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

Helping One Another

The Situation
Richard Collier found himself in the position that participants often face when attending a well-planned professional conference. There were so many good presentations scheduled that it was sometimes difficult to decide which one to attend at any given time. At the moment it was particularly frustrating because Richard himself was scheduled for a presentation at the same time that Joe Sullivan was to speak. This presented a problem because Richard's university was embarking on an extensive program of distance education and Joe Sullivan was generally acknowledged to be the leading expert on the kind of distance education facilities and techniques that Richard needed to learn about.

After arranging the room for his presentation, Richard had a few minutes before his program was to begin. It was just enough time to run down the hallway, meet Joe Sullivan, and see if he could get some materials that might be helpful to him.

When entering the other meeting room, he noticed a tall, neatly groomed gentleman sitting at the speaker's table. The man's name tag confirmed that this was, indeed, Mr. Sullivan. Richard approached him, introduced himself, and explained why he could not attend the session. He then described the ambitions and needs of his university as well as some of the major questions that had arisen during his planning. He finished by asking, "If you have a handout describing your presentation, could I have a copy? I am sure that it would be very useful."

Joe Sullivan's response was curt, immediate, and direct. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he responded coldly. "Send me a first-class airplane ticket and a contract for $500 a day and I'll come to your university and give you all the help you want." With that, he turned abruptly and poured himself a glass of water. Richard, bewildered and embarrassed, retreated to the nearest exit.


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 3, Principle 4
In fulfilling obligations to the profession, the member shall strive continually to improve professional knowledge and skill and to make available to patrons and colleagues the benefit of that person's professional attainments.

This type of behavior is extremely rare but it has occurred. It is understood that we all have our bad days. Perhaps Joe Sullivan was nervous about his presentation and didn't want to be disturbed. Furthermore, no one can deny his right to be compensated for consulting services to another university. However, this incident illustrates more than a lack of common courtesy. Inherent in the tradition of professional education is the dissemination of ideas and the improvement of educational practices through insights and experiences gained from others. Indeed, the primary reason why most people join a professional association and attend professional conferences is to grow professionally through contact with colleagues who share similar goals and interests. In the spirit of this tradition, therefore, Joe had an obligation to respond to Richard in some way, if only to provide him with a copy of his paper, send him an appropriate article, or provide him with references that would be useful. Indeed, if Joe's primary interest was in financial gain through consulting services, his actions in this situation probably drove away a potential client!

Paul W. Welliver
Professor Emeritus of Education
Pennsylvania State University

Updated January 21, 2008
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