Ask Bracher (Questions &
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on January 8, 2003
"Learning tests the ethical
A professor at our university is using his students to
do research for which he is charging a company consulting
fees. Shouldn't he either be paying the students
or donating the work? Am I wrong to see this as unethical?
- A concerned administrator.
Dear university administrator: Yes, you may be wrong
to see this behavior as unethical - without more
information. Professors in some academic institutions
are allowed, even encouraged, to conduct research and
provide consulting expertise. Depending upon the nature
of this professor's contract with the academic institution
and the client, there may be no conflict or interest.
Students provide lots of "low-cost" services
to institutions of higher learning.
One clear example is major college football which generates
large amounts of cash through tickets sales. These athletic
activities can provide generous compensation packages
for certain instructors and coaches. Perhaps your question
is addressing the legality of such activities.
In that area, please consult legal counsel.
If your concern is that students should be paid for learning
techniques and processes that could later benefit their
own careers (post education) - that could raise yet
another question: Is the "work" of the students
only "billable" because the professor supervises
the interpretation? Is this another form of "sweat
In this instance, integrity and morality do not seem
to be on the "block". Judgment may be. In the
meantime, enjoy sports activities and special grants that
enable institutions of higher education to improve salaries
and benefits for those who choose to serve our future
generations through academic service.
published in Jim Bracher's
Integrity Matters newspaper column on January 22,
"Does college teacher get
passing grade in Integrity 101?"
As a part-time, single, female, college student with
a full-time job, pursuing a bachelor's degree in
computer science, every class and every dollar are important
During the Fall Semester of 2002, while completing the
second of a three-session math class, at a local community
college, an instructor created an economic hardship for
me and many other students.
Our first instructor required that we purchase a new
calculus textbook that he promised would be utilized for
all three semesters of the math class. The cost was $200.
Early in the second session, a different instructor decided
to change the textbook. She required that we purchase
yet another new textbook, with the same price-tag of $200.
Following the new instructor's directive, along with
fellow students, I returned the first text to the college
bookstore and learned that it was only worth (as a used
textbook) $15. So, believing the book to be worth more
to me in my own Resources, I kept it. For me to earn $400
dollars requires a lot of hard work. Obviously, heavy,
unplanned and possibly unnecessary expenditures create
hardships. However, difficult as earning and spending
the money was, that is not my biggest concern.
My question is this: did the instructor act with integrity
in changing the "rules" about the requirements
for her class?
It doesn't sound like it. Creating unnecessary economic
hardships, with the arbitrary changing of textbook requirements,
demonstrates a lack of integrity. At minimum, to change
textbooks without a substantial and reasonable explanation
Instructors can design classes, select textbooks, and
execute their teaching responsibilities as they choose
within the legal guidelines and operational procedures
that pertain to their respective institutions. In one
way or another, that is what is implied by academic freedom.
There exists a possibility that the second instructor
acted sincerely out of a desire to replace a textbook
that would truly not meet the needs of the students. The
instructor may have replaced it with one which would better
facilitate the learning experience. If so, such an explanation
should have been given to you. As your question is written,
however, it does sound like a change made merely to suit
the convenience of the second instructor. Leaders, and
instructors who act with integrity, do not behave in that
Such behaviors are not illegal. They do exhibit the lack
of a substantive "teacher-student" relationship.
While not present in your classroom during and after the
textbook change, it would not surprise me if that instructor
had lost most of the positive energy that can be so healthy
and productive in the classroom.
You will determine how best to communicate this instructor's
behavior to appropriate academic authorities.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on April 30, 2003
"Educators at UCLA missing
I note with alarm that the Academic Senate of UCLA, which
is a tax supported, public university, has taken it upon
itself to pass a resolution to condemn the war in Iraq
(now that it is largely over) and place the governing
of Iraq in the hands of the United Nations, which has
consistently failed to do a competent job with this type
of assignment from the date of its formation. I believe
it is unethical for a publicly-supported university to
politicize its academic role in this manner. Furthermore,
faculty members of the Senate who oppose this action of
the Senate cannot resign from the Senate without also
resigning their jobs as professors at the University--so
much for academic freedom! Free speech at UCLA, and possibly
other institutions, requires a dissenting professor to
commit career suicide! What do you think?
Academic arrogance and intellectual intolerance seem to
have joined arms in the controversy you describe regarding
the behavior of certain faculty senate members at UCLA.
