John Gellene, a bankruptcy lawyer at the law firm Milbank Tweed, worked directly under Wall Street attorney Larry Lederman. In 1994, Lederman asked Gellene to represent mining equipment company Bucyrus-Erie (BE) in a reorganization bankruptcy that became increasingly complicated.
In an attempt to initially ward off bankruptcy, BE had, pursuant to the legal advice of Milbank Tweed and the financial advice of Goldman Sachs, accepted a $35 million infusion of cash from an investment fund called South Street. In exchange, BE gave South Street a lien on all of the company’s manufacturing equipment, putting it ahead of other BE creditors, including Jackson National Life (JNL). JNL was BE’s largest single creditor, but was unsecured. BE had posted no collateral in return for JNL’s loan, so JNL was in line in bankruptcy court behind all of BE’s creditors that had demanded collateral. South Street was controlled by Mikael Salovaara, a former Goldman Sachs banker who had previously provided financial advice to BE and was advised by Lederman.
When Gellene filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on behalf of BE, he was required to ask the court to appoint him and Milbank Tweed as BE’s counsel for purposes of the proceedings. At that time, he filed documents under oath that were supposed to disclose any potential conflicts of interest that Milbank Tweed had in the proceedings. For reasons unknown, Gellene did not disclose to the bankruptcy judge (who would appoint counsel) the fact that Milbank Tweed was representing both South Street and Salovaara regarding various matters.
Legal scholars and attorneys reflecting on this case years later have speculated as to why Gellene did not disclose what might seem to be obvious connections that could be potential conflicts of interest for Milbank Tweed. Lawyer Steve Sather suggests that the lack of disclosure may have been inadvertent, or that Gellene did not see the connections as inherent conflicts, among other possible reasons.
Regardless, Gellene did successfully guide BE through the reorganization process. The failure to disclose was not discovered until years later by JNL, which then sued Milbank Tweed. Criminal charges were filed against Gellene for three felony counts of making false statements under oath in regard to Milbank Tweed’s ability to serve as bankruptcy counsel. Gellene was convicted and sent to prison for 15 months.
1. What concepts from the video Intro to Behavioral Ethics are apparent in this case study?
2. Why might the connections among Milbank Tweed, South Street, and Salovaara be conflicts of interest? Why not? Explain your reasoning.
3. Does it seem irrational for an attorney who has a very promising legal career to not disclose potential conflicts of interest? If you were in Gellene’s position, what would you have done? Why?
4. At sentencing, the prosecutor in the Gellene criminal case said that he had prosecuted many bad people over the years, but admitted “John Gellene isn’t a bad guy.” The prosecutor said it made him nauseous to see how hard Gellene had been working and suggested that Gellene was “overstressed and overworked.” Is that an explanation for Gellene’s actions in the BE reorganization? Why or why not?
5. Gellene had opportunities to correct his errors before they came to light, but did not. How would you evaluate the following statement from Gellene:
“I’ve been recognized as a person with gifts in terms of my intellect and my ability to deal with problems and I’ve been very good and very competent at the kinds of problems presented [by] my clients in the practice of law… And that is I think such a part of me and who I hold myself out to be and who I am that when I am confronted with a mistake, an act of inadvertence that is stupid that I’m—it is very difficult for me to stand up and say I did a stupid thing.”
6. What do you think of the following statement by the judge in the Gellene criminal case:
“I have a substantial amount of contact with my colleagues in law firms to appreciate that there are incredible pressures in this area that, frankly, sooner rather than later are going to have to be addressed or we are going to see more cases of this nature being prosecuted for criminal conduct because lawyers are so focused on other matters… [W]hen they become so focused to the exclusion of ethical considerations, that is when the entire system breaks down, the public at large is ever more distrustful.”
7. Based on the two statements above, where do you think the blame primarily lies and why? With Gellene individually, or with the system within which he operated? Explain your reasoning.
How Will You Measure Your Life?
The Collapse of Barings
Cheating and Loss Aversion: Do People Lie More to Avoid a Loss
Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World
How Nick Leeson Caused the Collapse of Barings Bank
Total Risk: Nick Leeson and the Fall of Barings Bank
Eat What You Kill: The Fall of a Wall Street Lawyer
Barings Collapse at 20: How Rogue Trader Nick Leeson Broke the Bank
In 2014, Alan Barron, a white middle school history teacher who taught for 36 years in Monroe, Michigan, was placed on administrative leave a few weeks before his retirement. Barron’s administration viewed his history lesson as racist. While teaching about racial segregation laws during the Jim Crow era, Barron played a video showing a white entertainer in blackface. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, white actors commonly painted their faces with makeup to depict black individuals. Barron explained that the purpose of the video was to show how stereotypes of African-Americans were portrayed at one point in American history. During the lesson, an assistant principal who was observing the classroom demanded that Barron stop the video because she “concluded that Barron’s lesson about how entertainers used to be racist was itself racist.” Barron was subsequently suspended.
Many parents spoke out against Barron’s suspension. Adrienne Aaron, whose African-American daughter was in Barron’s eighth grade history class at the time, said that her daughter was not offended by the lesson and thought that the subject needed to be discussed. Aaron stated, “[My daughter] was more offended that they stopped the video…History is history. We need to educate our kids to see how far we’ve come in America. How is that racism?”
After two weeks on leave, the district allowed Barron to return to his classroom. The superintendent stated, “The teacher in question was placed on paid leave to give the district time to fully consider what occurred in this classroom. As a result of incorrect information, a highly respected and loved teacher, and one who has done much for his students and the community, has had to endure a public airing of what should have ended through a district discussion.” Barron was set to retire soon after being reinstated.
1. Do you think Mr. Barron was demonstrating moral awareness or a lack of moral awareness by showing the video of the minstrel show? Explain your position.
2. Do you agree with the assistant principal’s decision to shut down the video during the observation? Was she demonstrating moral awareness or lack of moral awareness? Explain your position.
3. Should Mr. Barron have warned his students that some of them could have been offended by the racism portrayed in the video? Why or why not? Is it ever necessary for teachers to provide disclaimers about content that they use in their classrooms? Explain.
4. Should teachers be prevented from showing examples (books, films, photos, etc.) of historical events and/or practices that are considered racially insensitive by today’s standards? Why or why not?
5. What do you think is the best way to teach about stereotypes? Is it possible to do this without offending someone? Explain.
6. Many people viewed political correctness as the main issue of this case. Can you think of an example in which political correctness promoted ethical behavior? How about an example in which political correctness led to unethical behavior?
Teacher’s lesson about racism offends his bosses
The Daily Caller – Middle School Teacher Suspended for Showing Video About White Actors Wearing Blackface
Monroe News – Monroe Teacher Suspended Over Black History Lesson
Community comments on Facebook
Teaching Tolerance – Do’s and Don’ts of Teaching Black History
Monroe News – Monroe Teacher Reinstated After Segregation Lesson
Mental health clinicians are taught to introspect about the degree to which their own background, culture, values, and beliefs may affect their reactions to their clients, and to strive to maintain objectivity in the process of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment. Clinical social workers are the largest professional group providing mental health services in the United States, providing services in urban and rural outpatient and inpatient settings. Social workers are seen as different from clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, and other occupational groups that provide therapy in the emphasis that social work places on social justice, cultural competence, and respect for diversity. According to the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics, the social work profession requires its members to “act to prevent and eliminate…discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, political belief, religion, or mental or physical disability.”
An ethical dilemma may arise when the religious or moral beliefs of the social worker interfere with the duty of all health care professionals to provide optimal service to clients and to “do no harm.” This issue made national headlines in a related context, when Kim Davis, a clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky, was jailed after defying a federal court order to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Her action was based on her contention that to do so would violate her religious beliefs. In his ruling, Judge David L. Bunning of the United States District Court stated, “If you give people the opportunity to choose which orders they follow, that’s what potentially causes problems.” In defense of Davis, Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation wrote, “Ms. Davis felt she had to follow her conscience… That, after all, is what religious freedom and religious accommodations are all about: creating the space for citizens to fulfill their duties, as they understand them, to God—regardless of what the rest of us think.”
A similar conflict between religious faith and the requirements of one’s job or one’s profession may be seen in social work practice in the following scenario:
A clinical social worker has been treating a 25-year-old man for depression and anxiety. In the fourth session, the client reveals that he is gay, and that he has not “come out” to his family. He states that he has been involved in a committed, monogamous relationship with another man, and is contemplating marriage. He would like to inform his parents of this good news, but is fearful that they may angrily reject him. He is seeking counseling around this issue. The social worker belongs to a faith tradition that believes that homosexuality is a sin, and whose leaders have been prominent in opposing same-sex marriage. The social worker, who had up to this point believed that treatment was going well, is concerned that his own religiously based objections to homosexuality will interfere with his ability to provide unbiased mental health treatment services. The social worker contemplates informing the client that he will have to transfer him to another therapist.
1. In what ways is role morality evident or not evident in the case of Kim Davis? Explain. Do you think role morality would be ethically permissible in this situation? Why or why not?
2. In what ways is role morality evident or not evident in the case of the social worker? Explain. Do you think role morality would be ethically permissible in this situation? Why or why not?
3. Do you think mental health providers should be able to decline to provide services to individuals whose lifestyle they find morally wrong? Should clinicians have the freedom to select who they wish to treat on the basis of their own values or beliefs? Why or why not?
4. Is it fair to a client if mental health services are provided by a social worker who harbors animosity or condemnation toward the client on the basis of the client’s sexual orientation? Would the client be better served by a clinician who did not harbor such beliefs? Why or why not?
5. Should clients be asked to identify their sexual orientation upon admission to mental health facilities so that appropriate provider assignments may be made? If the client does not divulge that he or she is gay until treatment has begun, does it risk harm to the client if a transfer to another therapist is made? On the other hand, does it risk harm to the client to continue work with a clinician who has antipathy toward him on the basis of his sexual orientation? Explain your reasoning.
6. What should be done in cases where it is not possible to refer the client in the above scenario to another therapist due to limited staffing options, such as in rural mental health clinics? Explain your reasoning.
7. In the Davis case, officials of the Mormon Church asserted that the duty to obey the law supersedes any religious objections that Mormon county clerks may have to gay marriage. Do you think requirements included in the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics to advocate for oppressed minority groups outweigh sincere religious objections that may be held by some social workers? Why or why not?
Issues and ethics in the helping professions
Clerk in Kentucky chooses jail over deal on same-sex marriage
We don’t need Kim Davis to be in jail
Mormons say duty to law on same-sex marriage trumps faith
In 2003, a research team from prominent laboratory the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) for Plant Research in Ithaca, New York published an article in the prestigious academic journal Cell. It was considered a breakthrough paper in that it answered a major question in the field of plant cell biology. The first author of this paper was postdoctoral researcher Meena Chandok, working under her supervisor Daniel Klessig, president of BTI at the time.
After Chandok left BTI for another job, other researchers in the laboratory were unable to repeat the results published in Cell, following exactly the same methods described in the article. Klessig, suspecting possible scientific misconduct, requested Chandok to return to the laboratory to redo her experiments and confirm the authenticity of her results, but she declined. An institutional investigation into the experiment concluded there “was no conclusive evidence that Dr. Chandok achieved the results reported,” but also that there was “no conclusive evidence” of misconduct or that Chandok had fabricated the results. Klessig and the other co-authors retracted the article without Chandok’s agreement. Chandok subsequently sued Klessig for defamation, claiming the retraction had caused significant damage to her career and reputation within the scientific community.
Over several years in court, the case drew attention to a number of issues in scientific research and publishing. John Travis, an editor at Science magazine, wrote of the case’s consistency with “the National Institutes of Health’s grant policy that researchers should come forward with concerns about possible misconduct.” John Dahlberg, director of the Office of Research Integrity’s Division of Investigative Oversight, believed the case could encourage anyone with fear of being sued for defamation to come forward. Science writer Eugenie Reich described Klessig as a “whistle-blower,” while philosopher Janet Stemwedel raised questions surrounding the collaborative responsibility of the coauthors and Klessig with regard to quality control for the research. She asked, “If credit is shared, why isn’t blame?”
In 2011, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York dismissed the case. It ruled that Klessig’s statements were legally protected because they were “matters as to which the speaker [had] a legal or moral obligation” to notify the journal that his laboratory could not replicate the results they had published and were made between “communicants who [shared] a common interest.” The court found there was no proof of malice toward Chandok and that the investigation and attempts requesting Chandok to replicate her work left the question of scientific misconduct open.
1. The retraction did harm Chandok’s ability to pursue a career in science. Do you think Klessig should have retracted the article published in Cell without conclusive evidence that Chandok had fabricated the results? Explain.
2. Do you think Chandok had a moral obligation to return to the laboratory at Klessig’s request to replicate her results? Why or why not?
3. If the article had been published in a less prominent journal and the results were of much less significance, do you think this would have altered the decision to retract the publication? Explain.
4. Klessig’s decision to retract the article was based only on the inability of his laboratory to replicate Chandok’s results, not specifically on the credibility of her character. Do you think Chandok was ethically justified in suing for defamation? Why or why not?
5. There were four authors on the Cell paper, including Klessig and Chandok. If another of the authors besides Chandok also opposed the decision to retract the article, should this have changed whether or not Klessig should have gone ahead with the retraction? Why or why not?
6. In collaborative research projects involving multiple authors or researchers, how should responsibility ideally and ethically be shared? How would you approach collaboration in this situation?
7. If Klessig had no reason to doubt Chandok’s abilities or honesty, would he have a moral obligation to write letters of recommendation for her explaining that his retraction did not in any way reflect on her potential to do quality research and be a significant asset to whatever laboratory or institute she joined? Why or why not?
NIH Grants Policy Statement [see “Research Misconduct” in section 4.1.27, page IIA-40]
Scientist Wins Legal Skirmish After Fulfilling ‘Moral Obligation’ to Speak Out
Chandok v. Klessig (2011)
NO-Making Enzyme No More: Cell, PNAS Papers Retracted
US free-speech law offers protection — at a price
Legal and scientific burdens of proof, and scientific discourse as public controversy: more thoughts on Chandok v. Klessig.
Retractions sparks lawsuit
Court Finds Qualified Immunity for Whistleblower (page 2)
On July 9, 2015, Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill requiring the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina State House grounds. The flag and the pole on which it was flown were both removed the following day. Leading up to this removal was heated debate concerning whether or not the Confederate flag should be taken down. Similar discussions occurred across the United States in places where Confederate flags or other Confederate symbols were on display, ranging from governmental properties and university campuses to NASCAR venues and popular television series.
Prior to the flag’s official removal from the front of the South Carolina State House, police arrested activist Brittany Newsome for climbing the flagpole and removing the flag herself. The activist explained her act of defiance, stating, “because it was the right thing to do and it was time for somebody to step up. Do the right thing. We have to bury hate; it’s been too long.” South Carolina Representative Jenny Anderson Horne, an ancestor of former Confederate President Jefferson Davis, argued that the Confederate flag should no longer fly in front of the State House. She chastised her colleagues in an emotional speech, stating, “I cannot believe that we do not have the heart in this body to do something meaningful—such as take a symbol of hate off these grounds on Friday.”
On the other hand, Confederate sympathizers contend that the flag is a symbol of historical pride, not of hatred. They claim that efforts to remove the flag are a misplaced reaction to photos of Dylann Roof posing with a Confederate flag. Roof had been recently charged with the racially motivated killing of nine black people in a Charleston church. South Carolina State Senator Lee Bright noted that symbols have been misused throughout history. Bright said, for example, that he believed the Ku Klux Klan abused the symbol of the cross, but there has not been a push to remove all crosses. Similarly, Kenneth Thrasher, the lieutenant commander of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, urged decision makers not to act in haste because, “The flag didn’t kill anybody. It was a deranged young man who did.”
1. Do you believe that flying a Confederate flag is ethically prohibited? Why or why not?
2. In what ways is displaying a Confederate flag similar or different to displaying other types of flags? A tribal flag? A national flag? A corporate flag? A sports team flag? A rainbow flag?
3. Should retailers bow to public pressure to discontinue sales of controversial items even if they are not illegal, such as toy guns, fur coats, or Native American headdresses?
4. Is it possible to make an objective decision in the case of the Confederate flag? How might you come to a decision that is both reasonable and defensible?
5. Can you think of an example of another situation in which there were two views that were strongly opposed to each other? How was the situation resolved? Do you think the ethically ideal decision was reached? Why or why not?
Confederate Descendant’s Scathing Address In S.C. Flag Debate
Activist Arrested For Removing Confederate Flag At South Carolina Statehouse
Flag Supporters React With a Mix of Compromise, Caution and Outright Defiance
Bright will fight the ‘Stalinist purge’ of the Confederate flag
A Guide to Moral Decision Making
Ethical Decision Making and Moral Behavior
Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making
Ethics, theory and practice
In March 2014, twenty-seven year old Christina Fallin, daughter of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, found herself at the center of controversy when she posted an image of herself wearing a red Plains headdress on Facebook and Instagram with the tag “Appropriate Culturation.” Fallin posed for this photo as a promotional piece for her band, Pink Pony. Public outcry criticized Fallin for appropriating Native American cultures, sparking uproar on social media and leading to protests at their shows.
In response, Fallin and Pink Pony removed the photo and released a statement on their Facebook page explaining their aesthetic appreciation for Native American culture. Fallin told the Indian Country Today Media Network that, “I think Native American culture is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, so I was naturally drawn to it.” Musician Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips became involved in the issue when he fired bandmate Kliph Scurlock for criticizing Fallin online. To show his support for Fallin, Coyne posted Instagram photos of several friends and a dog wearing headdresses.
Some argue that Fallin’s photo could be an example of artistic appropriation. Throughout history, artists have borrowed objects and images from everyday life as well as other cultures in order to re-contextualize the object in a new manner. On the other hand, some argue that non-Native Americans do not have the right to adorn a headdress at all. Taking a sacred or meaningful object out of context is problematic even when touted as “art.” Summer Morgan, member of the Kiowa tribe in Oklahoma, believes that Fallin may have had good intentions, but there are better ways to express her appreciation of Native American cultures. Morgan believes that headdresses are not fashion accessories. Following Kiowa tradition, only men can own war bonnets and each feather represents a war deed. Female relatives may be given the right to wear a male relative’s war bonnet, but only after they understand what’s expected of them when they wear it, how to treat it properly, and when it is acceptable to wear.
1. Did Christina Fallin do something ethically prohibited in posing in a war bonnet? Does it make a difference that she claims to love and respect Native American culture? Fallin wrote, “Please forgive us if we innocently adorn ourselves in your beautiful things.” Do you view her act as innocent or not? Explain your reasoning.
2. How should educators teach students about cultures other than their own? Do you think it is possible to avoid perpetuating stereotypes of other cultures? Why or why not?
3. What if Fallin’s record label asked her to pose in the war bonnet to gain publicity for her music? Would it make a difference if this were simply a business decision to sell records? Explain your reasoning.
4. Would it make a difference if the photographer of this image intended to hang it in a gallery as “art?” What if the goal of the artist was to make viewers mad or uncomfortable? What if the artist created this image as a way to engage viewers in critiquing both Native American and non-Native American cultures?
5. Is cultural appropriation always a bad thing? Why or why not?
The Most Interesting Governor’s Daughter in the Country
The Daughter of Oklahoma’s Governor Caused an Uproar After She Posed in a Headdress for her Indie Band
Oklahoma Governor’s Daughter Mocks Native American Protesters with ‘War Dance’
Native Americans React to Christina Fallin’s Fake War Dance Performance
Christina Fallin, in Her Own Words: ‘I’m Tired of the Misinformation’
Oklahoma Gov’s Daughter: A Woman in a Headdress is ‘a Beautiful Thing’
When Friends Disagree: Debate over Native American Mascot
In 2003, publisher Doubleday released James Frey’s book A Million Little Pieces, marketing it as a memoir about Frey’s struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. In 2005, the book was selected for Oprah’s Book Club, in part for the inspiring and supposedly true story of Frey’s overcoming addiction. The publicity from The Oprah Winfrey Show sparked strong sales for the book, which topped bestseller lists in the following weeks.
