The practice of grading has been a very controversial unethical topic within the education environment, where faculty is being ‘forced’ to illegally change the grade of a student athlete to keep him eligible to play sports. Reporting the alleged violations of ethical and university conduct and regulations is paramount to prevent these situations to negatively grow within the organization. Additionally, the whistle-blower protection act would protect from any retaliation against the professor when she reports the violations. The faculty member in question should be the sole individual to fairly assess her students, as she is uniquely qualified to evaluate student performance based on expertise in the subject and the benefit of objectivity. There are multiple approaches that can be applied and analyzed based on this case’s information and parties involved. Being in the professor’s position, I would first apply the “mirror test” mentioned in Seglin’s article, asking myself Augustin’s 4 questions to help me reach a decision.
Is it legal? – No, according to the whistle-blower act and the signed standard agreement which stated the standards of academic integrity expected of a professor at that university. Would you think it’s fair if someone did it to you? – No, as it would generate a negative opinion of the university and the faculty of not being ethically correct towards students and parents within the community. This would also harm the university credibility and desirability from the public community. Would you be satisfied if it appeared in your hometown newspaper? – No, as it would generate a negative reaction from the public opinion and university’s community as unfair treatment of students versus the code of grading criteria within the university. Would you like your mother to see this? – No. Based on this analysis, the permission to change a grade would likely be an unethical decision, therefore causing a negative reaction in a parent’s mind oriented towards a legal and ethical sounded educational institution.Another important approach to apply to this case is noted by Trevino and Nelson’s framework on “how to blow the whistle”. This is a very suitable framework due to the nature of the case involving the fundamentals of employees’ rights, fairness, personal reputation, and ethics.
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Approach your immediate manager first if you can: I would contact my direct superior, the dean/principal of the institution and explain the negative situation that she was involved in by other university staff members. If escalating the issue to the dean doesn’t work, then I would continue to reach out to him/her through different means of communication such as written memos, emails, etc. to emphasize the gravity of the situation. “It is helpful to state the problem in terms of your concerns for people and the company and why those are concerns for you”1. Therefore, it is paramount to clarify consequences of this situation with the dean such as the negative impact towards the university community if such news would become public, university reputation and credibility issues. Therefore, summarizing the severity of these happenings involving the violation of the school’s code of ethics and conduct.Discuss the issue with your family: in terms of personal career expectations and future professional life, it is important for her to confront with the husband implications of actions and future financial condition.
Take it to the next level: if there are no positive feedbacks from the dean and university personnel that were consulted in order to find a solution to this case, then it is key to escalate this issue to the highest authority within the university. “If she is still not satisfied after meeting with the next level of management, she will need to consider going outside her chain of command”1.Conduct your company’s ethics officer: gathering legal and compliance advices from the university’s ethics officer or legal counsel would allow the professor to further build the case with proved legal and ethical evidences supporting the gravity of this issue. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 2012 would be a suitable tool to understand and further research in order to “protect her and any employees who disclose evidence of waste, fraud, or abuse”2.
This would allow the teacher to be shielded from any legal repercussions in case of pursuance of a specific action plan.Consider going outside your chain of command: since the professor feels extremely confident about the grading concern, it is paramount at this stage of the framework to possess straight and documented facts (emails, correspondence, memos, etc.).
Human resources, ethics or compliance office, legal department should be aware of this negative situation, and therefore able to offer solutions. This case involves relationships/activities within the university, external relationships, and law and legal issues that prompt the importance to liaise with all applicable parties. Go outside of the company: this step should be carefully evaluated by the professor as information might leak to the public or external parties causing negative repercussions through medias before evaluating the opportunity to resolve the issue internally. Therefore, I would contact regulators anonymously, external lawyers, and governmental bodies if applicable. Leave the company: this last step would be considered if any of the prior steps did not work to reestablish an ethical and fair situation within the university. This is a stressful process that might lead the teacher to give up and quit her job. As we have seen during Sherry Hunt’s case, it is very difficult to maintain the right mind and bravery in these types of situation that cause unexcepted personal crisis.
“Sherry Hunt risked her entire career, went to the US government and bravely stood up for what is right. That takes a tremendous amount of courage, guts and bravery”3.In terms of potential harm that could derive from this negative situation, I foresee damaging implications at a financial level, personal level, and professional level. These situations cause unexcepted personal crisis derived by stress and worries, the decision of the professor would also have financial consequences especially if this issue would culminate in retortion, demotion at work, or threats, therefore damaging the professor and her family future financial conditions. The university can be negatively exposed to the press and media in the moment in which this negative episode is known by the public opinion.
Therefore, this might entail university personnel being fired or demoted, legal settlements, and ruining the public image and reputation of the university. The preservation of trust of stakeholders and public after a major crisis involving the grading scale and ‘favors’ is a very challenging matter to address either in case of true or false allegation to the case. Following the frameworks mentioned earlier should positively help dealing with these types of negative events.
We can’t exclude the possibility to retain the trust of stakeholders and the public, but it depends on many factors such as the nature of the allegation (true or false), the severity of the situation, decision-making by executives, and parties involved.There are multiple factors that need to be analyzed in case of a major crisis such as public and investor relations, decision-making, moral judgement, and ethics based on the type of crisis and institution (i.e corporations, public institutions, and schools). More specifically, fair grading is a very sensitive topic to the public opinion especially within a university institution. When there is a major crisis, universities need to reiterate the significance of their values.
That’s the reason of the importance of a strong educational brand, reputation, and university public relations with internal and external stakeholders. In order to best manage future ethical major crisis, the university should analyze and apply frameworks like RDCAR, whistle-blowing procedures, reinforcement of code of ethics and conduct