University quiz team gets delayed recognition

The team received two championship titles after a cheating scandal.
Third-year law student and member of the University of Minnesota graduate quiz bowl team Andrew Hart reads questions for a high school quiz bowl competition on Saturday, March 30, 2013, in Blegen Hall.
April 01, 2013

 

The University of Minnesota Quizbowl Team has had a presence on campus for more than a decade but has become more competitive in the past few years.

It plays by the rules, though, which brought it a retroactive victory recently — the team was awarded the National Academic Quiz Tournaments championship titles for 2009 and 2011 after NAQT found evidence that a Harvard University team member had cheated in four instances. The University had finished second place in two of those.

The University’s team has had significant growth in recent years, sending 12 students to tournaments last year, current President Gaurav Kandlikar said.

Quizbowl questions are set up in a pyramid-style format with four or five lines of clues that get progressively easier, he said.

Unlike “Jeopardy!” or “Trivial Pursuit,” the orally presented questions appear in paragraph form and participants may interrupt the question and answer at any time.

The University’s team participates in a number of tournaments, including ones for NAQT and the Academic Competition Federation.

The team hosts high school and college competitions in the fall and spring as fundraisers. It uses some of that money to travel to the three to six competitions it attends per year, most often in Illinois and Michigan.

Kandlikar said it’s important for people to know Quizbowl isn’t a niche group, and its team members represent a wide array of majors and personalities.

He said several members are graduating this spring, opening the door for new members to move up.

“Next year will be a rebuilding year,” Kandlikar said.

This fall will be a great opportunity for new members to shine, said chemical engineering junior Srijay Rajan, who joined the team last fall.

Rajan said Quizbowl questions in a typical round range all across the academic spectrum.

“All majors can participate, and all sorts of people are on the team,” Rajan said.

Cheating instances

Higher-level Quizbowl members often write questions for NAQT competitions in which they will not be participating.

But Andrew Watkins, who competed for Harvard’s team in its four championship victories between 2009 and 2011, took advantage of a security loophole online to illicitly view game questions for competitions he would be participating in, according NAQT’s website.

Andrew Hart, a University of Minnesota Quizbowl Team member who competed in both years, said it’s unfortunate members weren’t recognized at the time.

“It’s still good to see the recognition now,” said Hart, who is currently a graduate student at the University.

Hart said rumors had been circulating about Watkins possibly cheating before an official investigation by NAQT.

In an interview with Harvard’s student newspaper, NAQT President Robert Hentzel said the company responded to complaints made after a 2010 competition, but the review didn’t uncover anything suspicious at the time.

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