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Journalism School Probes Possible Cheating on Ethics Exam

But other students said the investigation has provided them with the best practical education they could have wanted.

"In the past week I've learned more about ethics than in the past semester," said Kate Grace, 26, as she ticked off recent lessons in anonymous sourcing, rumor and hype.

Peter O'Dowd, 25, said he learned what it is like when the tables are turned and the journalist becomes the news: what it is like to be interviewed, deal with leaks and avoid talking to reporters.

The teacher of the ethics class, Samuel Freedman, declined to comment for this article. And a reporter seeking to talk to several deans, themselves journalists, was referred instead to Barbara Fasciani, the school's director of communications and special events.

"What has happened is there's been some difficulty with the way the exam has been administered," said Fasciani. Confidentiality issues prevent her from saying more, she said. "There was some kind of snag with the timing, how it was sent out and how students were taking it," she said.

Asked if the school was investigating whether one student cheated by offering exam questions to another, she said: "It may be."

In any event, an extra take-home question has been devised to adjust for any unfairness in the exam. The new essay topic, like the school's real-life conundrum, involves a report of cheating by an unnamed individual, followed by rumors and uncertainty.

"You are the executive editor of a newspaper," begins Exam Essay Question III, forwarded to a reporter by a student. "You receive a tip from a credible source that one or more unspecified articles in recent editions of the newspaper contain fabricated material. No more details are given." No one admits responsibility. What do you do?

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