On January 8, 2006, investigative website The Smoking Gun published an exposé describing numerous exaggerations and fabrications in Frey’s account of his life story as written, creating controversy regarding the truthfulness of the book as a “memoir.” When Frey first appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005, he emphasized his honesty: “If I was going to write a book that was true, and I was going to write a book that was honest, then I was going to have to write about myself in very negative ways.” As he did so, he expanded on falsehoods that appeared in the book.
Frey and his publisher, Nan Talese, were unable to effectively refute The Smoking Gun allegations. When Winfrey invited Frey back on her show, she harangued him for lying, saying that she felt “duped” and that Frey had “betrayed millions of readers.” Talese described Winfrey’s rebuke of Frey as “mean and self-serving,” while critics of Frey saw him as opportunistic.
Frey defended the right of authors and memoirists to draw upon their memories, not only upon documented facts: “I wanted the stories in the book to ebb and flow, to have dramatic arcs, to have the tension that all great stories require.” Authors and literary critics have echoed this sentiment, noting that memoirs are not necessarily the same genre as biographies or autobiographies. When asked about this controversy, author Joyce Carol Oates stated, “the tradition of personal memoir has always been highly ‘fictionalized’ — colored with an individual’s own ‘emotional truth’ … This is an ethical issue…with convincing arguments on both sides. In the end, [Winfrey] had to defend her own ethical standards of truth on her television program, which was courageous of her; and [Talese] had to defend her standards as a longtime revered editor, which was courageous of her.”
1. In what ways is self-serving bias apparent in this case regarding James Frey? Regarding Oprah Winfrey? Do you think one’s position is more ethically defensible than the other’s? Why or why not?
2. Do you believe authors should adhere only to fact in memoirs? Why or why not? Do you think authors have a responsibility to tell the truth to their audiences? Explain.
3. Cultural critic Laura Kipnis writes, “If Frey, an aspiring novelist, harnessed himself to the engine of the recovery narrative to get his story into print, his readers compromised themselves too, swallowing his writerly affectations like pills mashed up in applesauce, so eager for a fix of recovery lit that the eye-blinking grandiosities [of the book] barely registered.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
4. Do you know people who seem to remember past events in their lives in ways that put themselves in a very favorable light? Do you have this tendency? Explain with examples.
5. Can you think of other examples in politics, newspapers, business, or your everyday life that seem to illustrate the impact of the self-serving bias? Explain with examples.
The man who rewrote his life
Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It
Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan
How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior
Picking Up the Pieces: How James Frey flunked rehab, and why his fakery matters.
James Frey’s Morning After
How Oprahness Trumped Truthiness
Oprah vs. James Frey: The Sequel
Since the enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), some parents, teachers, and administrators have taken their own stand against something that they believe is harmful for public education and American children: high stakes testing. Under NCLB, every child in the U.S. must achieve proficiency in reading and math. While each state can determine its own level of proficiency, a child’s ability to advance to the next grade level, and even graduate from high school, hinges on passing a standardized test. Across the U.S., children in minority communities have been more likely not to receive a diploma due to low-test scores on mandated exams.
Assessment has many benefits. Advocates of large-scale assessments claim that it is an objective and fair measure of student achievement. Results show how students, or groups of students, measure up against one another and broader standards. Ideally, all children throughout the country will receive an equal education, and testing can help educators target where instructional improvements are necessary. Sonja Brookins Santelises, Vice President of K-12 Policy and Practice for the Education Trust, acknowledges that there is too much rote test preparation, but argues that we must work together to reduce the achievement gap among student populations. The founder of nonprofit organization StudentsFirst and former Chancellor of D.C. Public Schools, Michelle Rhee, also sees standardized testing as a means to reduce this gap. She states, “It’s not inconceivable for a student to be receiving all A’s and B’s on her report card but still be stuck far behind her peers in other districts and states across the country. And without standardized testing, that child’s parents, teachers and principal would have no idea.”
Opponents, however, firmly believe that high stakes testing is problematic and even ruinous to our educational system. There is no research to corroborate that standardized testing, a multi-billion dollar industry controlled by three large U.S. corporations, is effective. Teachers complain that they are forced to “teach to the test,” leaving little or no time for subjects that are not tested, such as art, social studies, and science. Parent and former teacher Edy Chamness founded a Facebook group in 2011 to rally parents in her community to protest against school accountability and standardized testing requirements. She also kept her son out of school on testing days. Other parents, including Maeve Siano of Celina, Texas, similarly felt that the preparation and stress associated with testing were more likely to damage her son than help him. Celina Superintendent Donny O’Dell stated, “Our country was basically founded on rebellion, so to speak. So I don’t hold that against any of these parents, but we as educators have to do what we have to do…and we need some form of accountability.”
1. What is your view on the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001? What is your view on standardized testing in particular?
2. If you were a teacher or administrator who disagreed with standardized testing, but would be at risk of losing your job if you acted on your beliefs, what would you do?
3. Many detractors of standardized testing argue that it is ruining education and is a detriment to our children. Did Edy Chamness demonstrate moral action by opting her child out of testing? How so or how not?
4. Many supporters of standardized testing argue that education needs some form of accountability, without which we would be failing our children. Do you think districts that enforce standardized testing are demonstrating moral action? Why or why not?
5. Whose responsibility is it to determine what students should learn and how they should be assessed? Defend your position.
Testing, Assessment, and Excellence
Is the Use of Standardized Tests Improving Education in America?
High Stakes Testing
Standardized test backlash: More parents pull kids from exams as protest
Testing the Limits: A Texas Mother’s Radical Revolt Against Standardized Tests
Michelle Rhee: Opting out of standardized tests? Wrong answer.
In 2002, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asked Joseph Wilson, U.S. diplomat and husband of CIA agent Valerie Plame, to investigate allegations that Saddam Hussein purchased yellowcake uranium in Niger. Wilson traveled to Niger and found no evidence of this. Nonetheless, during the 2003 State of the Union Address, President George W. Bush stated, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” On July 6, 2003, Wilson rebutted this statement in an editorial for The New York Times. One week later, journalist Robert Novak published an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing Wilson and releasing information identifying Plame as a CIA agent. Another journalist, Matthew Cooper, wrote in Time Magazine that government officials informed him that Wilson’s wife was employed by the CIA. Plame was a classified covert agent and her actual employment was not public knowledge. Her employer, Brewster Jennings, was thus unmasked as a CIA front company and their employees worldwide were put at risk.
The CIA asked the Department of Justice to investigate the leak. Bush stated if a leak occurred from his administration “and if the person violated the law, the person will be taken care of.” He later said, “If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.” A special counsel examined the legal violations and a grand jury summoned the journalists involved, as well as various members of the Bush administration, with a focus on presidential aide Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, Chief of Staff for Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cooper claimed Rove told him Plame’s name and employment, while Rove contended he only learned of her name from journalists. Evidence suggested Cheney might have informed Libby. Eventually, the source was revealed as Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State at the time. Armitage was ultimately not charged because no evidence existed to prove he was aware Plame’s employment was covert, and thus, illegal to disclose.
The only person charged over the leak was Libby. He was indicted on two counts of perjury, two counts of making false statements, and one count of obstruction of justice. These charges all stemmed from testimony he gave during the investigation, not the initial disclosure of information. He resigned from his position, and was later fined and sentenced to thirty months in federal prison. President Bush commuted the prison time, but left the fines intact. Cheney aggressively sought a full pardon for Libby and was reportedly very upset with Bush for refusing to grant it. Bush publicly stated he respected the jury’s verdict, but Cheney felt Libby did nothing inappropriate.
Wilson and Plame eventually filed a civil lawsuit against Rove, Libby, Cheney, and Armitage for their role in disclosing her identity. The lawsuit was dismissed, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the dismissal on appeal.
1. Which person involved in this complex case do you think was most subject to bounded ethicality? Why?
2. How do the situational factors of this case pose challenges for those involved to act ethically?
3. How were the actions of Bush, Cheney, and Libby subject to bounded ethicality? In this case, what organizational pressures or psychological factors may have influenced each of their decisions? Explain.
4. President Bush was caught between the interests of Cheney, Rove, and Libby on the one hand, and Plame, Wilson, and the CIA on the other. Do you think President Bush’s actions were ethically ideal? Why or why not?
5. If you were in President Bush’s position, how would you have handled this situation? Explain how your resolution would minimize harm to those involved.
Fair game: my life as a spy, my betrayal by the White House
The politics of truth: inside the lies that led to war and betrayed my wife’s CIA identity: a diplomat’s memoir
Key Players in the Valerie Plame Affair
2003 State of the Union Address
What I Didn’t Find in Africa
Bush Raises Threshold for Firing Aides In Leak Probe
Reporter Says He First Learned of C.I.A. Operative From Rove
In a typical year in the United States, the public is urged to get flu shots as a means of protection against influenza. A report published by an influenza expert at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control found that the 2014-2015 rate of effectiveness for flu shots was 23% in the U.S., and that the shots offered no significant protection in Canada. A related finding published by researchers at the National Institutes of Health documented that, although the percentage of seniors who received flu shots in recent decades rose from 15% to 65%, the deaths caused by influenza among the elderly continued to climb during this period. These researchers concluded “either the vaccine failed to protect the elderly against mortality… and/or the vaccination efforts did not adequately target the frailest elderly.”
More recent research has tried to develop a method to assess in advance whether a given flu vaccine would have any protection benefit. A report published in 2016 in the journal Nature Immunology used a blood assay and identified a correlation between persons with a certain pattern of gene expression and the likelihood that such persons would experience adverse events after receiving a flu vaccine. If this assay could be made economical, and included in blood tests typically done in annual physicals, it could reduce the number of suits filed with the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. With these reports in mind, consider the following case:
Dr. Jones works in a hospital and she recently became aware of all the above reports. She belongs to the American Medical Association (AMA), which strongly recommends that everyone receive flu shots each year. Moreover, her hospital recently informed her that she herself must take annual flu shots or risk termination of her hospital privileges or employment. Dr. Jones, however, is aware of the AMA Code of Ethics, which states that patients have a right of self-decision regarding their health care, and that this right can only be effectively exercised “if the patient possesses enough information to enable an informed choice.” She feels a moral obligation to inform her senior patients that she has reservations about the efficacy of flu shots for their age group and why.
Since the AMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are strong proponents of annual flu shots, if Dr. Jones gives contrary advice to her patients, this could jeopardize her standing with the AMA, in addition to her employment at her hospital. Furthermore, her hospital administrator and other health officials are concerned that if doctors advise patients about the relative ineffectiveness of, and potential injury from, flu vaccines, this could feed public doubts about the efficacy or safety of other vaccines. Such doubts could increase public opposition to new state laws that aim to promote “herd immunity” by mandating certain vaccinations.
While the case of Dr. Jones is based on the actual experiences of a medical doctor, her name and identifying details have been changed. This case study reflects the key ethical dilemmas the doctor faced.
1. Do you think Dr. Jones should discuss her reservations about flu vaccines with her senior patients? Why or why not?
2. Do you think Dr. Jones has a greater moral obligation to her family to protect her job security or to the recommendations of the AMA Code of Ethics, which encourage physicians to help patients exercise their “right of self-decision” by providing them with enough information to enable an informed choice? Explain your reasoning.
3. Even if flu shots provide protection less than one fourth of the time, is it ethically permissible for Dr. Jones to decide that protection for some patients is better than none? And, on that basis, decide not to discuss the potential benefits and harms of flu shots with her patients? Explain.
4. Do you think the AMA should promote open discussions about the efficacy of flu vaccines and support the development of blood tests that could predict that efficacy? Why or why not? What are the potential outcomes?
5. Both the AMA Code of Ethics and the World Health Organization endorse the primary “right of self-decision” of all patients regarding their health care. However, to foster “herd immunity,” the bill SB 277 was recently passed in the state of California, mandating multiple doses of vaccinations for all students entering kindergarten. Do you think there is a way to reconcile these two opposing ethical goals? Explain.
Mandated Influenza Vaccines and Health Care Workers’ Autonomy
Impact of Influenza Vaccination on Seasonal Mortality in the US Elderly Population
Adjuvanted influenza-H1N1 vaccination reveals lymphoid signatures of age-dependent early responses and of clinical adverse events
H1N1 viral proteome peptide microarray predicts individuals at risk for H1N1 infection and segregates infection versus Pandemrix vaccination
Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children
Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults
AMA Code of Medical Ethics
National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program
California Vaccination Bill SB 277 Signed By Governor, Becomes Law
How cognitive biases contribute to people refusing the flu vaccine
On June 24, 2004, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Cheney v. U.S. District Court. Believing that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney’s handling of an energy task force violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and suspecting undue influence in governmental deliberations by the energy industry, two environmental groups—the Sierra Club and Judicial Watch—sued to discover official documents relating to the meetings. Cheney and other government defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but the federal district court in Washington D.C. ordered defendants to produce information about the task force. Defendants appealed, and the Circuit Court also held that they had to turn over the information. Defendants appealed again to the Supreme Court. A majority of the Supreme Court, for largely procedural reasons, held that the Circuit Court should reconsider the appeal in light of new legal guidelines that the Supreme Court set out. Dissenters argued that the lower courts had ruled correctly, and the case should be returned to the District Court where it could go forward. Justice Antonin Scalia voted with the majority, but also said that he favored dismissing the case and ruling for Cheney and the other defendants. Justice Scalia also filed a statement explaining why he was refusing requests that he recuse himself from the case.
Justice Scalia’s opinion in favor of Cheney was controversial. While the case against Cheney was pending, Scalia had taken a widely publicized duck hunting trip with defendant Cheney and others. Federal law states that “any justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned.” Critics of Justice Scalia thought it reasonable to question his impartiality. Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor and expert on legal ethics, noted, “A judge may have a friendship with a lawyer, and that’s fine. But if the lawyer has a case before the judge, they don’t socialize until it’s over. That shows a proper respect for maintaining the public’s confidence in the integrity of the process.”
Defenders of Justice Scalia argued that these criticisms were politically motivated by people who wished that Scalia not be able to vote in the case. They said it is common for justices to be friends with political actors who might be involved in cases coming before the Court. Defending his actions, Scalia stated, “Social contacts with high-level executive officials…have never been thought improper for judges who may have before them cases in which those people are involved… For example, Supreme Court Justices are regularly invited to dine at the White House, whether or not a suit seeking to compel or prevent certain presidential action is pending.”
1. Do you think there is a conflict of interest in this case? Why or why not?
2. Psychological studies indicate that people have an easy time understanding how conflicts of interest may sway the decisions of other people, but often have great difficulty perceiving that similar conflicts might prejudice their own decisions. Is there evidence of this in the case of Cheney v. U.S. District Court? Briefly explain.
3. Do you think it would be easy to rule against a friend or a former employer in a high-stakes case? Does this create a conflict of interest between a judge’s natural motivation and the duty to render justice impartially? Why or why not?
4. What do you think would have been the most ethically defensible action for Justice Scalia to take? Explain your reasoning.
5. What is your reaction to the following passage by professors Max Bazerman and Anne Tenbrunsel commenting upon Justice Scalia’s opinion in this case:
“Scalia’s comments [on conflict of interest] indicate that he rejects or is unaware of the unambiguous evidence on the psychological aspects of conflicts of interest. Even more troubling than this lack of understanding are the Supreme Court’s rules which, like most guidelines and laws that are intended to protect against conflicts of interest, guard only against intentional corruption. Yet most instances of corruption, and unethical behavior in general, are unintentional, a product of bounded ethicality and the fading of the ethical dimension of the problem.”
Do you agree with their assessment? Why or why not?
28 U.S.C. sec. 455(a) – Disqualification of Justice, Judge, or Magistrate Judge
Cheney, Vice President of the United States, et al. v. United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 541 U.S. 913 (2004)
Cheney, Vice President of the United States, et al. v. United States District Court for the District of Columbia et al., 542 U.S. 367 (2004)
Justices Scalia and Kagan Duck Washington for Hunting Getaway
Was the duck hunt a conflict of interest?
Scalia’s Explanation for Recusal Refusal is Unconvincing
Trip with Cheney Puts Ethics Spotlight on Scalia
Scalia Angrily Defends His Duck Hunt with Cheney
Scalia and Cheney’s outing: No ordinary duck hunt
Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It
Conflicts of Interest: Challenges and Solutions in Business, Law, Medicine, and Public Policy
During the Holocaust, more than a third of Nazi Germany’s Jewish victims never boarded deportation trains and did not die in gas chambers. Jewish men, women, and children were murdered near their homes in surrounding fields and forests by German police forces and their local helpers. Historians estimate that these so-called mobile killing units shot almost 2 million people during World War II. After the war, when some of the shooters and their commanders were put on trial, they claimed that they had to follow orders. Decades later, however, historians studying the interrogation files of one of these police battalions made a startling discovery. Not only did many ordinary Germans participate in the mass murder of Jews, they did so voluntarily.
In his book on one group of reserve policemen from the German city Hamburg, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, historian Christopher Browning shows that while the men were expected to follow orders when it came to killing civilians, they could have refused to do so. In July 1942, before their induction into the mass shooting of civilians in the small Polish town of Józefów, their commander gave battalion members a choice. If any of the men were “not up to the task,” they would be assigned to do “other duties,” such as guarding or transportation. When given the opportunity to opt out, only a very small number of men did. Even though this option remained in the months that followed, the majority of reserve policemen chose to kill—to do the “dirty work” even if just for a short time before being relieved of duty—rather than separate themselves from their unit by refusing to murder civilians.
Most of these ordinary, middle-aged German men became willing, although not enthusiastic, killers. A small minority consistently excused themselves from the task at hand. Those that killed, Browning argues, did so because of “the pressure for conformity—the basic identification of men in uniform with their comrades and the strong urge not to separate themselves from the group by stepping out… [The] act of stepping out…meant leaving one’s comrades and admitting that one was ‘too weak’ or ‘cowardly’.”
1. Why do you think ordinary men would become willing killers? What was the role of conformity bias in the situation described above? Explain.
2. Although conformity bias refers to our own tendency to take behavioral cues from the actions of others around us, in what ways do you think conformity was actively encouraged by the political climate or police forces leading the volunteers? Explain.
3. In hindsight, it is clear to see the wrongdoing of the actions of the men of Reserve Police Battalion 101. But given the number of men who willingly killed their Jewish neighbors, the decision to opt out may have been more complicated than simply being “not up to the task.” Beyond conformity bias, what other cognitive biases or situational pressures may have contributed to these men’s decision to kill? Explain. How do you think the men could have made different choices?
4. Do you think this dynamic is specific to a militarized culture? Why or why not? In what other contexts do you think conformity bias could play a significant role in shaping people’s behavior? Explain.
5. Can you think of examples in other parts of the world or historical periods in which conformity bias may have played a similar role in causing harm on a wide scale? Explain.
6. This case study illustrates an extreme example of the negative effects of conformity bias. On a more routine basis in your own life, in what situations do you think you might encounter conformity bias? Explain. Do you think our tendency to conform could ever produce positive effects? Why or why not?
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
In December 2015, representatives from 195 nations gathered in Paris and signed an international agreement to address climate change, which many observers called a breakthrough for several reasons. First, the fact that a deal was struck at all was a major accomplishment, given the failure of previous climate change talks. Second, unlike previous climate change accords that focused exclusively on developed countries, this pact committed both developed and developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the voluntary targets established by nations in the Paris climate deal fall considerably short of what many scientists deem necessary to achieve the stated goal of the negotiations: limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius. Furthermore, since the established targets are voluntary, they may be lowered or abandoned due to political resistance, short-term economic crises, or simply social fatigue or disinterest.
As philosophy professor Stephen Gardiner aptly explains, the challenge of climate change presents the world with several fundamental ethical dilemmas. It is simultaneously a profoundly global, intergenerational, and philosophical problem. First, from a global perspective, climate change presents the world with a collective action problem: all countries have a collective interest in controlling global carbon emissions. But each individual country also has incentives to over-consume (in this case, to emit as much carbon as necessary) in response to societal demands for economic growth and prosperity.
