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

Influencing Your Colleagues

The Situation
Dr. James Beaver had just completed his sixth year at Midtown University. Looking over his vita, Jim suppressed a smile of satisfaction as he ticked off his accomplishments. Due to the influence that his graduate school adviser had with editors of some prestigious journals, he had been able to publish four articles based on his doctoral thesis. Daily contacts in the faculty club put him in touch with senior faculty members who arranged to have him appointed to some influential committees. He had come to realize that it was important to know the right people in the right places!

During performance reviews with his department head it was pointed out that if Jim could obtain external research funding he would be in a good position to apply for promotion. He had spent considerable time preparing proposals, but none of his ideas had yet been funded. Somehow, he needed to bland" a research contract.

Suddenly, Jim got an idea. Rumors were circulating that a new faculty member, Cynthia Showers, was working on a proposal for a sizable grant. Because the proposal was for an extension of work that she had done with her adviser during her doctoral program, and because the proposal had the strong support of her former adviser and the funding agency, funding was virtually assured. Picking up the phone, Jim made an appointment with Cynthia for the following afternoon.

The next day, as Jim walked briskly into Cynthia's office, he wasted no time. "Cynthia," he announced, gas a new faculty member, it would be very much to your advantage to gain national visibility as soon as possible." Before Cynthia could respond, Jim continued. "I can help you do that. I have a friend who is the editor of an international journal. I'll call him and suggest that he appoint you as his associate editor. In exchange, all you have to do is write me in as co-principal investigator for the research proposal that you are preparing."

Having been caught off guard, Cynthia sat in stunned silence. She was not naive. She knew that, because Jim had seniority over her, he was in a position to have a significant influence over her teaching assignments and other responsibilities within the department. However, the project that she was proposing was in a field in which she had considerable experience and expertise, whereas there was no indication that Jim had much to contribute to this area of research.

As Cynthia hesitated, Jim became impatient. Finally, he broke the silence. "Come on, Cynthia, in this business we've got to learn to play the game and help one another out. After all, in a couple of years, I will probably be sitting on your tenure review committee!"


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 3, Principle 2 In fulfilling obligations to the profession, the member shall not use coercive means or promise special treatment in order to influence professional decisions of colleagues.

Mentorship and collegiality are established roles in academe, but the extremes of making threatening demands or promising special treatment are clear ethical violations. In addition to the ethical principle cited above, other principles in the AECT Code of Professional Ethics relate closely to this incident. For example, professionals are reminded to treat all colleagues equally (Section 3, Principle 1), make honest evaluations of colleagues (Section 3, Principle 5), and accurately and honestly represent one's qualifications and credentials (Section 3, Principle 7).

James Beaver was succumbing to the pressures of his position and driven by the need to fill the gaps in his vita by almost any means that were available to him. Having been successful in achieving some of his goals through personal and political interactions, Jim allowed his judgment and values to become clouded and, thus, tried to substitute personal and positional power for professional competence.

Alice D. Walker
Audio Visual Specialist, Retired
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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