Journalism students caught cheating

by Staff

Investigations continue this week concerning allegations made by a journalism instructor that several of her students fabricated interviews last semester in her broadcasting class.

“The best thing to say is that (representatives in the School of Communication) are investigating it,” said Joyce Gattas, the dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts.

“Once we gather all of the information, we’ll discuss how to go about it on all the fronts.”

Gattas said she has been interviewing students and professors this week, but was unable to give any names or the number of students who have been suspected of the fabrication. She said she hopes to have more information by the end of the week.

The instructor, Dianne Bartlow, could not be reached for comment.

However, in a recent San Diego Union-Tribune article written by Leslie Wolf, Union-Tribune courthouse reporter, Wolf said Bartlow called her just before Christmas. Bartlow told Wolf she had listened to a tape turned in by a student that sounded a bit staged.

“She played the tape,” Wolf said in the article. “There was the voice of a woman playing the role of Leslie Wolf. But the voice was higher and younger than mine. She was clearly reading from a script and saying things I’ve never said.”

Bartlow told Wolf that she had caught eight students who turned in fabricated assignments last semester.

After discussing the incident with other journalism teachers, including Tim Wulfemeyer, head of the journalism department at SDSU, a decision was reached to give those students a failing grade for the assignment, but not for the entire class.

Some ended up with a B for the class; others received a C or D.

As of mid-January, and to the knowledge of Wulfemeyer, Bartlow has not discussed the matter with the students directly.

Wulfemeyer said, in retrospect, it may have been better to give the students incompletes. He said changing the final grades of the students is a possibility but nothing is definite because the students’ side remains to be heard and investigations are not complete.

“The initial decision was made based on the fact that we were on deadline to turn in grades and the students didn’t have their ‘day in court,’ so to speak,” Wulfemeyer said. “We also thought that that was the best possible decision at the time.

“After consulting the dean, we decided there would be further determination of the degree of sanctions to be imposed on the students, if any, after the investigation is complete.”

Wulfemeyer also criticized Wolf’s commentary, which may have been misleading to some.

“I would tell anybody that journalists should try to get the whole story before popping something off before getting all the facts,” he said.

He added, “Whether or not these students are guilty of fabrication or plagiarism, that will not be tolerated at SDSU.”

Both Wulfemeyer and Gattas said, to the best of their knowledge, this is an isolated incident.

Bartlow is not teaching the same class this semester. Mike Real, director of the School of Communication, said he doesn’t know if this decision was because of the incident last semester.

Real said it is common for part-time faculty to switch classes.