Second, as an intergenerational problem, the consequences of actions taken by the current generation will have the greatest impact on future generations yet to be born. Thus, the current generation must forego benefits today in order to protect against possibly catastrophic costs in the future. This tradeoff is particularly difficult for developing countries. They must somehow achieve economic growth in the present to break out of a persistent cycle of poverty, while limiting the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere to protect future generations. The fact that prosperous, developed countries (such as the U.S. and those in Europe) arguably created the current climate problems during their previous industrial economic development in the 19th and 20th centuries complicates the tradeoffs between economic development and preventing further climate change.
Finally, the global and intergenerational nature of climate change points to the underlying philosophical dimensions of the problem. While it is intuitive that the current generation has some ethical responsibility to leave an inhabitable world to future generations, the extent of this obligation is less clear. The same goes for individual countries who have pledged to reduce carbon emissions to help protect environmental health, but then face real economic and social costs when executing those pledges. Developing nations faced with these costs may encounter further challenges as the impact of climate change will most likely fall disproportionally on the poor, thus also raising issues of fairness and inequality.
1. On the one hand, what harms are potentially produced by failing to take action to control climate change? On the other hand, what harms are potentially produced by acting to lower carbon emissions?
2. To what extent do humans have a moral responsibility to future generations that are yet to be born? Explain your reasoning.
3. Arguably, actions to cut carbon emissions and curb global warming right now have real costs for certain segments of the global population while the benefits of such actions are more abstract. How should we balance the tangible costs in the present and abstract consequences in the future when addressing climate change? Explain.
4. If you were in a position to recommend environmental policy changes or actions, what would you advocate and why?
5. Do prosperous countries have a greater responsibility to take action and bear more of the costs of controlling climate change than developing countries? Explain your reasoning.
6. Considering that the negative impacts of climate change will likely fall disproportionally on the poor, yet developing countries must often increase consumption and emissions to achieve greater economic growth, do you think developing nations should be exempt from actions to control climate change? Why or why not?
7. The climate change agreement approved in Paris is based on voluntary goals and pledges by participating countries. Would it be ethically permissible to impose carbon emission goals on countries and individuals and enforce them with penalties? Explain your reasoning.
Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris
Climate Model Predicts West Antarctic Ice Sheet Could Melt Rapidly
What Does a Climate Deal Mean for the World?
Peter Singer on the COP21 Agreement and the Ethics of Climate Change
The Ethical Dimension of Tackling Climate Change
Here’s what political science can tell us about the Paris climate deal
Egil “Bud” Krogh was a young lawyer who worked for the Nixon administration in the late 1960s and early 1970s as deputy assistant to the president. Military analyst Daniel Ellsberg leaked the “Pentagon Papers,” which contained sensitive information regarding the United States’ progress in the Vietnam War. President Nixon himself tasked Krogh with stopping leaks of top-secret information. And Nixon’s Assistant for Domestic Affairs, John Ehrlichman, instructed Krogh to investigate and discredit Ellsberg, telling Krogh that the leak was damaging to national security.
Krogh and another staffer assembled a covert team that became known as the “plumbers” (to stop leaks), which was broadly supervised by Ehrlichman. In September 1971, the plumbers’ first break-in was at the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist; they were looking for documents that would discredit Ellsberg based on mental health. Reflecting on the meeting in which the break-in was proposed and approved, Krogh later wrote, “I listened intently. At no time did I or anyone else there question whether the operation was necessary, legal or moral. Convinced that we were responding legitimately to a national security crisis, we focused instead on the operational details: who would do what, when and where.”
The break-in, which was illegal, was also unproductive. Nothing was found to discredit Ellsberg. Importantly, the ties between this break-in and Nixon were much more direct and easy to establish than the ties between Nixon and the Watergate break-in. Krogh later pled guilty to his role in the break-in and was sentenced to two-to-six years in prison. At his sentencing, Krogh explained that national security is “subject to a wide range of definitions, a factor that makes all the more essential a painstaking approach to the definition of national security in any given instance.” Judge Gesell, sentencing Krogh to serve six months in prison and remain on unsupervised probation for another two years, said, “In acknowledging your guilt, you have made no effort, as you very well might have, to place the primary blame on others who initiated and who approved the undertaking. A wholly improper, illegal task was assigned to you by higher authority and you carried it out because of a combination of loyalty and I believe a degree of vanity, thereby compromising your obligations as a lawyer and a public servant.”
Krogh, who cooperated with the Watergate prosecutors and never bargained for leniency, served only four-and-a-half months of his sentence. The Washington State Supreme Court disbarred Krogh in 1975, although he successfully petitioned to be reinstated in 1980 and became partner in the Seattle law firm Krogh & Leonard. Krogh has spent much of the past 45 years supporting legal ethics education and writing and lecturing on the topic of integrity. Writing for The New York Times in 2007, he stated, “I finally realized that what had gone wrong in the Nixon White House was a meltdown in personal integrity. Without it, we failed to understand the constitutional limits on presidential power and comply with statutory law.”
1. How was ethical fading a part of Egil Krogh’s eventual journey to prison? Explain.
2. At the time the decision was made, what factors caused the morality of the decision to break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to fade from view?
3. Krogh has said that he went into his White House job “with tremendous enthusiasm and commitment—almost to a fault.” Do you think this is reflective of his actions in the Nixon administration? Why or why not?
4. In what ways did authority figures affect Krogh’s actions? Explain.
5. How might one guard against ethical fading in a high-pressure work environment?
6. Krogh believes that the Bush administration’s policies and practices regarding torture during the Iraq War reflect the same types of decision-making errors that he was guilty of regarding the plumbers’ operations. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It
The Whole Truth: The Watergate Conspiracy
Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan
Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril
The Break-In That History Forgot
Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House
Egil Krogh’s Lessons Learned
Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years
Being Nixon: A Man Divided
One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon
With its highly coveted line of consumer electronics, Apple has a cult following among loyal consumers. During the 2014 holiday season, 74.5 million iPhones were sold. Demand like this meant that Apple was in line to make over $52 billion in profits in 2015, the largest annual profit ever generated from a company’s operations. Despite its consistent financial performance year over year, Apple’s robust profit margin hides a more complicated set of business ethics. Similar to many products sold in the U.S., Apple does not manufacture most its goods domestically. Most of the component sourcing and factory production is done overseas in conditions that critics have argued are dangerous to workers and harmful to the environment.
For example, tin is a major component in Apple’s products and much of it is sourced in Indonesia. Although there are mines that source tin ethically, there are also many that do not. One study found workers—many of them children—working in unsafe conditions, digging tin out by hand in mines prone to landslides that could bury workers alive. About 70% of the tin used in electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets comes from these more dangerous, small-scale mines. An investigation by the BBC revealed how perilous these working conditions can be. In interviews with miners, a 12-year-old working at the bottom of a 70-foot cliff of sand said: “I worry about landslides. The earth slipping from up there to the bottom. It could happen.”
Apple defends its practices by saying it only has so much control over monitoring and regulating its component sources. The company justifies its sourcing practices by saying that it is a complex process, with tens of thousands of miners selling tin, many of them through middle-men. In a statement to the BBC, Apple said “the simplest course of action would be for Apple to unilaterally refuse any tin from Indonesian mines. That would be easy for us to do and would certainly shield us from criticism. But that would also be the lazy and cowardly path, since it would do nothing to improve the situation. We have chosen to stay engaged and attempt to drive changes on the ground.”
In an effort for greater transparency, Apple has released annual reports detailing their work with suppliers and labor practices. While more recent investigations have shown some improvements to suppliers’ working conditions, Apple continues to face criticism as consumer demand for iPhones and other products continues to grow.
1. Do you think Apple should be responsible for ethical lapses made by individuals further down its supply chain? Why or why not?
2. Should Apple continue to work with the suppliers in an effort to change practices, or should they stop working with every supplier, even the conscientious ones, to make sure no “bad apples” are getting through? Explain your reasoning.
3. Do you think consumers should be expected to take into account the ethical track record of companies when making purchases? Why or why not?
4. Can you think of other products or brands that rely on ethically questionable business practices? Do you think consumers are turned off by their track record or are they largely indifferent to it? Explain.
5. Would knowing that a product was produced under ethically questionable conditions affect your decision to purchase it? Explain with examples.
6. If you were part of a third-party regulating body, how would you deal with ethically questionable business practices of multinational corporations like Apple? Would you feel obligated to do something, or do you think the solution rests with the companies themselves? Explain your reasoning.
Apple ‘failing to protect Chinese factory workers’
How Apple could make a $53 billion profit this year
Global Apple iPhone sales from 3rd quarter 2007 to 2nd quarter 2016 (in million units)
Despite successes, labor violations still haunt Apple
Reports – Supplier Responsibility – Apple
Dennis Kozlowski came from modest circumstances. He began his career at Tyco International in 1975 as an auditor, and worked his way up the corporate ladder to become CEO in 1992. Kozlowski gained notoriety as CEO for the rapid growth and success of the company, as well as his extravagant lifestyle. He left the company in 2002 amid controversy surrounding his compensation and personal spending. In 2005, Kozlowski was convicted of crimes in relation to alleged unauthorized bonuses of $81 million, in addition to other large purchases and investments.
As CEO, Kozlowski was lauded for his risk-taking and the immense growth of the company. He launched a series of strategic mergers and acquisitions, rapidly building up the size of Tyco. During his first six years as CEO, he secured 88 deals worth over $15 billion. Strong growth was bolstered by a booming economy, and Tyco’s stock price soared as the company consistently beat Wall Street’s expectations. However, when the economy slowed, the company began to struggle.
Allegedly, Tyco paid for Kozlowski’s $30 million New York apartment, as well as personal gifts and parties, including $1 million of a $2 million birthday party for his wife. After Kozlowski paid a $20 million finding fee to a board member without proper approval, and paintings invoiced for Tyco offices ended up in Kozlowski’s apartment (among other irregularities), Kozlowski was criminally charged with looting more than $600 million of assets from Tyco and its shareholders.
While many questioned his lifestyle, others questioned the trial and conviction. Commenting on the case, civil rights lawyer Dan Ackman wrote, “It’s fair to say that Kozlowski…abused many corporate prerogatives… Still, the larceny charges at the heart of the case did not depend on whether the defendants took the money—they did—but whether they were authorized to take it.” Kozlowski asserted his innocence of the charges, stating, “There was no criminal intent here. Nothing was hidden. There were no shredded documents. All the information the prosecutors got was directly off the books and records of the company.”
1. Do you think Dennis Kozlowski was an effective leader for Tyco International? Were his actions ethically permissible? Why or why not?
2. As CEO of a major company, how might entitlement bias have affected Kozlowski’s behavior?
3. What rationalizations do you think Kozlowski might have used to justify his behavior in his own mind?
4. If you were in Kozlowski’s position, how do you think your actions would affect the behavior of your employees? Why?
5. Can you think of any other examples of leaders who have abused the power of their position? What similarities and differences do you see between them and Kozlowski?
Testosterone Inc.: Tales of CEOs Gone Wild
Tyco’s ‘Piggy,’ Out of Prison and Living Small
What Happens after You Serve Your White-Collar Prison Sentence?
Dennis Kozlowski Was Not a Thief
Taking Down the Lion: The Triumphant Rise and Tragic Fall of Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski
Dennis Kozlowski: Prisoner 05A4820
Tyco Trial II: Verdict First, Law Second
In 2014, a highly contagious and deadly virus, Ebola, emerged in Western Africa, primarily in the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The epidemic caught world health authorities off guard, ultimately killing thousands and threatening to develop into a worldwide epidemic. A broad range of organizations and politicians, from health care authorities and Doctors Without Borders to the World Health Organization and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, made dramatic appeals for American military intervention. The legacy of colonial ties affected the perceptions of responsibility for provision of assistance. The United Kingdom took charge of relief efforts in Sierra Leone, France in Guinea, and the United States in Liberia, a state founded in the 19th century by former African-American slaves.
After initially receiving criticism for acting too cautiously, President Obama responded by sending over 3,000 military personnel, mostly medics and engineers, to Liberia. It was the largest American intervention ever in a global health crisis. President Obama justified this decision by arguing that the United States had an ethical obligation as a leader of the global community to address the humanitarian crisis in Liberia as well as a security interest in controlling the epidemic in Africa so that it did not spread to the U.S. and other countries. According to President Obama, only the American military had the resources, hierarchical structure, and discipline to carry out such a largescale effort.
Objections to the “militarization” of this relief effort came in several forms. Conservative critics argued that militaries are for fighting and winning wars, not providing humanitarian assistance. Others argued the humanitarian effort could morph into security and military engagement. David Ridenhour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, worried that American soldiers could be faced with difficult moral dilemmas, such as “having to shoot unarmed, possibly infected Liberian civilians or allow Ebola to spread.” Some critics were concerned that U.S. military intervention jeopardized the principle of neutrality that health relief organizations try to maintain. Historian Andrew Bacevich argued that a military response to a humanitarian crisis, even if successful, would mask and perpetuate gross misallocation of resources toward building military capacity rather than address global health care needs.
Ultimately, the Ebola epidemic was brought under control in Liberia and the rest of Western Africa. The United States military built 11 treatment units and the government expended hundreds of millions of dollars in the relief effort. However, as The New York Times reported, there is limited evidence that these efforts played any significant role. Only 28 Ebola patients were treated in the 11 treatment centers built by the military. The number of new Ebola cases peaked at 635 the week after President Obama announced the military intervention, but dropped to just over 100 by the time the first medical unit was opened. By the time the additional units were operational, Ebola cases had dwindled to less than 50.
1. Do you think the United States is ethically required to respond to epidemics and other health crises in foreign countries? Why or why not?
2. Should the U.K., France, and the U.S. have concentrated their relief efforts along historical colonial lines during the Ebola outbreak? In general, do the U.S. and other imperialist nations have particular ethical responsibilities to aid their former colonies? Explain your reasoning.
3. Do you think it is ethically permissible to deploy the U.S. military in humanitarian relief efforts? What are the potential harms and benefits of such a decision? Explain.
4. Do you think that President Obama’s response to the Ebola epidemic was too cautious, sufficient, or too ambitious? What policy would you have followed if you were in his position? Explain your reasoning.
5. Many of the medical treatment facilities that were built by the American military were never utilized to treat Ebola victims. How, if at all, does this outcome affect your judgment of President Obama’s response?
Liberian President Pleads With Obama for Assistance in Combating Ebola
The US military should be winning wars, not fighting Ebola
AFRICOM’s Ebola response and the militarization of humanitarian aid
The Rank Injustice of Sending U.S. Troops to Fight Ebola
Empty Ebola Clinics in Liberia Are Seen as Misstep in U.S. Relief Effort
Bullfighting has its roots in rituals dating back many centuries. In its modern Spanish style, bullfighting first became a prominent cultural event in the early 18th century. Yet despite its cultural significance, bullfighting continues to face increasing scrutiny in light of animal rights issues.
Some people consider bullfighting a cruel sport in which the bull suffers a severe and tortuous death. Many animal rights activists often protest bullfighting in Spain and other countries, citing the needless endangerment of the bull and bullfighter. Some cities around the world where bullfighting was once popular, including Coslada (Spain), Mouans-Sartoux (France), and Teocelo (Mexico), have even declared themselves to be anti-bullfighting cities. Other places, including some towns in Catalonia (Spain), have ceased killing the bull in the fight, but continue bullfighting.
To other people, the spectacle of the bullfight is not mere sport. The event is not only culturally significant, but also a fine art in which the bullfighter is trained in a certain style and elicits emotion through the act of the fight. Writer Alexander Fiske-Harrison, in his research and training as a bullfighter, defends the practice and circumstances of the bull, “In terms of animal welfare, the fighting bull lives four to six years whereas the meat cow lives one to two. …Those years are spent free roaming…” And others similarly argue that the death of the bull in the ring is more humane than the death of animals in a slaughterhouse.
1. How is the controversy over bullfighting related to the concept of relativism?
2. How would a relativist interpret this controversy? How might a pluralist’s perspective differ?
3. Do you believe that bullfighting is an ethically wrong practice or a justifiable cultural event? Explain your reasoning.
4. In what ways might ethnocentrism affect your perspective on bullfighting? How would your opinion differ if you were raised in a different culture?
5. Do you agree that the death of the bull in the ring is more humane than the death of animals in a slaughterhouse? Why or why not? What ethical concerns are raised by both situations?
Bullfighting: Hallowed Tradition or Animal Torture? France Rules
Perhaps bullfighting is not a moral wrong
Animal Welfare Activists to Protest Bullfighting in Spain
Costco is often cited as one of the world’s most ethical companies. It has been called a “testimony to ethical capitalism” in large part due to its company practices and treatment of employees. Costco maintains a company code of ethics which states, “The continued success of our company depends on how well each of Costco’s employees adheres to the high standards mandated by our Code of Ethics… By always choosing to do the right thing, you will build your own self-esteem, increase your chances for success and make Costco more successful, too.”
In debates over minimum wage in the United States, many commentators see Costco as an example of how higher wages can yield greater company success, often pointing to competitors such as Walmart and Target as examples that fall short in providing for their employees. Other commentators do not see Costco’s model as being easily replicable for different types of businesses, citing wages as only one of many factors to consider in companies’ best practices.
Costco tends to pay around 40% more and provides more comprehensive health and retirement benefits than Walmart and Target, saving large amounts in employee turnover costs. The company resists layoffs, invests in training its employees, and grants them substantial autonomy to solve problems. U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez stated, “And the remarkable loyalty that [employees] have to [Costco cofounder Jim Sinegal] is a function of the fact that he categorically rejects the notion that, ‘I either take care of my shareholders or my workers.’ That is a false choice.”
While few disagree with the benefits of fair treatment of employees, some commentators credit the success of Costco to its broader business model that favors higher productivity, not employee satisfaction. Columnist and economist Megan McArdle explains, “A typical Costco store has around 4,000 SKUs [stock keeping units], most of which are stacked on pallets so that you can be your own stockboy. A Walmart has 140,000 SKUs, which have to be tediously sorted, replaced on shelves, reordered, delivered, and so forth. People tend to radically underestimate the costs imposed by complexity, because the management problems do not simply add up; they multiply.” Furthermore, McArdle notes that Costco mainly serves as a grocer rather than department store and caters to a generally affluent customer base in suburban areas.
1. How does Costco, as described, match up to the “best practices” explained in the video? Where does Costco fall short? Where does Costco succeed?
2. Walmart pays its employees substantially less than does Costco, even though the two companies often compete head-to-head. How can Costco stay in business when it pays up to 40% more to its employees than its direct competitors?
3. What do you think are the most important practices for a retail company to pursue to foster an ethical environment for workers and consumers? Why?
4. A stock analyst criticized Costco, saying: “Costco continues to be a company that is better at serving the club member and employee than the shareholder.” Do you think this a fair critique? Why or why not?
5. Another analyst complained that Jim Sinegal “has been too benevolent. He’s right that a happy employee is a productive long-term employee, but he could force employees to pick up a little more of the burden.” Again, do you think this a fair criticism? Why or why not?
6. Is a company that does not follow the Costco model a “bad” company? Explain.
Unselfishness: The World’s Most Ethical Company & Why Collaboration Works
How Costco Became the Anti-Wal-Mart
Connecting the Dots Between Leadership, Ethics and Corporate Culture
Why Be an Ethical Company? They’re Stronger and Last Longer
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez Says More Employers Need To Follow Costco’s Example
Costco’s Profit Soars To $537 Million Just Days After CEO Endorses Minimum Wage Increase
Why Can’t Walmart Be More Like Costco?
Why Costco and Other Warehouse Club Retailers Matter
Ethical Leadership: A Primer on Ethical Responsibility in Management
Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit From Passion And Purpose
In September 2010, the French Parliament passed a bill prohibiting people from concealing their faces in public areas. While this law applied to all citizens and all forms of face covering, it became known as France’s “burka bill” because the rhetoric surrounding the bill targeted Muslim women who wore burkas—religious garments covering the face and body—in public.
