Table of Contents

Situations Related to Ethical Principles

1. Fulfilling the letter or the spirit of the law?

2. Ensuring diverse points of view

3. Putting a square peg in a round hole

4. Protecting an individual's right to privacy

5. Ethical decisions in instructional media selection

6. Computers: Issues of health and safety

7. Adopting and promoting new ideas

8. A clash of cultures

9. Harassment, bias, and discrimination

10. Whose views? Yours or your institutions?

11. All the facts, please

12. Competing with your employer

13. Handling gifts, gratuitites, and favors

14. Engaging in fair and equitable practices with vendors

15. Greasing the squeaky wheel

16. Influencing your colleagues

17. Exploiting professional affiliations

18. Helping one another

19. Is honesty the best answer?

20. An ethical approach to doing business

21. Fair assignment of responsibility

22. Facing new copyright challenges

23. When a colleague is wrong

Putting a Square Peg in a Square Hole

The Situation
Charlie Hatfleld's mind began to wander as the discussion dragged on and on. Occasionally someone's voice would rise and a fist would pound on the table. But, most of the time, the six participants in the group drew upon their most persuasive arguments to try to convince their colleagues to accept a particular point of view.

Having been in the school district for only one year, this was Charlie's first experience at serving on a search committee. At first he felt very honored and excited at being placed in this position. After all, they were choosing someone for one of the most important positions in the district. However, after a few meetings, he had become somewhat disillusioned. As important as the position was and as critical as it was to identify the best possible candidate, he became aware that other interests and concerns dominated the motivation and arguments of some of his colleagues.

There was Sam Goodling, for example. Everyone wondered why he argued in favor of a particular candidate whose qualifications were mediocre, at best. Finally, word got around that this person was one of Sam's fraternity brothers when they were in the state university together. Having gotten to know Sarah Ross fairly well during the past year, it was easy to see that she was probably opposing a very capable candidate because that person had a lot of expertise in her area of work and could be viewed as a threat to her authority and, possibly, her position. On the other hand, Joan Sampsell took the opposite point of view and argued strongly for one of the applicants whose qualifications closely paralleled her own. She felt that this would serve to enhance her own position. And, of course, everyone knew the motivation for Joe Wilson's selection. As the affirmative action officer for the school district, Joe was pushing strongly for the selection of a person from a population that was currently underrepresented in the district. Throughout all of this, Charlie admired the effort that Hank Bixby was putting forth to try to get the committee members to be fair and objective.

As he reflected on what he was observing, Charlie began to realize that the time may soon come when he might be chairing a search committee such as this. Should he just accept the fact that this is the way that the process works? Or, should something be done to make the process more objective and less open to personal biases?


The AECT Code of Professional Ethics—Section 1, Principle 3 In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the members shall guarantee to each individual the opportunity to participate in any appropriate program.

Search and selection procedures for employment should provide for each candidate to be given fair and equal consideration based on the needs and objectives of the employing agency, the nature of the position to be filled, and the related qualifications of the applicant. The situation that Charlie Hafffleld was observing could have been avoided with some careful advanced planning on the part of the school district and those involved in the search. A thoughtful analysis of the long-range plan of the school district, a plan-related analysis of the necessary competencies and characteristics of the person to fill this position, and a checklist of those competencies and characteristics to guide the decisions of the members of the search committee would have gone a long way toward making the selection process more objective and less open to personal biases. In this way, all applicants would be assured an opportunity for fair consideration. Furthermore, on a very practical basis, it would make the school district less vulnerable to litigation by an applicant who may feel that he or she was not given fair treatment.

Peter J. Dean
Head, Human Resources Development Department
University of Tennessee

Paul W. Welliver
Professor Emeritus of Education
Pennsylvania State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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