Friday, December 01, 2006

Cheat in a pass-fail course? And it's an ethics class

December 1, 2006/New York Times
Cheating on an Ethics Test? It’s ‘Topic A’ at Columbia
Cheating is not unheard of on university campuses. But cheating on an open-book, take-home exam in a pass-fail course seems odd, and all the more so in a course about ethics.

Yet Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism is looking into whether students may have cheated on the final exam in just such a course, “Critical Issues in Journalism.” According to the school’s Web site, the course “explores the social role of journalism and the journalist from legal, historical, ethical, and economic perspectives,” with a focus on ethics.

Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school, said that students had to sign on to a Columbia Web site to gain access to the exam, and that once they did, had 90 minutes to write a couple of essays. But he was unwilling to detail how the cheating might have occurred.

Mr. Lemann said that no student had been formally accused of any violation, but that the issue had become “Topic A” at the school.

The situation was reported yesterday by

The course was taught by Samuel G. Freedman, a professor of journalism at the school who also contributes columns on education and religion to The New York Times. Mr. Freedman confirmed yesterday evening that “there are allegations of cheating.”

“We are looking into them,” he said, adding that he did not want to comment further because of privacy concerns.

Students in the course, which is required of all students in Columbia’s basic journalism master’s program, have been told they must attend a specially scheduled additional session of the course today in connection with the exam. About 200 students took the course this fall.

“We have encountered a serious problem with the final exam, and will not register a passing grade in the course for anyone who does not attend,” David A. Klatell, vice dean at the school, wrote in an e-mail message, which was forwarded to a reporter by a student. Mr. Klatell did not respond to several telephone and e-mail requests for comment.

Mr. Lemann said that he was surprised that students might have been concerned about how they scored on the pass-fail exam, and that exams and grades at the school were rare.

“We are not a very grade-intensive institution,” he said. “Our school is run on a pass-fail basis.”

“Our students are strivers,” he added. “But they are striving to get good clips. It is not like law school, where fine differences in points make all the difference in the world.”


Anonymous andey62 said...

Shame on Columbia. The best journalism program in the country should care about grades also?

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Hillary said...

I will use a phrase from my psychology classes called the "Broken Window Theory". It's been proven that crime increases in neighborhoods if there is visible damage to the buildings there.
How does this have to do with kids cheating?
They didn't see the class as being serious. "We are not a very grade intensive institution" along with pass-fail take-home open-book test is almost like pure anarchy.
It's like handing a bottle of booze to someone who's been forced to quit. Kids are taught to obey but not to take their own innitiative. Therefore when they do get flexibility, those who are susceptible to cheating will probably take advantage of it.

It's a sad fact... not a good thing at all. I'm just not surprised. Who really is?

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheating on an open-book take-home? I’m guessing several or more, let’s face it if it were two there wouldn’t be all the hullabulloo, students that submitted each other’s answers. But that seems unlikely, who doesn’t figure that’s not going to get noticed? Ok I admit I get it happens here at the Old CC, but at Columbia? So what may have happened is that many of them submitted the same few answers, but they weren’t each other’s. It was a computer based test, I wonder if many of the students didn’t just copy and past the questions into google and then just copy and past the answer from one of the first hits right into the test. That’s how many of them would come up with the same few answers. That’s not just cheating it’s a very special type of cheating called plagiarism. Hey kids faulty can google too. Now for a Journalism school that’s cause for a Hullabuloo.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so what would be the grade then. i'm confused now.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh, it's a journalism school--what else do you expect? Training grounds for more nattering nabobs of nincompoopery.

Seriously, that's where the dinosaur media gets most of their people--and look at the quality problems they have there. Is it any wonder that the training grounds for the would-be next generation are just as bad?

11:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A top honor for Columbia J students is not an A+. It is publishing their best work in national and international newspapers and magazines, something that happens regularly. News editors do not care much for what grades a J student receives in graduate school as much as what and where they published while there. The J school is less about theory and more about practice, the kind that gives its students a working advantage over those more concerned about scholarly ribbons.

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