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

Fair Assignment of Responsibilities

The Situation
Maria Gutierrez was excited about her new position as the Director of Media Services at Yorkville Community College. She felt that her professional experience and graduate study had finally paid off in gaining this position as the administrator of a well-equipped media center.

Following a thorough orientation to her responsibilities by the Dean for Academic Services, Maria enthusiastically settled into the job. However, she soon became concerned about the performance of Sam Johnson, a technician who had been hired about a month before she arrived at Yorkville For those weeks, Sam had not been required to report to anyone. The first incident to attract her attention was when Sam asked to be excused from supervising equipment distribution due to an exceptionally heavy workload of paperwork. Taking him at his word, Maria rearranged assignments to provide Sam more time preparing the equipment schedule at his desk.

A few days later, when office activity appeared to slow down, Maria requested that Sam take over the direction of media assistants and operators. Sam's response was absolute refusal. "I already told you I'm too busy to do that and, besides, that's not my job," was Sam's blunt response. Although Maria remained calm, the confrontation was unpleasant because Sam was visibly upset. It became obvious that Sam wanted to limit his responsibilities to scheduling equipment.

The following morning, Maria found a quiet time to take Sam aside. She explained to Sam she had arranged for help with entering requests in the scheduling system because she needed Sam to spend his time organizing the media assistants and operators and seeing that equipment is moved and set up. When Sam refused, Maria produced a copy of his job description. Suddenly, the underlying problem was revealed as Sam ended his protest by declaring, "Besides, I never touched a projector until I came here, I don't know one video cable from another, and I've never supervised anyone before!"


The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 3, Principle 7
In fulfilling obligations to the profession, the member shall delegate assigned tasks only to qualified personnel. Qualifled personnel are those who have appropriate training or credentials and/or who can demonstrate competency in performing the task.

Obviously, proper procedures had not been followed in Sam's selection for this position. Even so, it would be unethical as well as unrealistic for Maria to assign tasks to Sam that he is not able to carry out. Furthermore, it would not be fair to permanently reorganize the entire media center just to accommodate Sam.

Resolution of the problem depends on a number of factors. One possibility is that Sam could be dismissed because of his lack of qualifications. However, this action must be weighed in light of the institution's commitment to Sam as an employee and as an individual. Also to be considered is the time and expense required in seeking a replacement as well as the inconvenience of operating with a vacant staff position for an extended period of time. This suggests another alternative, depending upon Sam's interest, ability, and attitude, which would be to establish an on-the-job training program. Such a program would have to be carefully planned, conducted, and documented as a part of Sam's employee evaluation. Regardless of what plan she decides to pursue, Maria will fulfill her ethical and institutional obligations only by ensuring that the technician position is filled with a competent employee who can carry out the duties necessary for the Center to operate effectively.

Andrew R. J. Yeaman
Westminster, CO

Updated January 21, 2008
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