Take Heart: Cheating Takes a Beating

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.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
This entry was posted in News and Events. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Take Heart: Cheating Takes a Beating

  1. Les says:

    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.

  2. mmjdiary says:

    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!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.