Academic freedom and respect for the world of ideas seem
to be the victims here. The UCLA Faculty Senate’s
contempt for debate signals the rigidity of closed minds.
Refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of conflicting
opinions sets in motion the building of "camps"
that are readying for the mindless protection of ideas.
Universities were never intended to behave that way. For,
it is in the free exchange of ideas that new concepts
can emerge. Millions of lives have been lost in the protection
of these very First Amendment rights.
With reference to academic bodies making pronouncements,
well, that deserves some careful investigation. Unless
or until the academic charter of a publicly-funded educational
institution specifically permits or requires political
pronouncements, they seem wholly inappropriate or simply
The interesting dimension of your question about political
opinions is that they are quite a bit like religious perspectives.
Almost everyone you meet is an expert in each area. Frankly,
what the UCLA Faculty Senate thinks about just about anything
beyond delivering top quality teaching does not mean a
thing to me. Their opinions are theirs and when I want
one of their non-academic opinions, I will solicit same.
The problem of self-righteousness, whether religious,
political or academic, is that it generally stinks. As
with the skunk, you ought never to get into a contest
of wills because skunks will almost always reach a point
where their only dependable defense is a stinky attack.
And, that seems to be the pseudo-sophisticated response
by this faculty senate that espouses freedom while cloaked
in academic intolerance. The operative word that describes
this is hypocrisy. Right now, our society has more important
issues to address than the political "meanderings"
of a few academics. Today, we need our best and brightest
university talent to solve real problems like the killer
epidemic caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or
SARS. We need communications expertise that facilitates
understanding between and among conflicting multinational
cultures, especially as rebuilding is required in nations
recently delivered to freedom from tyranny. We need business
training programs that prepare leaders to function with
a social conscience that is built on an ethical foundation.
Shall I go on?
Perhaps these academics feel a need to save society.
That may or may not be their expertise. Society might
be better served if they would spend their time sharpening
their pedagogical skills.
It should be common knowledge that free markets, including
academic institutions and their faculty senates, must
regulate themselves or governments will.
published in Jim Bracher's Integrity
Matters newspaper column on August 11, 2004
"When it comes to standards, ask these
As I am about to enter college, a major discussion point
has been affirmative action. Many universities across
America employ an affirmative-action program. I personally
believe the best qualified should be accepted regardless
of race. Allowing sub-par students admission because
they are considered a minority is still a form of racism.
Does being politically correct in this situation debase
the integrity of our nation's education system?
Long ago, my father passed along an interesting insight.
He said that minor surgery happens to other people. When,
as a young man, I asked for the meaning of the statement,
my father replied, "When a surgeon was cutting on
me, the surgery was always major." Other people,
however, could call their medical procedures minor. But
Dad's were major. Perhaps this inherited perspective
has convinced me that when I am placing my life (survival)
in the care of other people -- then, just like my Dad,
I feel my situation is major, and my requirements for
the surgeon's skills and performance are uncompromising.
So, given that simple parental wisdom, what might each
individual reader's responses be to the following six
- What is level of surgical skill do you expect when
you are on the operating table?
- Would you be willing to accept a person's professional
certification of competence simply because he or she
was part of a quota system?
- Will you accept a lesser set of medical or technical
qualifications, simply because the "playing field" in
our history, or in their professional specialty, has
not been level?
- Will you tolerate someone hired to fix your automobile's
brakes or steering who lacks the talent and skill required
to confidently make these repairs simply because he
or she was "included" in the mechanic's certification
process? Would you stake the lives of your family on
- Will you be happy to work with a pharmacist whose
credentials were marginally acquired, because in a
politically correct world lesser talented people were
licensed in order to fulfill a quota system? Would
you trust the medicines dispensed by such a person
-- even if a mistake could be life threatening?
- Do you want to fly with a pilot who may have mastered
most of the skills, but not all of them, simply because
it was determined that selection of students for pilot
training should not be based solely upon aptitude or
Sooner or later, standards matter. In some professions,
when mistakes are made, people die. As much as we want,
and need, for everyone to move forward in achieving life's
greatest personal and professional rewards -- excellence
still counts. We want the best runners to represent our
nation in the Olympics. Should we want anything less
in other walks of life? Everyone can and should be afforded
opportunity. Everyone can try out for the team. But not
everyone wins a gold medal.
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