallowed grounds of academia — and he won’t be the last. Welcome to the new era of dishonesty.

Wheeler, as everyone by now knows, turned out not to be a private school prodigy who had aced his SATs and delivered lectures on Zoroastrian cosmology, but rather a public school graduate who had scored a more-modest 1160 and 1220. He’d earned a spot in the top 10 percent of his class but wasn’t valedictorian. He had never attended Phillips Academy or MIT, though he had gone to Bowdoin College before being suspended his sophomore year for “academic dishonesty,” prosecutors say. Among the documents he’s now accused of fabricating: letters of recommendation from four MIT professors and Andover’s director of college counseling, transcripts from Andover and MIT, and “official” results from the College Board.

Even as Harvard debated his fate, Wheeler, back home in Delaware, began readying his next round of transfer applications, which he submitted to schools including Yale, Brown, and Stanford last January. During a routine background phone call to Wheeler’s old high school, Yale admissions officials realized the discrepancies in his application and informed Wheeler’s parents, Richard and Lee Wheeler, who own an interior design firm in Lewes, Delaware. The Wheelers insisted that their son tell Yale of the mess at Harvard. (The Wheelers did not respond to requests for an interview.)

By the middle of May, of course, the Middlesex County DA had indicted Wheeler on 20 mostly felony counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement of approval, and pretending to hold a degree. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial is set for February. But this spring was not all bad for Adam Wheeler. He was accepted by Stanford, at least for a little while.