Columbia School of Journalism has a required ethics course in its graduate program called, “Critical Issues in Journalism.” That’s trouble right there. Any time you cannot use the word “ethics” in a course on ethics, there might be a problem with conviction and content.
Be that as it may, as Ben Bernanke says, the students were given a 48-hour period in which to sign in and take a 90-minute two-question essay exam. A student reported to the deanery and administrators that there had been cheating on the open-book exam. There is something quite untoward about cheating in an ethics class.
Most folks are disheartened by this last thought. I am quite buoyed by all the events. The spring in my step comes from reading the comments of the non-cheating students in the class. A student who says he pays $43,422 for tuition and fees was outraged because he sees that his degree is devalued by such behavior. Another student worries what will happen in a job interview when she brandishes a Columbia degree.
There you have it! They get it! The students understand that we don’t worry about ethics and cheating so that we can feel soft, warm, and fuzzy. We worry because when we have no valid means of measuring ability and performance, those who can perform and excel are harmed the most. Cheating is one heck of a subversive means for accomplishing socialism — it is the great equalizer. We are all good students if enough of us cheat. But, in a move that tells me there is hope for Columbia and an entire generation, its students rose to the occasion and said what we hope is the halting phrase in all ethical dilemmas, whether spoken or implicit, “It ain’t right. It just ain’t right.” Well done you, you Columbia students of ethics.
Yes, the students (at least some of them) rose to the occasion to protect the integrity, reputation, and value of their degree from the leveling effect of cheating.
We have yet to see whether Columbia administrators will uphold the protection of student performance and excellence by sanctioning the cheaters. At an institution that has already eliminated grades as a means of distinguishing one student’s talent and performance from another’s, it would seem out of place to “stifle student creativity in problem-solving” by actually requiring them to be ethical, wouldn’t it? Perhaps the cheaters should be seen as having proven their readiness for positions as editors!
After all, this is only an Ethics course.
The lack of enforcement only exacerbates the problem — without enforcement there is little incentive for compliance with norms, standards, and rules. Buck up, Columbia, take action!