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

Harassment, Bias, and Discrimination

The Situation
Catherine Young had taught media and technology in the teacher education program at her university for l0 years. Having completed a master's degree, she had been hired on the basis of her excellent reputation as a media coordinator in a nearby school district. At the time she Joined the university, more emphasis was placed upon excellence in teaching than demonstrating research and scholarly ability through the completion of a doctoral program. As a result, she had been appointed at the rank of assistant professor, received excellent evaluations over the years, and had been granted tenure.

However, with the hiring of a new president at the university, things were beginning to change. A strong emphasis was being placed on having a doctoral degree. It was becoming evident to Catherine that, under the current circumstances, promotion to a higher academic rank would be virtually impossible. Indeed, she had already detected that faculty members who did not have doctoral degrees were not treated with as much respect and consideration as those who did.

It was, therefore, with considerable excitement that she received approval of her application for a sabbatical leave to pursue doctoral studies at a nearby university. Although she was in resident as a graduate student during the week, on weekends she would often return to her home. While there, she usually dropped by her office at the university and picked up some books and materials from her personal collection that would be useful in her course work. She was excited about the progress that she was making and looking forward to the time when she would have the necessary academic credentials to fit more comfortably into the university community.

One weekend, as she arrived at her office, she found that her key would not fit the lock. Because no one was around, she called campus security only to be informed that the lock on the door had been changed. Confused and upset, she called her department head only to be informed, matter-of-factly, "Oh, we needed the space so we packed your things in boxes and moved them to another building. You can pick up a key from the departmental secretary next week."


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section l, Principle 9
In fulfilling obligations to the individual, the member shall refrain from any behavior that would be judged to be discriminatory, harassing, insensitive, or offensive and, thus, is in conflict with valuing and promoting each individual's integrity, rights, and opportunity within a diverse profession and society.

The major motivation for the addition of this principle to the AECT Code was to address issues such as gender bias, racial discrimination, and sexual harassment. The situation cited above may not be as flagrant an offense as the ones for which the principle was intended. However, it has something in common with them in that it illustrates an inappropriate and inconsiderate use of power over someone who was considered to be at a lower, more vulnerable professional status with little opportunity for recourse. It would have taken little effort to notify Catherine of the need for the move and allow her to pack her belongings, some of which were personal items, in an organized manner that would make the transition less traumatic. To do otherwise was insensitive and inconsiderate and in violation of her rights as a professional colleague.

Paul W. Welliver
Professor Emeritus of Education
Pennsylvania State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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