French lawmakers argued that the law was important for the separation of church and state and for the emancipation of women. Similar to the 2004 bill that outlawed the use of conspicuous religious symbols in public schools, including Muslim headscarves and Christian crosses, this law sought to further remove religious expression and iconography from public spaces in France. Some legislators argued that the burka was a harmful symbol of gender inequality that forced women to assume a subservient status to men in public. According to them, the law freed women from a discriminatory, patriarchal subculture.
However, some in the French Muslim community saw the bill as an infringement of religious freedom and an act of cultural imperialism. They argued that French legislators were imposing their idea of gender equality onto their culture. Many of them, including some women, argued that wearing burkas actually emancipated women from the physical objectification so common in Western culture. A number of women protested the bill by dressing in burkas and going to the offices of lawmakers who supported the legislation. Other reports from individual women suggested that the law created a more hostile atmosphere for Islamic women in France. One of these women critiqued the bill, stating, “My quality of life has seriously deteriorated since the ban…the politicians claimed they were liberating us; what they’ve done is to exclude us from the social sphere.”
The law was challenged in 2014 and taken to the European Court of Human Rights. The court upheld the legality of the law.
1. Lawmakers might argue that they were creating a more pluralistic society by banning all forms of religious expression in public places, whereas detractors might argue that the ban does just the opposite. Which side do you agree with, and why?
2. Should all religious practices be tolerated in a free society? Are there limits to what you think should be allowed? Explain your reasoning.
3. Do you think your home country should implement a ban on face coverings in public? Why or why not?
4. Should religious garments and iconography from all faith traditions be banned in public schools as occurred in France in 2004? Why or why not?
5. According to some accounts, the law inspired instances of people acting violently against women who continued to wear burkas. Do the principles of separation of church and state and the emancipation of women outweigh these consequences? Defend your position.
France’s burqa ban: women are ‘effectively under house arrest’
France’s burka bill – background to a bitter debate
France’s burka ban is a victory for tolerance
French Senate votes to ban Islamic full veil in public
Offshore oil and gas reserves, primarily along coastlines in Alaska, California, Louisiana, and Texas, account for a large proportion of the oil and gas supply in the United States. In August 2015, President Obama authorized Royal Dutch Shell to expand drilling off Alaska’s northwest coast. His decision brought into sharp relief the different, oftentimes competing views on the expansion of offshore drilling.
Many proponents of offshore drilling argue that tapping into the vast amount of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic will help shore up national security interests for the United States, bolster its economy and workforce, and offer Americans a reliable, safe supply of oil. According to Robert Bryce, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, there are “enormous amounts of recoverable energy resources in the Arctic. The Department of Energy estimates them at something on the order of 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent in natural gas and oil. That’s four times the crude oil reserves of Kuwait.” Framed this way, drilling in the Arctic presents a way for Americans to mitigate risks from dependence on foreign oil and build the local and national economies by creating jobs and supplying cheap oil.
A competing point of view charges that offshore oil drilling poses immense risk to the environment while reinforcing a reliance on dirty, environmentally unfriendly sources of energy. Critics claim that industrial activity associated with offshore drilling in the Arctic could harm native animals, including polar bears, walruses, seals, and whales already jeopardized by climate warming and declining levels of sea ice. Environmentalists argue that oil companies have not demonstrated the capability to clean up an oil spill in water obstructed by ice. Furthermore, they contend, extracting oil only perpetuates a fossil-fuel economy and will contribute dangerously to rising global temperature thereby exacerbating climate change.
“Granting Shell the permit to drill in the Arctic was the wrong decision, and this fight is far from over,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “The people will continue to call on President Obama to protect the Arctic and our environment.”
1. Do you find one framing of the situation more compelling than the other? Why? In what ways do your own beliefs or opinions affect your perspective on this issue?
2. If you were in President Obama’s position, how might the different ways of framing this issue affect your decision-making process? Is it possible to make an objective decision in the case of Arctic drilling? How might you come to a decision that is both reasonable and ethically defensible?
3. Can you think of other ethical dilemmas that are unexplored or absent in these dominant, competing frames of offshore drilling? How might these additional issues affect the decision to drill in the Arctic?
4. Do you think there are unintended or undesirable consequences of framing Arctic drilling as an “either-or” issue, i.e. as one that pits environmentalists against business leaders? Why or why not?
5. Can you think of an example of another contentious issue that has been framed in an “either-or” way? What would be an ethically ideal way to resolve this issue and why?
Obama’s Alaska controversies: Denali, oil drilling, climate change
Does allowing Arctic offshore drilling undermine Obama’s climate efforts?
U.S. lets Shell drill for oil off Alaska
Feds allow Shell to drill for oil in Arctic Ocean off Alaska
In the late 1990s, the state of California deregulated many of its electricity markets, opening them up to private sector energy companies. Enron Corporation had long lobbied for deregulation of such markets and would likely have profited greatly had California’s experiment succeeded and become a model for other states.
Enron CEO Ken Lay wrote a public statement saying that Enron “believes in conducting business affairs in accordance with the highest ethical standards… your recognition of our ethical standards allows Enron employees to work with you via arm’s length transactions and avoids potentially embarrassing and unethical situations.” At the same time, Tim Belden, a key Enron employee in its energy trading group, noticed that California’s “complex set of rules…are prone to gaming.”
According to Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, authors of The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron, “In one scheme, Enron submitted a schedule reflecting demand that wasn’t there… Another was a variation of the Silverpeak experiment: Enron filed imaginary transmission schedules in order to get paid to alleviate congestion that didn’t really exist… Get Shorty was a strategy that involved selling power and other services that Enron did not have for use as reserves…”
Some Enron employees admitted that their schemes were “kind of squirrelly,” but used them because they were profitable. The impact on customers was clear: electricity prices rose and rolling blackouts occurred. Enron’s profits, however, quadrupled. An Enron lawyer later wrote that the Enron traders did not think “they did anything wrong.” Another employee admitted, “The attitude was, ‘play by your own rules.’ …The energy markets were new, immature, unsupervised. We took pride in getting around the rules.”
In October 2001, Enron’s unethical and illegal business practices became public knowledge. Enron’s stock prices plummeted, and the company filed for bankruptcy in December 2001.
1. How did Enron’s CEO and employees frame their business model? How did differences in their framing affect their actions?
2. How might framing affect people’s approaches to business conduct? Explain your reasoning.
3. Can you think of other framing tactics used by different businesses? How does framing affect the products they sell and the actions of their consumers?
4. How do you react to the following recorded conversation between two Enron employees? What does it tell us about framing, if anything?
Greg: “It’s all how well you can weave these lies together, Shari.
Shari: I feel like I’m being corrupted now.
Greg: No, this is marketing.
5. The Enron scandal affected the lives of many employees who had no responsibility in Enron’s framing tactics. If you were a new employee starting your career at Enron and you learned of the framing tactics in this case study, what would you do? Why?
Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story
Enron: The Rise and Fall
Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan
The Ethical Executive: Becoming Aware of the Root Causes of Unethical Behavior: 45 Psychological Traps that Every One of Us Falls Prey To
Experimental Ethics: Toward an Empirical Moral Philosophy
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron
I Survived Enron
Debates on the distribution, sale, and use of illegal drugs have been prominent in United States politics for the past several decades. Political commentator and talk show host Rush Limbaugh has become well known for his outspoken opinions on a number of political and social issues, including drug abuse.
During his talk show on October 5, 1995, Limbaugh stated: “There’s nothing good about drug use. We know it. It destroys individuals. It destroys families. Drug use destroys societies. Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.” Limbaugh argued that drug abuse was a choice, not a disease, and that it should be combatted with strict legal consequences.
In October 2003, news outlets reported that Limbaugh was under investigation for illegally obtaining prescription drugs. Limbaugh illegally purchased hundreds of prescription pills per month over a period of several years. He engaged in the practice of “doctor shopping” by visiting different doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for drugs that would otherwise be illegal. When this was disclosed, Limbaugh checked into a treatment facility. He said, “Over the past several years I have tried to break my dependence on pain pills and, in fact, twice checked myself into medical facilities in an attempt to do so…. I have recently agreed with my physician about the next steps.”
Though doctor shopping was punishable by up to five years in prison under Florida law, charges against Limbaugh were dropped after he sought help and agreed to the prosecutors’ settlement. Limbaugh has said that he became addicted to painkillers as a result of serious back pain.
1. How would you describe Rush Limbaugh’s fundamental attribution error in this case? Explain.
2. Do you think Limbaugh’s own drug addiction would change his opinion on drug abuse and his judgment of people using or affected by illegal drugs? Why or why not?
3. If you were a regular listener of Limbaugh’s talk show, how might the disclosure of his drug addiction affect your opinion of him? What if you were not a regular listener?
4. Can you think of any other examples of the fundamental attribution error apparent in popular media? Describe an example and explain why it would be a case of fundamental attribution error.
5. Can you think of any examples of the fundamental attribution error from your own life? Describe and explain.
Shock Jocks: Hate Speech & Talk Radio: America’s Ten Worst Hate Talkers and the Progressive Alternatives
The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making
Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America’s Airwaves
In the United States, the Veterans Administration (VA) is tasked with, among other things, providing quality health care for U.S. military veterans. Chronically underfunded, the agency was having difficulty providing care in a timely manner. At various locations around the country, veterans were put on lengthy wait lists before they could receive care.
Turning to a common private sector solution in an attempt to reduce wait times, the VA provided bonuses to administrators who could reduce veterans’ wait times for doctor and hospital appointments. While these incentives were meant to spur more efficient and productive health care for veterans, not all administrators complied as intended.
In one hospital, the goal was to reduce wait times to less than 14 days. Clerks would record a wait time of how many days there would be between the first available appointment date and the veteran’s scheduled appointment date, disregarding any days prior to the first available date. In an email to colleagues, the clerk admitted, “Yes, it is gaming the system a bit. But you have to know the rules of the game you are playing, and when we exceed the 14-day measure, the front office gets very upset.”
At some locations, veterans were put on an electronic waiting list. After waiting for up to six weeks to move to the top of that list, they were finally able to call for a doctor’s appointment. If that appointment occurred soon after the call, it was counted as reducing the wait time; the time spent on the preliminary electronic waiting list was not counted. At other locations, VA officials used two sets of books, one recording the real wait times and another recording much shorter wait times that would be used to report success to superiors.
Using these and other maneuvers, executives in the VA qualified for millions of dollars of bonuses, even though actual wait times continued to lengthen. Following an audit of these practices, financial incentives for all Veterans Health Administration executives were suspended for the 2014 fiscal year. As of 2016, investigations remain ongoing.
Note that the investigations into the VA are ongoing as of the time of writing. Assuming that the case above accurately reflects what happened, please consider the following questions.
1. In what ways does the VA scandal appear to be an example of incentive gaming? Explain.
2. Do you think performance incentives can be effective and ethical ways of increasing productivity? Why or why not?
3. Whose responsibility is it to stop incentive gaming in the case of the VA: the people who designed the incentive system or the administrators who exploited it? Explain your reasoning.
4. In the case of the VA, how might incentives be structured so that abuses are avoided?
5. Can you think of other examples of incentive gaming that you have seen in the news or in your life? What were the incentives, and how did they result in gaming?
The VA Scandal One Year Later
Cheating in the Workplace: An Experimental Study of the Impact of Bonuses and Productivity
Why Incentives Are Irresistible, Effective, and Likely to Backfire
The Cost of High-Powered Incentives: Employee Gaming in Enterprise Software
Financial Incentives and Bonus Schemes Can Spell Disaster for Business
VA Worker Put on Leave Over Records Foulup
Were bonuses tied to VA wait times? Here’s what we know
In December 2015, the FBI attained the iPhone of one of the shooters in an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California. As part of the investigation, the FBI attempted to gain access to the data stored on the phone but was unable to penetrate its encryption software. Lawyers for the Obama administration approached Apple for assistance with unlocking the device, but negotiations soon broke down. The Justice Department then obtained a court order compelling Apple to help the FBI unlock the phone. Apple CEO, Timothy Cook, publicly challenged the court in an open letter, sparking an intense debate over the balance between maintaining national security and protecting user privacy.
Apple and its supporters, including top technology companies such as Google and Facebook, made the case on several fronts that the court order threatened the privacy of all individuals. First, according to Apple, the order effectively required the company to write code, violating its First Amendment right to free speech by forcing the company to “say” something it did not want to say. Previous court cases had already established computer code as legally protected speech. Second, such a backdoor, once created, could fall into the wrong hands and threaten the privacy of all iPhone owners. Finally, it would set a dangerous precedent; law enforcement could repeatedly require businesses such as Apple to assist in criminal investigations, effectively making technology companies an agent of government.
Representatives from both sides of the political aisle offered several arguments in favor of the Justice Department’s efforts and against Apple’s stance. Their central claim was that the U.S. legal system establishes constraints on the government’s access to private information which prevent abuse of search and surveillance powers. At the same time, the law still allows authorities to gain access to information that facilitates prevention and prosecution of criminal activities, from terrorism to drug trafficking to child pornography. Critics of Apple also rejected the slippery slope argument on the grounds that, if Apple cooperated, it could safeguard the code it created and keep it out of the hands of others, including bad actors such as terrorists or criminal groups. Moreover, Apple was accused of being too interested in protecting its brand, and even unpatriotic for refusing to comply with the court order.
Ultimately, the FBI dropped the case because it was able to circumvent the encryption on the iPhone without Apple’s help.
1. What harms are potentially produced by the FBI’s demand that Apple help it open an iPhone? What harms are potentially produced by Apple’s refusal to help the FBI?
2. Do you think Apple had a moral obligation to help the FBI open the iPhone in this case because it involved terrorism and a mass shooting? What if the case involved a different type of criminal activity instead, such as drug trafficking? Explain your reasoning.
3. Apple argued that helping to open one iPhone would produce code that could be used to make private information on all iPhones vulnerable, not only to the American government but also to other foreign governments and criminal elements. Do you agree with Apple’s “slippery slope” argument? Does avoiding these harms provide adequate justification for Apple’s refusal to open the phone, even if it could reveal crucial information on the terrorist shooting?
4. Politicians from across the political spectrum, including President Obama and Senator Ted Cruz, argued that technology preventing government access to information should not exist. Do you agree with this limit on personal privacy? Why or why not?
5. Ultimately, the FBI gained access to the iPhone in question without the help of Apple. Does this development change your assessment of the ethical dimensions of Apple’s refusal to help the FBI? Why or why not? Should the FBI share information on how it opened the iPhone with Apple so that it can patch the vulnerability? Explain your reasoning.
Apple Fights Order to Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone
How they line up on Apple vs. the FBI
Why Apple Is Right to Challenge an Order to Help the F.B.I.
Apple’s Rotten Core: CEO Tim Cook’s Case for Not Aiding the FBI’s Antiterror Effort Looks Worse than Ever
Obama, at South by Southwest, Calls for Law Enforcement Access in Encryption Fight
U.S. Says It Has Unlocked iPhone Without Apple
Founded in 1762, Barings Bank was a United Kingdom institution with worldwide reach. Even the Queen of England had an account there. In 1989, Nick Leeson was hired at Barings, where he prospered. He was quickly promoted to the trading floor and appointed manager in Singapore where he traded on the Singapore International Monetary Exchange (SIMEX). Leeson was an aggressive trader, making large profits in speculative trading. In 1993, his profits constituted almost 10% of Barings’ total profits. He had developed a reputation for expertise, for near-infallibility, and his superiors in London gave him little supervision.
In July 1992, a new Barings employee suffered a small loss on Leeson’s watch. Leeson did not wish to lose his reputation for infallibility, or his job, so he hid the loss in an error account. Leeson attempted to make back the loss through speculative trading, but this led to even bigger losses, which again were hidden in this account. He kept doubling up his bets in an attempt to get out from under the losses. Leeson later said: “[I] wanted to shout from the rooftops…this is what the situation is, there are massive losses, I want to stop. But for some reason you’re unable to do it. … I had this catastrophic secret which was burning up inside me—yet…I simply couldn’t open my mouth and say, ‘I’ve lost millions and millions of pounds.’”
Leeson took out a short-term, highly leveraged bet on the Nikkei index in Japan. At the same time, a severe earthquake in Kobe, Japan sent the index plummeting, and his loss was so huge that he could no longer hide it. Barings, a 233-year old bank, collapsed overnight and was bought by ING for £1. Leeson fled to Malaysia, Thailand, and finally to Germany, where he was arrested and extradited to Singapore. He plead guilty to two counts of deceiving bank auditors (including forging documents) and cheating the SIMEX. Leeson was sentenced to six and a half years of prison in Singapore, but only served four years due a diagnosis of colon cancer, which he ultimately survived.
1. How was loss aversion apparent in Nick Leeson’s conduct? Explain.
2. Judith Rawnsley, who worked for Barings Bank and later wrote a book about the Leeson case, proffered three explanations for Leeson’s behavior once the losses had started to pile up: 1) Leeson’s loss aversion stemmed from his fear of failure and humiliation; 2) his ego and greed were exacerbated by the macho trading environment in which he operated; 3) he suffered from common distortions in thinking patterns that often result from high levels of stress, including overconfidence and denial. Which of these explanations (or all) do you think played a role in this case? Why?
3. Leeson explains that he wanted to stop, but could not. Based on his and Rawnsley’s reflections, where do you think the blame primarily lies and why? With Leeson individually, or with the system within which he operated?
4. If you were in Leeson’s position after the initial loss made by the employee, what would you have done? Why?
5. Do you have trouble owning up to mistakes that you have made? Do others whom you know? Explain with examples.
How Will You Measure Your Life?
The Collapse of Barings
Cheating and Loss Aversion: Do People Lie More to Avoid a Loss
Rogue Trader: How I Brought Down Barings Bank and Shook the Financial World
How Nick Leeson Caused the Collapse of Barings Bank
Total Risk: Nick Leeson and the Fall of Barings Bank
Eat What You Kill: The Fall of a Wall Street Lawyer
Barings Collapse at 20: How Rogue Trader Nick Leeson Broke the Bank
Artists commonly appropriate, or borrow, objects or images and include them in their artwork. Andy Warhol, for example, is well known for appropriating images of Campbell’s soup cans for his pop art. Typically, the original object or image remains recognizable, but the new work of art transforms or recontextualizes the borrowed image or object in order to generate new meaning. Many artists believe that without artistic appropriation, creating new art would not be possible. On the other hand, the line between copyright infringement and fair use is not always clear.
In 2008, Shepard Fairey appropriated an Associated Press (A.P.) photo of Barack Obama to create his well-known “Hope” image of the presidential candidate. In 2009, Fairey filed a preemptive lawsuit against The A.P., requesting that the court declare protection from any copyright infringement claims on the basis of fair use. Fair use is the copying of copyrighted material for limited “transformative” purposes, such as criticism, parody, or commentary. Fairey acknowledged that his image was based on a 2006 photograph taken by A.P. photographer Mannie Garcia. The A.P. claimed that any use of the photo required permission and asked for credit and compensation.
Anthony T. Falzone, executive director of the Fair Use Project and one of Fairey’s lawyers, said that Fairey only used the original image as a reference and transformed it into a “stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message.” Paul Colford, spokesman for The A.P., said, “[The A.P. was] disappointed by the surprise filing by Shepard Fairey and his company and by Mr. Fairey’s failure to recognize the rights of photographers in their works.” Mannie Garcia argued that he actually owned the copyright to the photo, not The A.P., according to his contract at the time. He stated, “I don’t condone people taking things, just because they can… But in this case I think it’s a very unique situation… If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.”
After two years in court, Shepard Fairey and The A.P. settled the case with an undisclosed financial agreement. Fairey also gave up fair use rights to any other A.P. photos, and both sides agreed to share the rights to make posters and merchandise based on the “Hope” image.
1. In general, do you think artistic appropriation is a positive or negative practice? Why? Does it matter what medium the artist works in?
2. Is appropriation only ethically questionable when money or popularity are involved?
3. What differences do you see between Warhol’s use of the Campbell’s soup cans and Fairey’s use of Garcia’s photograph? Is one less problematic than the other? Why or why not?
4. Do you think Fairey’s preemptive lawsuit against the Associated Press was a legitimate maneuver for protecting his fair use rights or an admission of copyright infringement? Defend your position.
