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Ivy J-Schoolers Fail Ethics, Ace Irony

Oct. 27 2008, Published 7:07 a.m. ET

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SCHOOLED Freedman Cheating on an ethics exam? It sounds like the setup for a joke. But a group of grad students at Columbia's journalism school are suspected of having done just that, according to a source at the institution.

Tomorrow, the entire student body is required to attend a special session of "Critical Issues in Journalism," an ethics course taught by New York Times columnist Samuel Freedman. In an e-mail announcing the meeting last week, vice dean David Klatell stated only that there had been a "serious problem" with the final exam. Failure to attend the session, Klatell warned, would result in a failing grade for the course.

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Neither Klatell nor Freedman responded immediately to calls for comment, but students believe the purpose of the meeting is to exhort suspected cheaters to step forward. "It's an 'Out yourself or you'll all have to suffer' situation," says the source.

"Critical Issues," an all-school seminar, focuses on dilemmas facing journalists in the post-Judith Miller and Jayson Blair era. The class includes topics such as "Why be Ethical?" and "Tribal Loyalty vs. Journalistic Obligation." The final exam consists of two essay questions to be completed in 90 minutes. Since the test can be taken at any time during a 36-hour period, students are instructed not to discuss the exam questions with each other.

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