5. Do you think moral intent matters in instances of artistic appropriation? Or, does it only matter whether the new work sufficiently recontextualizes the original piece?
Artist Sues The A.P. Over Obama Image
A.P. Says It Owns Image Used in Obama Poster
AP And Shepard Fairey Settle Lawsuit Over Obama Image; Fairey Agrees To Give Up Fair Use Rights To AP Photos
What Is Fair Use?
Shepard Fairey interview with Marc Maron
Green consumer products, such as organic food, fair trade coffee, or electric cars, represent a fast-growing segment of the consumer market. In the area of organic food alone, data from the Organic Trade Association reveals that consumer demand in the United States has seen double-digit growth every year since 1990. In 2014, the organic food market reached almost $40 billion in sales. Consumers of these products tend to be seen in a more positive light—they are deemed more ethical, more altruistic, and kinder than people who do not buy green products. But is there another side to this kind of consumer behavior?
In a series of experiments comparing consumption of green and “conventional” products, psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong demonstrated that those people who bought green products—like eco-friendly laundry detergent or organic yogurt—were less likely to share money with a stranger, more likely to cheat on a task in which they could earn money, and more likely to steal money when they thought they would not get caught. As the psychologists stated, “purchasing green products may license indulgence in self-interested and unethical behaviors.”
Mazar and Zhong, whose study received considerable media attention in their native Canada, as well as in American and British publications, said the results surprised them. Initially, they expected green products to provide a halo effect, whereby the positive impressions associated with green consumption would lead to positive outcomes in other areas. “Given that green products are manifestations of high ethical standards and humanitarian considerations, mere exposure [to them would] activate norms of social responsibility and ethical conduct,” said Mazar and Zhong in an interview.
But as the results indicate, the opposite can be true. “The message of this research is that actions which produce a sense of self content and moral glow can sometimes backfire,” Mazar stated in another interview.
These patterns have been shown to extend to other shopping scenarios. For example, one study tracked scanner data and shopper receipts at a California grocery store. Those shoppers who brought reusable grocery bags with them were more likely to buy environmentally friendly products, like organic food. But they were also more likely to buy indulgent products, like ice cream, cookies, candy, and cake. The researchers followed up this study with a series of experiments that showed these moral licensing effects only happened when the decision to bring the reusable bags was at the shopper’s discretion. When shoppers were told that the store required customers to use cloth bags, licensing effects disappeared and customers chose not to buy indulgent products. Only when consumers felt like using cloth bags was their own idea did the moral licensing effects hold.
1. Beyond green consumption, what other types of products might bring about similar kinds of moral licensing effects? Can you think of instances in your own life when your purchase choices have licensed you to make decisions that were less than ethically ideal? Explain.
2. Do you think these moral licensing effects are common across all kinds of green consumers? Or are there other factors (i.e. demographics, psychographics) that might either exacerbate or weaken the effects? Why or why not?
3. The authors of the study, Mazar and Zhong, initially thought green consumption would have a positive spillover effect and encourage positive behaviors. Why do you think they found the opposite?
4. What steps do you think can be taken to help minimize or mitigate these types of moral licensing effects among green consumers? Explain.
5. If you were the brand manager for a green product, for example an organic food item or an energy-efficient appliance, how would you go about marketing the product knowing these licensing effects were possible?
Organic Market Analysis – Organic Trade Association
Research: Reusable Shopping Bags May Encourage an Unhealthier Diet
How going green may make you mean
Are green consumers more unethical?
When buying in means selling out: Sustainable consumption campaigns and unintended uncivic boomerang effects
The Animal Foundation is a nonprofit organization operating Nevada’s largest open-admission animal shelter, the Lied Animal Shelter and pet adoption center. The Lied Animal Shelter is located in Las Vegas and is financed by taxpayers, grants, and individual donors. It provides a refuge for thousands of lost, unwanted, neglected, and abandoned animals every year.
In recent years, the Lied Animal Shelter has been plagued by a variety of problems from overcrowding due to a spike in animal intake as residents in the greater Las Vegas area (Clark County) surrendered or lost their pets. Analysts believed that the recession of 2008 was a major contributing factor to pet abandonment. April Corbin, writing for Las Vegas Weekly, reported:
“The Las Vegas Valley has a problem with domestic animals: we have more that we seem able or willing to handle, and those without homes mostly end up at the Lied Shelter. On any given day, it may be the busiest animal holding facility in the nation. …Some blame the recession, which led to the foreclosures of more than 150,000 homes in Clark County between January 2007 and May 2014, triggering the wholesale abandonment of animals.”
In 2013, the Lied Animal Shelter took in over 40,000 abandoned or lost animals. From that population, more than 10,000 animals were adopted, nearly 5,000 were reunited with their owners, and over 2,500 were transferred to other facilities. But 21,000 animals—more than half of the animals brought to the shelter—were euthanized. Many in Clark County were discouraged by the seemingly insurmountable problems that the Lied Animal Shelter faced.
Leaders at R&R Partners, a full-service, international advertising agency headquartered in Las Vegas, believed that their persuasive communication skills could help solve Animal Foundation’s problem. R&R took on the nonprofit as a pro bono client with goals of promoting pet ownership and driving traffic to the Animal Foundation’s pet adoption website, NewPetNow.com. The agency staff conducted qualitative research in the form of focus groups with R&R employees who were pet owners. They came up with the strategy of framing pet adoption not about love and companionship but about pets’ many household uses (e.g., alarm system, sleeping mask, vacuum cleaner) with a tongue-in-cheek tone. The agency staff created an integrated communication campaign of “In-FUR-mercial” spoofs that portrayed pets as multi-purpose products for the home. Below are links to examples of the “Pet Dog” and “Pet Cat” In-FUR-mercials, and examples of print ads (Exhibits 1 and 2) follow in the Reference section.
After the release of the ads in early 2015, the campaign immediately received critical acclaim from industry analysts. ADWEEK contributor Gabriel Beltrone stated, “The writing is sharp and funny, the acting perfectly overdone, and the voiceover as cheesy as possible—dead-on parody.” The In-FUR-mercials also received CynopsisMedia’s award for the Best 30-Second Spot.
The campaign connected with audiences in Las Vegas and generated positive press for the Animal Foundation and the Lied Shelter, helping them to achieve their goal of increasing pet adoption. The percentage of available pets adopted increased by 9.39 percent during 2015, which meant that more than 1,000 additional animals were adopted.
Leaders at R&R Partners acknowledged that the campaign also resulted in important benefits for the agency that extended beyond the success and visibility of the campaign. Morale and comraderie within the agency were increased and the agency’s reputation as a responsible corporate citizen was reinforced. Sarah Catletti, an account supervisor at R&R Partners, described the benefits to the agency:
“Welcoming the Animal Foundation to R&R Vegas’ list of clients was a great way to boost morale within the agency. The pro bono client was chosen through an employee voting system. Since the Animal Foundation was the organization that received the largest number of votes, the entire agency was invested and excited to hear about the work, even those who weren’t directly involved with the account.”
1. What is moral imagination? In your opinion, did the employees at R&R Partners exercise moral imagination in the work that they did for the Animal Foundation? Why or why not?
2. What benefits did the “In-FUR-mercial” campaign provide and for whom? Explain.
3. In this case study, what did moral imagination have in common with other types of creativity and innovation? Explain.
4. This case is about pro bono work that an advertising agency did for a pro bono client. That is, the agency did the work for free. Do you think that an advertising agency could exercise moral imagination in its work for corporate clients that pay the agency? If so, how? If not, why?
5. Can you think of an example of another company or advertising campaign that has demonstrated moral imagination? Explain.
The Animal Foundation’s 2013 Annual Report
About The Animal Foundation
Pets are Exciting Multi-use Tools in these Fantastic Infomercials for an Animal Shelter: Every House Needs One
The No-Kill Dilemma: Can Las Vegas Save All Its Shelter Animals?
Animal Shelter Infomercial Spoofs Show Incredible Household Uses for Cats and Dogs
In 2013, Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams co-produced the run-away hit single “Blurred Lines,” earning them over $16 million in sales and streaming revenues. The music video has been viewed hundreds of millions of times on YouTube and Vevo, and has been parodied numerous times as well. Despite its popularity, the similarity of “Blurred Lines” to Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit song “Got to Give It Up” sparked controversy. The family of artist Marvin Gaye was outraged; they believed Gaye’s work was stolen. Thicke filed a preemptive lawsuit to prevent the Gaye family from claiming any share of royalties. However, Thicke also stated in public interviews that he was influenced by Marvin Gaye and, specifically, “Got to Give It Up” when he co-composed “Blurred Lines” with Williams.
In response, the Gaye family sued Williams and Thicke. Contradictions were apparent in Thicke’s account. In an interview with GQ, he stated that he co-wrote “Blurred Lines.” But in court he claimed that he was too high in the studio, and that Williams had in fact composed the song, and he had lied earlier in order to get credit. Williams claimed that, although Gaye’s music had influenced him in his youth, he did not copy Gaye’s song in his composition.
In March 2015, the jury ruled in favor of the Gaye estate, stating that while Williams and Thicke did not directly copy “Got to Give It Up,” there was enough of a similar “feel” to warrant copyright infringement. Gaye’s heirs were awarded $7.4 million in damages, the largest amount ever granted in a music copyright case.
While many commentators agreed with this verdict, others were concerned that it could negatively affect song writing within an entire genre. Musicologist Robert Fink, for example, stated that this verdict had the potential to set a precedent for “fencing off our shared heritage of sounds, grooves, vibes, tunes, and feels.” Musicians, artists, and writers often note that previous works influence them in their creative process, and that there is very little that is completely original. Thicke and Williams did not see the musical influence of Gaye as copyright infringement, but rather as inspiration that spurred them to create a new, original single.
1. Do you think the Gaye family should own the rights to the “feel” of “Got to Give It Up” in addition to specific lyrics, melodies, harmony, etc.? Why or why not?
2. What distinctions can you identify among sampling, appropriating, and stealing components of a song?
3. This court case is one among many over the past decade that have placed limits on song-writing and musical composition. Do you think it is important to provide these legal protections for artists even if it means hindering artistic creativity and the new works that might come from musical influence? Explain your reasoning.
4. Should authors, musicians, and other artists acknowledge all of the influences on their work, regardless of the degree of influence? Why or why not?
5. If you purchase a song and then recognize that it is appropriating an earlier work, you are not legally obligated to stop listening, but are you obligated ethically? Explain your reasoning..
Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and a Blurry Copyright Law?
Blurred Lines’ Verdict: How It Started, Why It Backfired on Robin Thicke and Why Songwriters Should Be Nervous
Blurred Lines, Ur-Lines and Color Lines
The Blurred Lines of Copyright Infringement Become Even Blurrier as the Robin Thicke v. Marvin Gaye’s Estate Lawsuit Continues
Jenny, a university student studying public relations, accepted an internship position in the fundraising department at Casa Tia Maria.* Casa Tia Maria is a non-profit organization in the United States that provides shelter for Central American immigrants while they look for permanent housing and employment. In addition to shelter, Casa Tia Maria provides food, clothing, and English classes. Most immigrants stay at the shelter for several months before securing permanent housing.
After Jenny had worked at Casa Tia Maria for two weeks, Mary, the director of development, asked Jenny to accompany her to a fundraising dinner at a luxurious downtown hotel. Many wealthy and influential individuals were in attendance. After most of the guests had left, Mary and Jenny were approached by Robert, a Texas oil baron and one of the state’s biggest philanthropists. Robert was known to donate to almost any cause as long as he found it to be what he considered “morally sound” and to the benefit of “hard-working Americans.”
Mary and Robert talked for a few minutes about Casa Tia Maria and its specific needs. Jenny noticed, however, that most of Mary’s answers to Robert’s questions about the shelter’s clients were vague. When Robert said that he was happy to lend a hand to any poor American citizen, Jenny knew he clearly did not understand that immigrants, who were not U.S. citizens, were the shelter’s clientele. Mary said nothing to correct Robert’s misperception.
Robert pulled a checkbook out of his jacket and wrote a substantial check. As he handed it to Mary, he said, “I am so pleased to be able to help hard-working Americans.” He then turned quickly and walked away.
*This case study is based on actual experiences of a university student. Names and situations have been changed, but the case study reflects the key ethical dilemmas the student faced.
1. What are the reasons and rationalizations that could prompt Jenny to be morally mute in this situation? Alternatively, what could prompt Jenny to not be morally mute? Explain.
2. Who are the stakeholders, and what is at stake for each party? How might each influence Jenny’s actions? Explain.
3. Assume Jenny decides to break away from moral muteness, exercise moral imagination, and give voice to her values. What do you think she should do and why? Your answer should include, but not be limited to, the arguments that Jenny should make, to whom, and in what context. Present a plan of action.
4. As this case demonstrates, people in nonprofit organizations are far from immune from ethical issues. Do you think that the nonprofit setting affects any aspects of your responses to the above questions? Explain.
5. Do you think that employees in nonprofit organizations are more likely to fall prey to any particular biases or pressures? Do you think that people generally have higher expectations for employees of nonprofit organizations than for employees of for-profit corporations? Explain your reasoning.
6. Have you ever been an intern or employee in a situation similar to Jenny’s? What was the situation? What did you do and why?
Values-Driven Leadership Development: Where We Have Been and Where We Could Go
Giving Voice to Values Curriculum
Behavioral Ethics and Teaching Ethical Decision Making
In 2013, computer expert and former CIA systems administrator, Edward Snowden released confidential government documents to the press about the existence of government surveillance programs. According to many legal experts, and the U.S. government, his actions violated the Espionage Act of 1917, which identified the leak of state secrets as an act of treason. Yet despite the fact that he broke the law, Snowden argued that he had a moral obligation to act. He gave a justification for his “whistleblowing” by stating that he had a duty “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” According to Snowden, the government’s violation of privacy had to be exposed regardless of legality.
Many agreed with Snowden. Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project defended his actions as ethical, arguing that he acted from a sense of public good. Radack said, “Snowden may have violated a secrecy agreement, which is not a loyalty oath but a contract, and a less important one than the social contract a democracy has with its citizenry.” Others argued that even if he was legally culpable, he was not ethically culpable because the law itself was unjust and unconstitutional.
The Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, did not find Snowden’s rationale convincing. Holder stated, “He broke the law. He caused harm to our national security and I think that he has to be held accountable for his actions.”
Journalists were conflicted about the ethical implications of Snowden’s actions. The editorial board of The New York Times stated, “He may have committed a crime…but he has done his country a great service.” In an Op-ed in the same newspaper, Ed Morrissey argued that Snowden was not a hero, but a criminal: “by leaking information about the behavior rather than reporting it through legal channels, Snowden chose to break the law.” According to Morrissey, Snowden should be prosecuted for his actions, arguing that his actions broke a law “intended to keep legitimate national-security data and assets safe from our enemies; it is intended to keep Americans safe.”
1. What values are in conflict in this case? What harm did Snowden cause? What benefits did his actions bring?
2. Do you agree that Snowden’s actions were ethically justified even if legally prohibited? Why or why not? Make an argument by weighing the competing values in this case.
3. If you were in Snowden’s position, what would you have done and why?
4. Would you change your position if you knew that Snowden’s leak would lead to a loss of life among CIA operatives? What about if it would save lives?
5. Is there a circumstance in which you think whistleblowing would be ethically ideal? How about ethically prohibited?
Whistle-Blowers Deserve Protection Not Prison
Eric Holder: If Edward Snowden were open to plea, we’d talk
Edward Snowden: Whistleblower
Edward Snowden Broke the Law and should be Prosecuted
In 2006, Damany Lewis was a 29-year-old math teacher at Parks Middle School in Atlanta. The school was in a run-down neighborhood three miles south of downtown that was plagued by armed robberies. Lewis himself had grown up in a violent neighborhood. He empathized with his students and was devoted to their success. A colleague described Lewis as a “star teacher” and a “very hard worker, who will go the extra mile.”
Lewis was a teacher when Beverly Hall was Atlanta’s school superintendent. Hall believed that business approaches and the values of the market system could save public education. She set accountability measures for the Atlanta school district and created performance objectives that were tougher than those of No Child Left Behind, the federal program that became law in 2002. Teacher evaluations were linked to students’ performance on standardized tests. Schools whose students did not make appropriate progress toward the standardized test goals received escalating sanctions that culminated in replacement of the faculty and staff, and restructuring or closing of the school.
Parks Middle School was in dire straights because it had been classified as “a school in need of improvement” for the previous five years. Unless 58 percent of students passed the math portion of the standardized test and 67 percent passed the language arts portion, Parks Middle School could be closed down. Its students would be separated and bussed across town to different schools.
“[It] was my sole obligation to never let that happen,” Lewis later told Rachel Aviv in an article about these events in The New Yorker. Lewis had pushed his students to work harder than they ever had in preparing for the test. But he knew that it would be very difficult for many of them to pass. Christopher Waller, the new principal of Parks, had heard that teachers in the elementary schools that fed into Parks had changed their students’ answers on the standardized tests under the guise of erasing stray pencil marks. Waller asked Lewis and other teachers to do the same. Lewis found the exams of students who needed to get a few more questions right in order to pass. He changed their answers. If he did not change their scores, Lewis feared that his students would lapse into “why try” attitudes. They would lose their neighborhood school and the community that had developed within it.
Thanks to Lewis and other teachers, Parks students did better than ever on the standardized tests. Neekisia Jackson, a former student at Parks at the time, recalled, “Everyone was jumping up and down,” after a teacher announced the school had met the goals of No Child Left Behind for the first time. Jackson continued, “We had heard what everyone was saying: ‘Y’all aren’t good enough.’ Now we could finally go to school with our heads held high.”
The same process of changing answers continued at Parks through 2010. By that time, nine other teachers were helping Lewis change answers.
In October of 2010, 50 agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation visited Parks and other Atlanta schools. The investigators concluded that teachers and administrators at 44 schools had cheated in the manner that Lewis had. In July of 2012, 110 teachers who had confessed or been accused of cheating were placed on administrative leave, including Lewis. Later that year, Lewis’ employment was terminated.
This case study is based on an article by Rachel Aviv entitled, “Wrong answer: In an era of high-stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice,” that appeared in The New Yorker on July 21, 2014.
1. What are the reasons and rationalizations that could have prompted Mr. Lewis to have moral myopia and avoid focusing on the fact that he was falsifying students’ test scores? Alternatively, what could have prompted Mr. Lewis not to have moral myopia?
2. Who are the stakeholders in this case study, and what was at stake for each party? How might each have influenced Mr. Lewis’ actions? Explain.
3. Assume Mr. Lewis decided to break away from moral myopia and gave voice to his values. What do you think he should have done and why? Your answer should include, but not be limited to, the arguments that Mr. Lewis should have made, to whom, and in what context. Present a plan of action.
4. In this case study, what were the benefits of falsifying students’ test scores? What were the harms? Do you think cheating can ever be ethically justifiable? Why or why not?
5. Have you ever been in a situation in which you were presented with the opportunity to cheat on a test or other assignment? Describe the situation. What did you do and why? Looking back, would you have done anything differently? Why or why not?
Wrong answer: In an era of high stakes testing, a struggling school made a shocking choice
Atlanta School Workers Sentenced in Test Score Cheating Scandal
As sentencing nears for Atlanta teachers, many condemn their conviction
A teachable moment from Atlanta’s school cheating scandal
The Roots of Atlanta’s Cheating Scandal
America is criminalizing Black teachers: Atlanta’s cheating scandal and the racist underbelly of education reform
Why the Atlanta cheating scandal failed to bring about national reform
In the United States, many citizens agree that the government may impose limits on the freedom of individuals when individuals interfere with the rights of others, but the extent of these limits is often a topic of debate. Among the most debated of bioethical issues is the issue of abortion, which hinges on whether the fetus is a person with rights, notably the right to life.
In conjunction with the legal right to abortion affirmed in the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, the issue of prenatal diagnosis has led to decisions by pregnant women to pursue abortion where prenatal testing has revealed genetic abnormalities in fetuses. However, this practice has met with recent opposition in the wake of research showing that between 60 and 90 percent of fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome have led to abortion. In 2015, legislation was introduced in the Ohio Legislature that would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy for the purpose of avoiding giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome.
Those opposed to this legislation have noted that such a law would violate the Roe v. Wade decision by the Supreme Court, and that laws based on intention or motivation to terminate would be unenforceable. “This is interference with a medical decision following a complicated diagnosis,” according to Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, “Not
knowing the family and the circumstances, the legislature can’t possibly take into account all the factors involved.”
Supporters of the legislation have described this as a way to limit the number of abortions in the state and protect babies born with disabilities. Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life,
stated, “We all want to be born perfect, but none of us are, and everyone has a right to live, perfect or not.” Rachel Mullen, a member of the Cuyahoga County chapter of Ohio Right to Life, said in an interview, “we need this bill so that [babies with Down syndrome] can be born, and not culled.”
Bioethics examines the moral dimensions surrounding the use of medical technology, raising questions such as: Should all scientific advances in medicine be made available to all? Do some advances conflict with society’s values and morals? What role should the government play in the moral decision-making of individuals insofar and with respect to limiting or expanding choices available? These are broader questions to keep in mind while reading and discussing this case study.
1. According to those opposing the legislation, what harm is done by limiting women’s freedom to terminate a pregnancy? According to supporters of the legislation, what is the harm done by not limiting women’s freedom to terminate a pregnancy?
2. Who are all of the moral agents in this case? Who are the subjects of moral worth? Explain your reasoning.
3. Since Roe v. Wade holds that first-trimester abortions are legal, is it ethically permissible to limit the freedom of women who do not wish to bear babies with birth defects if the diagnosis and the procedure take place in the first trimester? Why or why not?
4. If it is legal to abort babies with disabilities like Down syndrome, what message does this convey about the value that society places on the lives of persons with disabilities?
5. If the Ohio Legislature decides to criminalize abortion in cases where the motivation for abortion is a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, does the Legislature have an ethical responsibility to ensure that poor families are not driven into bankruptcy by the high medical and educational costs of raising children with disabilities? Why or why not?
6. Should physicians be required to divulge the motivation for terminating a pregnancy? Do you think this is an ethically defensible reason to breach doctor-patient confidentiality? Explain your reasoning.
7. Should parents have the freedom to decide whether to abort for other reasons, such as the discovery that the fetus will be born deaf or diabetic? In a free society, should the government limit the reproductive options of families who will be left with a financial, emotional, and physical burden as a result? Explain.
Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy
Baby conceived to provide cell transplant for his dying sister
The problem with an almost-perfect genetic world
Ohio bill would ban abortion if Down syndrome is reason
First-Trimester or Second-Trimester Screening, or Both, for Down’s Syndrome
Prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome: a systematic review of termination rates (1995-2011)
Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases
Wanting babies like themselves, some parents choose genetic defects
Prenatal whole-genome sequencing — is the quest to know a fetus’s future ethical?
Franz Stangl was born in Austria in 1908. From a working class family, Stangl trained as a master weaver. Unsatisfied in his career, at the age of 23, he applied to become a police officer. In 1936, despite his position in law enforcement, he joined the ranks of the then-illegal Nazi Party. When Germany invaded Austria, and subsequently annexed it in March 1938, he became a Gestapo agent. In 1940, under the order of Nazi leaders, Stangl was appointed as head of security at Hartheim Castle. At the time, Hartheim was one of the secret killing centers used by the authorities to administer “mercy deaths” to sick and disabled persons. A special unit within the German administration, codenamed T4, carried out this so-called “euthanasia” program. T4 employed doctors, nurses, lawyers, and police officers, among others, at killing centers in Germany and Austria. In all, historians estimate that the staff at Hartheim killed 18,269 people by August 1941.
After a brief stint in Berlin, Stangl transferred to German-occupied Poland in the spring of 1942. Nazi authorities appointed Stangl to be the first commandant of the killing center at Sobibór. By September 1942, having distinguished himself as an effective organizer, Stangl was transferred to what would become the most horrible of these death camps, Treblinka. While there, he managed and perfected a system of mass murder, using psychological techniques to first deceive then terrify and subdue his victims before they entered the gas chambers. In less than 18 months, under Stangl’s supervision, between 870,000 and 925,000 Jews were killed at Treblinka.
After the war, Franz Stangl and his family emigrated to Brazil where he lived and worked under his own name for decades. He was extradited to West Germany in 1967 and tried for his role in the murder of 900,000 men, women, and children during the Holocaust. During his trial, Stangl claimed that he was doing his duty and was not a murderer. Stangl defended himself by making three main claims. First, that he did not get to choose his postings, and that disobeying an order would put himself and his family at risk. Second, that once in a position, it was his nature to do an excellent job (he became known as the best commandant in Poland). And third, that he never personally murdered anyone. He saw himself as an administrator. Stangl claimed that his dedication to his work was not about ideology or hatred of Jews.
On October 22, 1970, the court found Stangl guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to the maximum penalty, life in prison. During an interview while in prison, he stated, “My conscience is clear about what I did, myself. …I have never intentionally hurt anyone, myself. …But I was there. …So yes, in reality I share the guilt.” He continued, “My guilt…is that I am still here. That is my guilt.” On June 28, 1971, less than a day after this interview, Stangl died of heart failure in prison.
1. How did obedience to authority affect Franz Stangl’s perception of his responsibility? Explain. What other factors, biases, or pressures may have affected his perception?
2. Based on Stangl’s description of guilt while in prison, do you think he believed his previous claims in court? Why or why not?
3. What might have helped Stangl at the time to see his actions for what they were? Do you think this would have led Stangl to act differently? Why or why not?
4. Can you think of other historical examples in which obedience to authority may have played a significant role in the actions of individuals? Explain.
5. What do you think the moral responsibility of an individual is within a bureaucracy? Explain.
6. Does one’s position in a hierarchy affect one’s moral responsibility? Why or why not?
Into that Darkness: An Examination of Conscience
Som Significant Cases: Franz Stangl – Simon Wiesenthal Archiv
The Roots of Evil
The Holocaust and the Revival of Psychological History
Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1901-1909, embodied what many scholars typically refer to as the ‘stewardship presidency.’ In the words of Roosevelt, it is the president’s “duty to do anything that the needs of the nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the Constitution or by the laws.” Under Roosevelt’s expansionist view, anything the president does is considered acceptable unless it is expressly forbidden by the Constitution or laws passed by Congress. Roosevelt believed he served the people, not just the government. He took many actions as president that stretched the limits of the executive branch, including the creation of national parks without regard for states’ jurisdiction and fostering revolt in Colombia to establish the Panama Canal.
On the other hand, William Howard Taft, President of the United States from 1909-1913, embodied what many scholars refer to as a ‘strict constructionist’ model of the presidency. Under this approach, unless the Constitution or Congress explicitly grants a certain power, the president does not have the right to act. In Taft’s words, “the President can exercise no power which cannot be fairly and reasonably traced to some specific grant of power or justly implied and included within such express grant as proper and necessary to its exercise.”
While Roosevelt expanded federal power in many areas, Taft felt many of these actions were legal overreaches. For example, as a “trust-buster” Roosevelt differentiated between ‘good’ trusts and ‘bad’ trusts, using his expanded powers as president to make this distinction unilaterally. He made a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ with U.S. Steel and told them that the American government would not attack their corporation as a monopoly since he believed the company was working in the interests of the American people. Roosevelt did not, however, pass any legislation or make any binding orders to this effect. Taft took a more legalistic view and later, as president, directed his attorney general to file an anti-trust lawsuit against U.S. Steel. Roosevelt took Taft’s actions as a personal attack upon Roosevelt’s presidency and positions.
Although Taft continued many of Roosevelt’s policies, he was inclined to look at the facts of the situation and make a choice based on evidence. Roosevelt, on the other hand, was more inclined to do what he felt was “right.” Their disagreements, which hinged on the grey areas of the legal and the ethical, ultimately propelled the break within the Republican Party during the 1912 elections.
1. What differences do you see between Roosevelt’s and Taft’s views of their ethical responsibilities as president?
2. How did Roosevelt and Taft each negotiate the line between law and ethics?
3. Between Roosevelt and Taft, do you think one demonstrated overconfidence bias more than the other? Explain.
4. In the case of U.S. Steel, whose actions caused more harm: Roosevelt by making an informal agreement, or Taft by violating that agreement? Explain.
5. Whose approach to the U.S. presidency, Taft’s or Roosevelt’s, do you think is preferable in light of both legal and ethical considerations? Why?
6. Can you think of an example of another president or world leader whose approach to leadership is similar to either Roosevelt or Taft? How does this leader’s approach affect his/her political actions?
The Constitutional Presidency
The Evolving Presidency: Landmark Documents, 1787-2010
In the context of health care in the United States, the value on autonomy and liberty was cogently expressed by Justice Benjamin Cardozo in Schloendorff v. Society of New York Hospitals (1914), when he wrote, “Every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his own body.” This case established the principle of informed consent and has become central to modern medical practice ethics. However, a number of events since 1914 have illustrated how the autonomy of patients may be overridden. In Buck v. Bell (1927), Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that the involuntary sterilization of “mental defectives,” then a widespread practice in the U.S., was justified, stating, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” Another example, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which African-American males were denied life-saving treatment for syphilis as part of a scientific study of the natural course of the disease, began in 1932 and was not stopped until 1972.
Providing advice related to topics of bioethics, the President’s Commission for the Study of Ethical Problems in Medicine and Biomedical and Behavioral Research stated, “Informed consent is rooted in the fundamental recognition—reflected in the legal presumption of competency—that adults are entitled to accept or reject health care interventions on the basis of their own personal values and in furtherance of their own personal goals.” But what of circumstances where patients are deemed incompetent through judicial proceedings, and where someone else is designated to make decisions on behalf of a mentally incompetent individual?
Consider the following case:
A middle aged man was involuntarily committed to a state psychiatric hospital because he was considered dangerous to others due to severe paranoid thinking. His violent behavior was controlled only by injectable medications, which were initially administered against his will. He had been declared mentally incompetent, and the decisions to approve the use of psychotropic medications were made by his adult son who had been awarded guardianship and who held medical power of attorney.
While the medications suppressed the patient’s violent agitation, they made little impact on his paranoid symptoms. His chances of being able to return to his home community appeared remote. However, a new drug was introduced into the hospital formulary which, if used with this patient, offered the strong possibility that he could return home. The drug, however, was only available in a pill form, and the patient’s paranoia included fears that others would try to poison him. The suggestion was made to grind up the pill and surreptitiously administer the drug by mixing it in pudding.
Hospital staff checked with the patient’s son and obtained informed consent from him. The “personal values and…personal goals” of the son and other family members were seen to substitute for those of the mentally incompetent patient—and these goals included the desire for the patient to live outside of an institution and close to loved ones in the community. This was the explicitly stated rationale for the son’s agreeing to the proposal to hide the medication in food. However, staff were uncomfortable about deceiving the patient, despite having obtained informed consent from the patient’s guardian.
1. In the case study above, do you think the ends justify the means? In other words, does the goal of discharging the patient from an institutional setting into normal community living justify deceiving him? Explain your reasoning.
2. Do you think it is ever ethically permissible to deceive clients? Under what circumstances? Why or why not?
3. To what degree should family members or legal guardians have full capacity to make decisions or give consent on behalf of those under their care? Explain.
4. Do you think severely mentally ill people retain any rights “to determine what shall be done with [their] own [bodies]?” Why or why not?
5. Are there risks in surreptitiously medicating a paranoid patient? Would this confirm the patient’s delusions of being “poisoned” by others or escalate his resistance to treatment? Are these risks worth taking in view of the potential to dramatically improve his mental functioning and reduce his suffering?
6. Since psychiatric patients have the right to treatment, does the strategy to surreptitiously administer medications serve this goal? Do you think this is ethically justifiable? Why or why not?
7. Does the history of the forcible treatments of persons with disabilities and other powerless populations affect how you view this case? Explain.
The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present
Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck
Texas Administrative Code, Chapter 404, Subchapter E: Rights of persons receiving mental health services
A history and a theory of informed consent
Enduring and emerging challenges of informed consent
Chapter “Consent to medical care: the importance of fiduciary context” in The ethics of consent: theory and practice
CASES; Advice rejoins consent
Making health care decisions: The ethical and legal implications of informed consent in the patient-practitioner relationship
In many ways, social media platforms have created great benefits for our societies by expanding and diversifying the ways people communicate with each other, and yet these platforms also have the power to cause harm. Posting hurtful messages about other people is a form of harassment known as cyberbullying. Some acts of cyberbullying may not only be considered slanderous, but also lead to serious consequences. In 2010, Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death a few days after his roommate used a webcam to observe and tweet about Tyler’s sexual encounter with another man. Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother, stated, “In this digital world, we need to teach our youngsters that their actions have consequences, that their words have real power to hurt or to help. They must be encouraged to choose to build people up and not tear them down.”
In 2013, Idalia Hernández Ramos, a middle school teacher in Mexico, was a victim of cyber harassment. After discovering that one of her students tweeted that the teacher was a “bitch” and a “whore,” Hernández confronted the girl during a lesson on social media etiquette. Inquiring why the girl would post such hurtful messages that could harm the teacher’s reputation, the student meekly replied that she was upset at the time. The teacher responded that she was very upset by the student’s actions. Demanding a public apology in front of the class, Hernández stated that she would not allow “young brats” to call her those names. Hernández uploaded a video of this confrontation online, attracting much attention.
While Hernández was subject to cyber harassment, some felt she went too far by confronting the student in the classroom and posting the video for the public to see, raising concerns over the privacy and rights of the student. Sameer Hinduja, who writes for the Cyberbullying Research Center, notes, “We do need to remain gracious and understanding towards teens when they demonstrate immaturity.” Confronting instances of a teenager venting her anger may infringe upon her basic rights to freedom of speech and expression. Yet, as Hinduja explains, teacher and student were both perpetrators and victims of cyber harassment. All the concerns of both parties must be considered and, as Hinduja wrote, “The worth of one’s dignity should not be on a sliding scale depending on how old you are.”
1. In trying to teach the student a lesson about taking responsibility for her actions, did the teacher go too far and become a bully? Why or why not? Does she deserve to be fired for her actions?
2. What punishment does the student deserve? Why?
3. Who is the victim in this case? The teacher or the student? Was one victimized more than the other? Explain.
4. Do victims have the right to defend themselves against bullies? What if they go through the proper channels to report bullying and it doesn’t stop?
5. How should compassion play a role in judging other’s actions?
6. How are factors like age and gender used to “excuse” unethical behavior? (ie. “Boys will be boys” or “She’s too young/old to understand that what she did is wrong”) Can you think of any other factors that are sometimes used to excuse unethical behavior?
7. How is cyberbullying similar or different from face-to-face bullying? Is one more harmful than the other? Explain.
8. Do you know anyone who has been the victim of cyber-bullying? What types of harm did this person experience?
Why or why not? Does she deserve to be fired for her actions?
Teacher suspended after giving student a twitter lesson
Pros and Cons of Social Media in the Classroom
How to Use Twitter in the Classroom
Twitter is Turning Into a Cyberbullying Playground
Can Social Media and School Policies be “Friends”?
What Are the Free Expression Rights of Students In Public Schools Under the First Amendment?
Teacher Shames Student in Classroom After Student Bullies Teacher on Twitter
In 1996, Democratic President Bill Clinton and a Republican-led Congress passed The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), also known as the “Welfare Reform Act.” This bill changed how government-funded welfare operated in the United States. PRWORA reduced the amount of federal spending for low-income families, placed a limit on the number of years a person could receive federal financial assistance, and required recipients to work within two years of receiving benefits. It also included legislation that limited the funding available to unmarried parents under the age of 18, enhanced legal enforcement of child support, and restricted funding for immigrants. Republican supporters believed these provisions would curb the number of out-of-wedlock births.
The bill ignited a decades-long debate about individual responsibility versus social responsibility and the role of the government in directly alleviating poverty. On the one hand, the bill was heralded as an important step toward helping welfare recipients achieve self-reliance and employment. Through this bill, Clinton aimed to “end welfare as we know it” by creating job opportunities that would help stop a cycle of poverty and dependency. Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his colleagues in Congress pressured Clinton to make the bill even more austere. They argued that reducing welfare funding reinforced core American values of individual responsibility, hard work, independence, and free enterprise.
Critics of the bill argued that it negatively affected the most vulnerable people in society. Several members of Clinton’s administration even resigned as a result of the bill. One of these detractors, Peter Edelman, argued that welfare reform would not solve the problem, but rather drive millions more people into poverty, many of them single mothers and their children. During the debate, Senator Edward Kennedy called the bill “legislative child abuse.” From this perspective, the government was essentially abdicating its responsibility to care for children and impoverished people who are systemically disadvantaged.
The bill was effective for getting people off of welfare at first, in part due to a booming economy in the late 1990s. By 2000, welfare caseloads were at their lowest level in 30 years. However, wages tended to be barely above the poverty line and did not provide long term financial stability. Financial instability was exacerbated by the economic downturn in 2008. In a 2016 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examining the effects of PRWORA and related policies, research showed several findings: “Employment increases…were modest and faded over time;” “Stable employment…[was] the exception, not the norm;” “Most recipients…never found work even after participation in work programs…;” “The large majority of individuals…remained poor, and some became poorer;” and “Voluntary employment programs can significantly increase employment without the negative impacts of ending basic assistance…”
The government’s role in supporting the poor through direct aid remains an active debate in the U.S. today.
1. In this case, who favors the individualistic fundamental moral unit? Who favors the community-oriented fundamental moral unit? Which viewpoint do you find the most compelling and why?
2. Regardless of your own political affiliation, do you think governments or societies have an obligation to care for disadvantaged or lower-income families? Why or why not?
3. Do you think everyone in your home country has equal opportunities to succeed in society? Why or why not? Do you think success is the sole responsibility of the individual or does government have a role to play? Explain your position.
4. How might individuals raised with different notions of the fundamental moral unit respond differently to the Welfare Reform Act?
5. How might awareness of the fundamental moral unit help us to better understand differences between political parties?
Welfare’s Changing Face
Was Welfare Reform Successful?
Clinton to Sign Bill Overhauling Welfare
Welfare Limits Left Poor Adrift as Recession Hit
Did Welfare Reform Work for Everyone? A Look at Young Single Mothers
20 Years Later, Welfare Overhaul Resonates for Families and Candidates
Work Requirements Don’t Cut Poverty, Evidence Shows
In the summer of 2014, the United States experienced a significant increase of unaccompanied minors illegally entering the country from Central America. The number of minors apprehended as they tried to enter the U.S. nearly doubled over the previous year from 35,200 to 66,120. The fastest growing segment of child migrants were those under 12 years old, increasing concern that vulnerable children were risking their lives on a dangerous journey to the U.S. to escape violence and poverty in their home countries. The influx posed a number of logistical and ethical dilemmas for state and federal authorities, and overwhelmed the capacity of authorities to process new migrants or even provide shelter for them.
The Obama administration responded with a multifaceted plan that included millions of dollars of emergency funding. The plan called for increased border enforcement, deportation of those deemed economic migrants, more detention facilities, additional immigration judges to process claims for political asylum as refugees, and new programs in countries of origin that would mitigate violence and economic hardship for minors as well as discourage or intercept migrants before reaching the U.S. Because facilities at the border were being overrun, the government also transported some migrants to other parts of the country. This drew protests from local communities that tried to turn back buses filled with migrant children. The administration’s response drew criticism from all quarters.
Human rights and refugee advocates, as well as many religious institutions, argued that the U.S. was neglecting its moral obligation to protect innocent and vulnerable children, many of whom were fleeing violence at the hands of criminal gangs and the drug trade. According to journalist Sonia Nazario, the influx of minors was not a crisis of illegal immigration but rather a refugee crisis: the violence in countries, such as Honduras, was prompting youths to flee their homes as a means of survival. Nazario argued that these refugees, similar to refugees in war-torn regions such as Syria, deserved legal and physical protection. She criticized the Obama administration for concentrating on border enforcement and interdiction of child migrants instead.
Others argued the opposite point: that the crisis was brought on by weak control of U.S. borders. According to Jessica Vaughn, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, the ongoing crisis was “the best evidence yet that lax enforcement, both at the border and within the country, and talk of amnesty only bring more illegal immigration.” She and others promoting stronger limits on immigration urged the Obama administration to turn back those who entered the country illegally on the grounds that the only way to end this crisis was to stem the tide of migrants before they got to the U.S.
1. Does the United States have a moral obligation to accept migrants? Why or why not? Does the impetus for migration matter? For example, should we treat economic migrants fleeing economic hardships any differently than political asylum-seekers escaping political persecution and violence? Explain your reasoning.
2. What values are in conflict in the debate over the economic costs of immigration?
3. Does the U.S. have a special moral obligation to receive child migrants? Why or why not?
4. A faction of Americans protested against accepting minors into the country because of the potential burden and threat that the newcomers might pose to local communities. Do you think there are limits to the moral obligation of the U.S. (and other countries) in accepting migrants, even those fleeing violence? Why or why not?
5. Some commentators argue that if unaccompanied child migrants gain legal status upon reaching the United States, more children will be incentivized to make the dangerous trek to the U.S. Others argue we must protect the most vulnerable. In response to these concerns, what immigration policies would you advocate and why?
6. Does the United States have a moral obligation to help resolve the deeper reasons for mass migration to the U.S., such as economic inequality, the drug trade, and histories of encouraged migration, particularly if American behavior or U.S. policy contributes to these patterns of migration? Explain.
7. Ultimately, the surge in child migration to the United States in the summer of 2014 was controlled in part through cooperation with foreign governments to prevent the transit of minors across their territories. Some argued that the methods used by these governments were not humane and that children intercepted en route to the U.S. were forced to return to dangerous or even life-threatening situations. Do you think this was an ethically justifiable method to limit migration? Why or why not?
The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis
The Central American Child Emigration Crisis: Facts, Figures, and Root Causes
How to Stop the Surge of Migrant Children
Children 12 and under are fastest growing group of unaccompanied minors at U.S. border
The Refugees at Our Door
Matthew Snyder was a Marine Lance Corporal from Maryland who died in Iraq on March 2, 2006 at the age of 20. The Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, announced in advance that they would picket his funeral. Westboro contends that American military deaths are a direct result of God’s vengeance for the tolerance of homosexuality in the United States. Church members protest military funerals because they believe enlisted soldiers “voluntarily [join] a fag-infested army to fight for a fag-run country.” They denounced Snyder’s parents, Albert Snyder and Julia Francis, for raising their son Catholic. They claimed Snyder and Francis taught their son to “be an idolater” and support the world’s “largest pedophile machine.” At Snyder’s funeral, Westboro members held up signs saying “Fag Troops,” “God hates the U.S.A.,” and many others of a similar nature.
Albert Snyder sued for defamation stemming from false statements made about his son’s upbringing. He also sued for “publicity given to private life” because his son’s funeral was a private, not public event. These counts were dismissed because the defamation fell under religious opinion and because an obituary was printed with details of their religion. Other counts, including intrusion upon seclusion, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy, were all allowed to continue.
Westboro Baptist Church maintained that they followed all local ordinances and were compliant with all police instructions. They were allowed to picket in an area designated by police about 1000 feet from the church. Albert Snyder claimed he saw the tops of signs, but only read their contents when he saw a news program on television afterwards. Evidence was presented that showed Albert Snyder suffered physical and emotional harm, including complications from diabetes and depression.
At the district court level, Albert Snyder was awarded a total of $5 million in damages, but the Fourth Circuit later reversed this ruling. It was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the ruling of the Fourth Circuit: Westboro Baptist Church was within their free speech rights set forth in the First Amendment. The primary message of their signs dealt with their broad public message and not one specific individual, even if it was hurtful. The court ruling stated, “Because this Nation has chosen to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that public debate is not stifled, Westboro must be shielded from tort liability for its picketing in this case.”
1. How would you rule in this case if you were the deciding vote on the Supreme Court? Why? What issues would you find most important in making that decision?
2. Does the fact that the Westboro Baptist Church did everything legally correct make their position acceptable? Should they adhere to any ethical boundaries beyond legal compliance? Why or why not?
3. How would you explain to both the Westboro Baptist Church and Albert Snyder the Supreme Court’s ruling while respecting both of their positions?
4. Can you think of any alternative methods by which the Westboro Baptist Church could make the same point without causing harm to individuals such as Albert Snyder? Explain.
5. Do you believe it is ethically permissible for someone to say whatever he or she wants, even if it causes harm or trauma to another person? If so, on what grounds? If not, where would you draw the line to limit speech? Explain.
Snyder v. Phelps (2011)
Facts and Case Summary – Snyder v. Phelps
Justices Take Up Funeral-Protest Case
Justices Rule for Protestors at Military Funerals
Why the Supreme Court Ruled for Westboro
On January 15, 2014, sports blog Grantland published the article “Dr. V’s Magical Putter,” a longform piece by journalist Caleb Hannan. What began as an article about a unique new golf putter gradually became an article about the inventor of the putter, Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt. In his investigation into Vanderbilt’s invention, Hannan discovered that Vanderbilt had lied about her academic background and work experience and had taken cash from an investor that she never returned.
Hannan also found out that Vanderbilt was a transgender woman and outed her as trans to an investor. Although Hannan had made an agreement with Vanderbilt to focus the story “on the science, not the scientist,” the putter became a backdrop to a story about what Hannan saw as a deceitful personal life and fraudulent professional career. Vanderbilt, who wished to maintain her privacy from the start, did not want the story published. A few months before Grantland published the article, Vanderbilt committed suicide.
The article sparked immediate controversy over the merits and ethics of its reporting, as well as its role in Vanderbilt’s suicide. Detractors criticized Hannan and Grantland for a lack of awareness and compassion regarding trans issues. Defenders of the article saw value in the story and believed it would be dangerous to not report all of the facts. In an editorial response published in Grantland, sports journalist Christina Kahrl wrote, “It was not Grantland’s job to out [Vanderbilt],” noting, “she was a member of a community…for whom suicide attempts outpace the national average almost 26 times over.” Josh Levin, executive editor at Slate, wrote, “The fact that Dr. V once lived under a different name is not irrelevant to Hannan’s story… But presenting Dr. V’s gender identity as one in a series of lies and elisions was a careless editorial decision. …Dr. V is a con artist and a trans woman. Hannan, though, conflates those two facts…” Journalist James Kirchick defended Hannan, writing, “What I saw was a careful and ingenious reporter ferret out a fraud with care. …[There’s] no evidence that Hannan was…seeking to “out” and humiliate a transgender woman… On the contrary, in his article, Hannan arrives at a conclusion sympathetic to Vanderbilt.” Trans advocate and medical doctor Dana Beyer said that the article reflected the tragedy of being in the closet as trans, but did not revel in it or have malicious intentions.
Several days after the publication of the article, Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons published a response to the article’s criticism. He wrote, “I didn’t know nearly enough about the transgender community—and neither does my staff… We just didn’t see the other side. We weren’t sophisticated enough. In the future, we will be sophisticated enough… we made mistakes, and we’re going to learn from them.” Reflecting on the article over a year later, Hannan spoke about the complexities of seeking truth in journalism, “At every point in the reporting I could justify myself going forward… ‘I’m doing my job.’ But part of the job was to assess whether it was worth it.”
1. While Hannan and Grantland were certainly legally permitted to publish this article, do you think it was ethically permissible to do so? Why or why not?
2. If you were in Hannan’s position when investigating Vanderbilt’s educational and personal background, what would you have done and why?
3. What biases and/or pressures do you think contributed to Hannan pursuing the story and outing Vanderbilt to an investor? How did he rationalize his actions? Explain.
4. If you were in Simmons’ position before publishing the article, what would you have done and why?
5. What biases and/or pressures do you think contributed to Simmons publishing the article? How did he rationalize this decision? Explain.
6. Do you think comprehensive reporting and truth in journalism can be balanced effectively with respecting individuals’ privacy? Why or why not? How can journalists, in Hannan’s words, assess whether pursuing a story is “worth it”?
7. Do you think journalists bear a special responsibility to people who may be at risk of harm or face oppression based on their identity? Or is that too great a burden? Explain.
Dr. V’s Magical Putter
The Dr. V Story: A Letter from the Editor
What Grantland Got Wrong
Digging Too Deep: Grantland’s exposé of a trans con artist privileged fact-finding over compassion
Pressuring Journalists Won’t Protect Transgender People
10 Questions Bill Simmons and ESPN Should Answer About ‘Dr. V’s Magical Putter’
‘Dr. V’ Writer Caleb Hannan Speaks for the First Time About What Went Wrong
The journalist and Dr. V
Friend blames timing of Gilbert inventor’s suicide on fear of impending article
In 1990, theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh brought the musical Miss Saigon to Broadway following a highly successful run in London. Based on the opera Madame Butterfly, Miss Saigon takes place during the Vietnam War and focuses on a romance between an American soldier and a Vietnamese orphan named Kim. In the musical, Kim is forced to work at ‘Dreamland,’ a seedy bar owned by the half-French, half-Vietnamese character ‘the Engineer.’ The production was highly anticipated, generating millions of dollars in ticket sales before it had even opened.
Controversy erupted, however, when producers revealed that Jonathan Pryce, a white British actor, would reprise his role as the Eurasian ‘Engineer.’ Asian American actor B.D. Wong argued that by casting a white actor in a role written for an Asian actor, the production supported the practice of “yellow-face.” Similar to “blackface” minstrel shows of the 19th and 20th centuries, “yellow-face” productions cast non-Asians in roles written for Asians, often relying on physical and cultural stereotypes to make broad comments about identity. Wong asked his union, Actors’ Equity Association, to “force Cameron Mackintosh and future producers to cast their productions with racial authenticity.”
Actors’ Equity Association initially agreed and refused to let Pryce perform: “Equity believes the casting of Mr. Pryce as a Eurasian to be especially insensitive and an affront to the Asian community.” Moreover, many argued that the casting of Pryce further limited already scarce professional opportunities for Asian American actors.
Frank Rich of The New York Times disagreed, sharply criticizing the union for prioritizing politics over talent: “A producer’s job is to present the best show he can, and Mr. Pryce’s performance is both the artistic crux of this musical and the best antidote to its more bloated excesses. It’s hard to imagine another actor, white or Asian, topping the originator of this quirky role. Why open on Broadway with second best, regardless of race or creed?” The casting director, Vincent G. Liff, also defended his actions on the same grounds: “I can say with the greatest assurance that if there were an Asian actor of 45-50 years, with classical stage background and an international stature and reputation, we would have certainly sniffed him out by now.”
Actors’ Equity ultimately reversed their decision and Pryce performed the role of ‘the Engineer’ on Broadway to great acclaim. Nonetheless, the production remained controversial during its successful Broadway run. For many, it is seen as one of the most famous examples of contemporary “yellow-face” performance.
1. Why did Wong critique the production? What harms does “yellow-face” performance cause? To whom?
2. What harm is Frank Rich arguing will be caused by not allowing Pryce to perform? How does Rich justify his argument?
3. While the practice of “blackface” performance is widely agreed to be ethically prohibited, there continue to be multiple examples of white actors representing Asians in theatre and film. Why do you think this continues to occur?
4. Is it more problematic for a white actor to portray a person of color than for an actor of color to perform a role written for a white person. Why or why not?
5. How does the history of racial and ethnic discrimination in the United States factor into this debate?
6. In what ways does scarcity of opportunities and representations affect perceptions of minority groups?
7. How can producers and casting directors appropriately represent characters on stage and screen? Should artists and producers purposefully be more inclusive or should they cast regardless of race? Explain your reasoning.
Jonathan Pryce, ‘Miss Saigon’ and Equity’s Decision
David Henry Hwang: racial casting has evolved – and so have my opinions
The Problem With Miss Saigon (or how many stereotypes can you cram into one Broadway musical)
Cameron Mackintosh: ‘I have been successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams’
A History of Asian American Theatre
This case study examines the controversy over the Sports Illustrated cover photo of U.S. Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, which some commentators argued was focused more on Vonn’s physical appearance than her athletic abilities. It highlights different perspectives on the coverage of female athletes in popular media and the representation of female athletes in sports journalism.
The full case study, discussion questions, and additional resources can be accessed through the link below, which will open a new tab at The Texas Program in Sports & Media website.
Full TPSM Case: Covering Female Athletes
On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the release of the ‘smoking gun’ tape that could have indicted him for involvement in criminal activity while president. Following resignation, many Americans were angry with Nixon and also suspicious of Gerald Ford as he stepped into the presidential role. Nixon soon became extremely ill. On August 15, 1974, he was admitted to Bethesda Naval Hospital and diagnosed with viral pneumonia. One account suggests he was admitted with a recurrence of phlebitis. Nixon had a history of phlebitis, which can be fatal even if treated.
On September 8, 1974, President Ford issued a full and absolute pardon of Nixon for all offenses against the United States, making Nixon immune from any arrest, investigation, or imprisonment from his involvement in Watergate. The pardon infuriated many Americans. Suspicions arose of a possible deal between Ford and Nixon in exchange for Ford’s prior nomination to vice president. All parties denied any such deal and no evidence in support of these allegations ever surfaced.
With the Watergate scandal consuming the nation, Ford signaled that he wanted to refocus the public and rebuild trust in the executive branch. He sought to move forward by concentrating on the nation’s problems, such as ending the Vietnam War, rather than spending his entire administration dissecting the activities of the previous president for years to come. However, as a result of the pardon, Nixon would never be held accountable for activity widely thought to be criminal.
President Ford also believed from reports and advisors that Nixon’s health was seriously compromised and that his death was likely imminent. In his speech announcing the pardon, Ford referred both to the health crisis of Nixon as well as his own personal constitutional duty to ensure domestic tranquility. At the time, it was impossible for Ford to realize that Nixon would eventually recover and live for twenty more years. Ford believed he acted in the nation’s best interests. The public vehemently disagreed.
1. How would you describe Ford’s process of moral analysis in this situation?
2. Should Nixon have been held accountable for his behaviors without regard for his personal health or the new administration? Why or why not?
3. While President Ford was clearly within his constitutional right to pardon Richard Nixon, do you think Ford’s decision was justified on ethical grounds? Why or why not?
4. Can you think of some alternatives to pardoning Nixon? Explain.
5. If you were in President Ford’s position, what would you do, and why? What would be your process of moral analysis before taking action?
Watergate and the Resignation of Richard Nixon: Impact of a Constitutional Crisis
The Presidential Pardon Power
31 Days: Gerald Ford, the Nixon Pardon, and a Government in Crisis
When actor Robin Williams took his life in August of 2014, major news organizations covered the story in great detail. Most major news outlets reported on Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd’s press conference, which revealed graphic details from the coroner’s report about the methods Williams used. While there was great interest on the part of the public in finding out what happened, many argued that reporting too much detail about the suicide violated the family’s privacy.
Indeed, many of Robin Williams’s fans posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to express their objections to the media treatment of the suicide, urging reporters to respect the family’s right to grieve in peace. Several members of the mental health community also took issue with the detailed reports. Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, wrote to CNN that “When a media report describes clear details of unusual methods of suicide and essentially gives a “how to” guide—the danger is it can make suicide seem like a more accessible action to take.” Some journalists expressed similar viewpoints, criticizing the reports as a clear violation of media ethics. According to the Press Complaints Commission, “When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.”
Yet other journalists argued that the primary responsibility of the media was to report the story truthfully and factually. In an op-ed in the LA Times, Andrew Klavan wrote, “The manner of Williams’ death is public information. Journalists should report it as long as it remains of interest to the public. It is not a journalist’s job to protect us from the ugly facts.” Klavan argued that the journalist’s duty is not to do good or be wise, but to report the whole story, which may in fact be a part of a larger story unfolding elsewhere. Sheriff Boyd similarly defended his own actions by stating that he had a duty to report the details as part of the public record.
In an interview with Today, Williams’s daughter Zelda discussed how her father never sought to hide his problems, mentioning his openness about struggling with alcoholism. She stated, “I think that one of the things that is changing, that is wonderful, is that people are finally starting to approach talking about illnesses that people can’t immediately see…He didn’t like people feeling like the things that were hard for them they should go through alone.”
1. According to the video, systematic moral analysis (SMA) first requires identifying the problems in a situation. In this case, who was harmed and how? You may reference the list of moral rules in the transcript of the narration below.
2. The second step of SMA requires asking who is responsible. Is Sheriff Boyd responsible? The journalists? Anyone else? How do their role-related responsibilities relate to the harm caused?
3. Third in the process of SMA is to consider whether or not the action can be justified. Do you think the role-related responsibilities of Sheriff Boyd or the journalists justified their actions? Why or why not? What alternative ways of reporting Robin Williams’s suicide would have caused less harm?
4. Finally, if you had been in the position of Sheriff Boyd or the journalists, what do you think would have been the ethically ideal action to take?
5. Would the journalists have harmed the public by not reporting the “whole truth?” In other words, were they ethically required to report the details, as argued by Klavan? Explain your reasoning.
6. Do the media have a responsibility to report suicide differently from other kinds of news? Why or why not? What if it leads to more suicide? What if reporting these details would lead to more awareness for mental illness?
7. When someone becomes a celebrity, do they no longer have the same right to privacy? Why or why not? Are the moral rules different for someone who makes a career in the public eye? Explain.
What media got wrong on Robin Williams’ suicide
Newspapers got it wrong in their reporting of Robin Williams’ death
The truth — the whole truth — on Robin Williams’ death
Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda on life with dad, continuing his charity
Copyright laws exist to protect authors’ and publishers’ rights, but also to balance that protection with access and innovation. In 1999, two teenagers created the file-sharing program Napster. Within its first year, the service surpassed 20 million users. Many Napster users shared music files with each other, but without any compensation to the artists and producers who made the music, sparking a series of legal battles over copyright and distribution. In 2001, an appellate panel upheld a previous ruling that Napster violated copyright laws, stating that, “Repeated and exploitative unauthorized copies of copyrighted works were made to save the expense of purchasing authorized copies.”
Artists were divided on the benefits and harms of Napster. Over 70 artists formed “Artists Against Piracy” in coalition with major record companies to combat the piracy occurring on Napster and other peer-to-peer internet services. In contrast, some established artists such as Neil Young saw piracy as the “new radio” and applauded the potential to reach larger audiences and drive additional sales through increased popularity. Seeing both the benefits and detriments of piracy, singer Norah Jones stated, “If people hear it I’m happy…it’s great that young people who don’t have a lot of money can listen to music and be exposed to new things… But I also understand it’s not ideal for the record industry, and a lot of young artists who won’t make any [money] off their album sales, but at least they can tour.”
Although court rulings forced Napster to terminate its file-sharing business, Napster’s innovations stimulated payment-based services, such as iTunes, Pandora, and many others. But the availability of such services has not put an end to the debate surrounding artist compensation with digital music, as seen with Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple in 2015. Swift’s albums, along with the music of many other artists, were going to be streamed at no cost to new Apple Music customers over the first three months of service without any compensation to the artists. In her open letter, Swift stated, “I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.” Within a few hours, Apple responded by changing the terms of its agreement in order to compensate artists at a reduced rate.
1. Artists generally agree that piracy causes financial harm, but some artists recognize that piracy creates exposure for the artist and access for the listener. Do you think the benefits of piracy outweigh the harms done? Why or why not?
2. Along with other file-sharing services, Napster helped to stimulate payment-based services such as iTunes, Pandora, and many others. Do you think this positive outcome justifies Napster’s illegal activities? Why or why not?
3. If Apple had not agreed to compensate artists in response to Swift’s open letter, do you think it would be ethically questionable to subscribe to their service? Are you, as a consumer, more likely to subscribe as a result of Apple’s response? Why or why not?
4. In cases of piracy, it is difficult to conceptualize everyone affected. Which of the ten moral rules (identified by Bernard Gert) does piracy violate? Other than the artists, who else is potentially affected by piracy? Does a broader view of the people affected and harms caused change your opinion on piracy? Why or why not?
How Taylor Swift Saved Apple Music
Napster: The Day Music was Set Free
Ashes to Ashes, Peer to Peer: An Oral History of Napster
The Napster Decision: The Overview; Appellate Judges Back Limitations on Copying Music
Shakira hits back at Lily Allen in illegal downloading row as she claims file-sharing ‘brings me closer to fans’
On May 10, 2012, executive Ellen Pao filed a lawsuit against her employer, Silicon Valley-based tech venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (Kleiner Perkins), on grounds of gender discrimination. Pao began working at Kleiner Perkins in 2005. She became a junior investing partner, but after several years at the firm was passed over for a senior partner position and was eventually terminated. Pao claimed that men with similar profiles and achievements were promoted instead.
In late 2011, Pao and a coworker were asked by a senior partner to come up with ways of improving the firm’s treatment of women, but the senior partner, according to Pao, was “noncommittal.” On January 4, 2012, Pao took this issue a step further and wrote a formal memorandum to several of her superiors and the firm’s outside counsel. In the memorandum, she described harassment she had received while at the firm, claiming she had been excluded from meetings by male partners, and asserting an absence of training and policies to prevent discrimination at the firm. Pao’s memo indicated that she wished to work with the firm on improving conditions for women. She was fired on October 1, 2012. The lawsuit went to trial in February 2015.
In a testimony during the trial, Pao explained that she sued because there was no process for HR issues at the firm and believed she had exhausted all options for addressing these issues internally: “It’s been a long journey, and I’ve tried many times to bring Kleiner Perkins to the right path. I think there should be equal opportunities for women and men to be venture capitalists. I wanted to be a VC but I wasn’t able to do so in that environment. And I think it’s important…to make those opportunities available in the future. And I wanted to make sure my story was told.”
Pao’s lawsuit made four claims against Kleiner Perkins: 1) they discriminated against Pao on the basis of gender by failing to promote her and/or terminating her employment; 2) they retaliated by failing to promote her because of conversations she had in late 2011 and/or the memo from January 4, 2012; 3) they failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent gender discrimination against her; and 4) they retaliated against her by terminating her employment because of conversations she had in late 2011 and/or the memo from January 4, 2012.
Pao’s legal team argued that men were promoted ahead of women, women who experienced sexual harassment received little support, and women’s ideas were often more quickly dismissed than men’s. Pao’s performance reviews revealed contradictory criticisms such as “too bold” and “too quiet.” Pao also accused company partner Ajit Nazre of pressuring her into an affair and subsequently retaliating against her after she ended the relationship. She said she received an inappropriate gift containing erotic imagery and was present while men at the firm were making inappropriate conversation. Further, the legal team described how Pao and other women had been left out of certain meetings and gatherings.
The defense’s case focused on Pao’s performance and character, noting that Pao received several negative performance reviews and acted entitled or resentful toward other employees and was not a team player. Evidence included evaluations, self-evaluations, meeting summaries, and messages both personal and professional. Kleiner Perkins claimed that Pao was paid more than her male counterparts, including bonuses and training. The firm also argued that Pao’s job description was mostly managerial and that limiting her involvement in investing was therefore not a form of discrimination.
The verdict was announced on March 27, 2015. The jury ruled 10 to 2 in favor of Kleiner Perkins on the first three claims, and 8 to 4 in favor of Kleiner Perkins on the fourth claim. Speaking after the trial, juror Steve Sammut said that the verdict came down to performance reviews, in which Pao’s negative criticism remained consistent each year. But he added that he wished there was some way for Kleiner Perkins to be punished for its treatment of employees, “It isn’t good. It’s like the wild, wild West.” Juror Marshalette Ramsey voted in favor of Pao, believing Pao had been discriminated against. Ramsey stated that the male junior partners who were promoted “had those same character flaws that Ellen was cited with.”
Deborah Rhode, law professor at Stanford University, said that even with this loss, Pao’s lawsuit succeeded in prompting debate about women in venture capital and tech. She stated, “This case sends a powerful signal to Silicon Valley in general and the venture capital industry in particular… Defendants who win in court sometimes lose in the world outside it.” After the verdict was announced, Pao stated that she hoped the case at least helped level the playing field for women and minorities in venture capital. She later wrote, “I have a request for all companies: Please don’t try to silence employees who raise discrimination and harassment concerns. …I hope future cases prove me wrong and show that our community and our jurists have now developed a better understanding of how discrimination works in real life, in the tech world, in the press and in the courts.” Pao’s case has since been credited for inspiring others facing workplace discrimination to act; similar lawsuits have been filed against companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and Microsoft.
1. At what points in this case study did Pao make the choice to voice her values? How did she voice her values in each of these instances?
2. Do you think Pao acted on her values effectively? Why or why not? Does the fact that she lost the lawsuit impact your reasoning? Explain.
3. Think through the seven pillars of GVV in relation to the case study above. Can you identify each pillar in Pao’s actions? Are there any pillars that you think Pao could have engaged more effectively? Explain.
4. If you were in Pao’s position at Kleiner Perkins, what would you have done and why? How might the pillars of GVV influence your actions? Select one of the pillars and describe how you would enact it in a situation described in the case study.
5. Based on the information in the case study, if you were a juror would you have ruled in favor of Pao or Kleiner Perkins? Why? How might your own values or biases influence your decision?
6. Have you ever worked at a job where you faced ethically questionable behavior? What did you do? In retrospect, do you wish you had done anything differently? How would you prepare for a similar situation today?
7. Have you ever witnessed or experienced discrimination in the workplace? What did you do? In retrospect, would you have done something differently? What do you think would be the ethically ideal way to handle instances of discrimination in the workplace?
Ellen Pao Loses Silicon Valley Bias Case Against Kleiner Perkins
Kleiner Perkin Portrays Ellen Pao as Combative and Resentful in Sex Bias Trial
Ellen Pao explains why she sued: “I wanted to make sure my story was told’
Ellen Pao wanted “a multimillion dollar payout,” Kleiner lawyers contend
Ellen Pao asked for a $10 million payment from Kleiner Perkins as the cost of ‘not fixing problems’
What the Jury in the Ellen Pao-Kleiner Perkins Case Needed to Decide
A Juror Speaks About His Vote for Kleiner Perkins but Still Wants the Firm to ‘Be Punished’
Ellen Pao Speaks: ‘I Am Now Moving On’
After Loss, Pao Hopes Case Leveled the Playing Field
Pao’s Alleged Firing Could Hurt Kleiner Perkins in Retaliation Suit
Gender Bias Will Soon Shine a Harsh Light on Microsoft
In the fall of 2015, student groups on the campuses of the University of Missouri and Yale University led protests in the wake of a series of racially-motivated offenses that many students saw as part of a history of unsafe or hostile campus climates for students of color, particularly black students. Offenses included verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.
At Yale University, administrators sent an email to students that offered advice on racially-insensitive costumes to avoid for Halloween, including costumes featuring blackface or mock Native American headdresses. Controversy emerged after Erika Christakis, a white lecturer of early childhood education and associate master at one of the university’s residential colleges, sent an email to the students she resided over in which she objected to the call for sensitivity. Christakis debated what she described as an “institutional… exercise of implied control over college students,” asking, “Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive?” In response, many students signed an open letter to Christakis. In this letter they stated, “We are not asking to be coddled… [We] simply ask that our existences not be invalidated on campus. This is us asking for basic respect of our cultures and our livelihoods.” During a protest, a student confronted Christakis’s husband, Nicholas Christakis, a professor at Yale and master of one of the residential colleges. In disagreement, the students told him to step down, saying that being a master was “not about creating an intellectual space… [but] creating a home here.”
At Missouri, university administrators were criticized for their slow and ineffective responses to address ongoing racial tensions on the campus. After Payton Head, a black student and president of the Missouri Student Association, was taunted with racial slurs, it took university chancellor R. Bowen Loftin nearly a week to respond. Following this and other incidences, students organized rallies and demonstrations. Tensions were made worse after someone used feces to smear a swastika on a communal bathroom in a residence hall. This act of vandalism, and the university’s response, became the final straw for graduate student Jonathan Butler. Butler had led or been involved in many demonstrations up to this point. He decided to go on indefinite hunger strike until university system president, Tim Wolfe, was removed from office. In support of Butler, the football team later announced they would neither practice nor play until Wolfe resigned. Many students joined in support of the protests. Butler ended his weeklong hunger strike after Wolfe resigned.
In the midst of the student protests at Missouri, further controversy emerged when protesters tried to keep news media out of the campus public grounds where protesters had been camping out for days. Student photographer Tim Tai, on assignment for ESPN, was surrounded and confronted by protesters, including university staff members, who did not want any media to enter what they said was a “safe space.” Tai was attempting to document the protests in public spaces, stating, “This is the First Amendment that protects your right to stand here and mine. …The law protects both of us.” A video capturing the confrontation went viral and sparked wider debate over the issue of freedom of speech in the protests at Missouri, Yale, and other college campuses. Journalists, commentators, and academics raised discussion over the roles of free speech, deliberation, and tolerance in the dialogue between student activists and university administrators.
Freelance journalist Terrell Jermaine Starr, in defense of the protesters, wrote: “This wasn’t a problem with Tai’s character or his journalistic integrity; he was doing his job… but reporters should also feel a responsibility to try to understand and respect [the protesters’] pain…” Starr continued: “In many communities that historically have been marginalized and unfairly portrayed by the media, there’s good reason people do not trust journalists: They often criminalize black people’s pain and resistance to racial oppression.” Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center, defended free speech as a crucial driver of social justice reform: “[Without] free speech, the “safe spaces” students crave will soon suffocate them. Social movements must evolve or they die. Ideological and even tactical evolution demands willingness to hear out heterodoxy. Likewise, free speech defenders will not win by dismissing students as insolent whiners. …The Black Lives Matter movement and the campus protests are efforts to jump-start a drive for racial equality that has stalled in key areas. Free speech is essential to that quest.”
Writing about the Yale incident, journalist Conor Friedersdorf suggested that the student activists’ intolerance of other views could lead to censorship. He wrote, “[Students] were perfectly free to talk about their pain. Some felt entitled to something more, and that is what prolonged the debate.” Op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof addressed the broader role of freedom of speech on college campuses: “The protesters at Mizzou and Yale and elsewhere make a legitimate point: Universities should work harder to make all students feel they are safe and belong. Members of minorities—whether black or transgender or (on many campuses) evangelical conservatives—should be able to feel a part of campus, not feel mocked in their own community.” Political theorist Danielle Allen, on the other hand, described the debate over freedom of speech as a distraction from the key issues of the protests. Allen wrote, “The issues of free speech matter, too, but they are leading people in the wrong direction, away from the deepest issue. …The real issue is how to think about social equality.”
1. In this case study, who voiced his or her values? Do you think each of these people acted effectively? Why or why not?
2. Think through the seven pillars of GVV in relation to Erika Christakis’ actions. Can you identify each pillar in her actions? Are there any pillars that you think she could have engaged more effectively? Explain.
3. How do Erika Christakis’ actions to voice values compare to Jonathan Butler’s actions to voice values? Was one more effective than the other? Why or why not? Explain.
4. If you were in the position of a student activist at Yale or Missouri, what would you have done and why? How might the pillars of GVV influence your actions?
5. What if you were in the position of a university administrator at Yale or Missouri? What would you have done and why? How might the pillars of GVV influence your actions?
6. If you were in the position to mediate the conflict between Tim Tai and the protesters, how would you engage the GVV pillars to do so? Explain.
7. If you were in Tai’s position, what would you have done, and why? Do you agree with his argument that freedom of speech protects his rights as much as it does the protesters? Explain.
8. How does voicing your own values differ from voicing the values of a group or organization? Explain.
9. Have you ever witnessed or been involved in a protest? In what ways did the group of protestors communicate their message? Do you think this was effective? Why or why not?
10. What do you think is an ethically ideal way to encourage dialogue and equality on college and university campuses? Explain.
At University of Missouri, Black Students See a Campus Riven by Race
Why a Free Speech Fight is Causing Protests at Yale
Mizzou, Yale, and Free Speech
‘Justice is worth fighting for’: A Q&A with the graduate student whose hunger strike has upended the University of Missouri
Who Is Entitled to Be Heard?
There’s a good reason protestors at the University of Missouri didn’t want the media around
The New Intolerance of Student Activism
The real issue at Mizzou and Yale isn’t free speech. It’s social equality.
At U. of Missouri and Yale, obstruction of free speech
A Dialogue on Race and Speech at Yale
On March 29, 2006, former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to six years in federal prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. Key to Abramoff’s conviction were his lobbying efforts that began in the 1990s on behalf of Native American tribes seeking to establish gambling on reservations.
In 1996, Abramoff began working for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. With the help of Republican tax reform advocate Grover Norquist, and his political advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, Abramoff defeated a Congressional bill that would have taxed Native American casinos. Texas Representative and House Majority Whip Tom DeLay also played a major role in the bill’s defeat. DeLay pushed the agenda of Abramoff’s lobbying clients in exchange for favors from Abramoff.
In 1999, Abramoff similarly lobbied to defeat a bill in the Alabama State Legislature that would have allowed casino-style games on dog racing tracks. This bill would have created competition for his clients’ casino businesses. Republican political activist Ralph Reed, and his political consulting firm Century Strategies, aided the effort by leading a grassroots campaign that rallied Alabama-based Christian organizations to oppose the bill.
As Abramoff’s successes grew, his clients, political contacts, and influence expanded. He hired aides and former staff of members of Congress. In 2001, Abramoff began working with Congressman DeLay’s former communications director, Michael Scanlon, who had formed his own public affairs consulting firm, Capitol Campaign Strategies. The Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana hired Abramoff and Capitol Campaign Strategies to help them renegotiate their gambling agreement with the State of Louisiana. Abramoff, however, did not disclose to the tribe that, in addition to his own consulting fees, he also received a portion of the fees paid to Scanlon’s firm.
In an effort to protect his Coushatta clients in Louisiana from competition by a new casino near Houston, Texas, Abramoff successfully lobbied for a state gambling ban in Texas between 2001 and 2002. Incidental to this ban was the closure of a casino in El Paso, Texas, owned by the Tigua Tribal Nation. The Tigua were another one of Abramoff’s casino clients.
Later in 2002, Abramoff made a pitch to the Tigua to work to oppose the ban for which he had previously lobbied successfully. With the Tigua’s money, Abramoff took Ohio Representative Bob Ney and his staff on a golfing trip to Scotland. Abramoff hoped to convince Ney and his colleagues to slip a provision into an election-reform bill that would grant the Tigua gaming rights. Abramoff’s efforts did not pay off, and the deal he sought fell through, but he did not inform the Tigua of this outcome. Rather, Abramoff continued to give the Tigua hope for the provision’s success, while also continuing to charge them for his and Scanlon’s services. And, in their email exchanges, Abramoff and Scanlon often mocked their tribal clients as “morons” and “monkeys.”
Throughout the course of their work with Native American tribes, Abramoff and Scanlon charged upwards of $66 million. The Coushatta paid over $30 million to protect their casino and to stop competing casinos in Texas. The Tigua paid $4.2 million to try to continue operating their casino in Texas. Abramoff has stated that he donated much of the money he made to charities, schools, and causes he believed in. But he also spent millions of dollars on activities or contributions in connection with politicians and campaigns he sought to influence. Furthermore, he evaded taxes by funneling money through nonprofit organizations with which he partnered.
After his conviction in 2006, Abramoff cooperated in the investigation of his relationships with Congress members, including aides, business associates, government officials, and lawmakers. Representatives DeLay and Ney both stepped down from their positions in Congress. DeLay, who had risen to the rank of House Majority Leader, was charged with money laundering and conspiracy of funneling corporate contributions to state candidates. Ney plead guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and making false statements. In exchange for gifts, lavish trips, and political donations from Abramoff, DeLay and Ney had used their positions in Congress to grant favors to Abramoff’s clients and lobbying team. Abramoff served three and a half years of a six-year prison term. He was released on December 3, 2010.
Since his release, Abramoff has spoken out against corruption in politics. He has stated that he believed himself to be a “moral lobbyist” and has apologized for his actions. In a 2011 interview, he said, “What’s legal in this system is the problem,” and in his memoir, he wrote, “Unfortunately, I was a miniature version of that system.” But not everyone perceived his redemption as a genuine effort. Tigua tribal leaders said his apologies were too little, too late. Rick Hill, former chairman of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, stated, “You look at Jack—though he took money from my elders and our kids, and now he comes here, and he gets to prop himself up, and it’s an acceptable part of [Washington] D.C. culture. He wouldn’t stand a minute on the reservation.”
Others point to the American political system, and see Abramoff as a symptom of broader corruption. Investigative journalist Susan Schmidt stated, “Abramoff couldn’t have flourished if this system, itself, was not corrupt, where the need for money—the members of Congress and their need for money—is so voracious and so huge that they don’t have their guard up.” California Representative Dana Rohrabacher said, “What Jack had been doing was what had been done before. People should pay more attention to the fact that we have got some enormous special interests in this country who are having incredible influences on policy.”
In his memoir, Abramoff reflected on personal and professional reform: “Regardless of my rationalizations, I was the one who didn’t disclose to my clients that there was a conflict of interest… I wasn’t the devil that the media were so quick to create, but neither was I the saint I always hoped to become. …I decided that, in order to move myself close to the angels, I would take what happened in my life, try to learn from it, and use it to educate others.”
1. Abramoff had an established set of morals in his personal life, and was deeply religious. He believed he was a ‘moral lobbyist’ who fought hard on behalf of his clients, and he donated much of his proceeds to worthy causes. Do you think the blame of his lobbying tactics primarily lies with Abramoff individually, or with the system within which he operated? Explain.
2. To what degree do you think individuals have a responsibility to act ethically within a corrupt system? How would an individual act ethically in this context?
3. Lobbying is a high-pressure, high-stakes business. Although lobbyists typically try to fly below the radar-screen, sometimes their business is high-profile as well. How might these situational factors affect lobbyists’ ability to act ethically?
4. Why do you think Abramoff and his associates would mock clients who were paying them millions of dollars? How does one rationalize or explain such behavior?
5. Since his release from prison, Abramoff has advocated for political reform, but many do not see his efforts as genuine. Do you agree with the view that Abramoff is a morally bankrupt felon who has no business advocating reform? Or do you agree with the view that Abramoff is a fallible human in a unique position to help us learn from his moral mistakes and reform a broken system? Explain.
6. Many politicians who received contributions from Abramoff or his clients donated portions of the funds they received to charity. Only a small fraction of politicians donated the money to Native American tribes. Do you think politicians who received these funds had a moral obligation to donate their money to Native American tribes? Why or why not? Do you have a different opinion of those who did donate to Native American tribes versus those who didn’t? Explain.
7. If you were hired to lobby on behalf of both the Coushatta’s casino in Louisiana and the Tigua’s casino in Texas, how would you negotiate the potential conflict of interest? Explain.
9. What legal reforms would you recommend that would make lobbyists more likely to act ethically? Why would you recommend these reforms, and how might you implement them?
Investigating Abramoff – Special Report
Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth about Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist
How a Lobbyist Stacked the Deck
A Jackpot From Indian Gaming Tribes
Jack Abramoff Confronted by Native American Tribes
For Ex-Lobbyist Abramoff, a Multimedia Effort at Redemption
Abramoff and 4 Others Sued by Tribe Over Casino Closing
Abramoff Effect: The Smell of Casino Money
The Fast Rise and Steep Fall of Jack Abramoff
Trial Money Linked to GOP Fundraising
‘Operation Open Doors’
A Lobbyist in Full
Lobbyists, Clients Undeterred by Scandal
Lawrence Lessig interviews Jack Abramoff
Casino Jack and the United States of Money
Heist: Superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, His Republican Allies, and the Buying of Washington
This case study discusses the unique challenges to freedom of speech public figures face when negotiating their public image and expressing their own values. It examines the controversy that broke out when Rashard Mendenhall, a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tweeted comments criticizing the celebration of the assassination of Osama Bin Laden.
The full case study, discussion questions, and additional resources can be accessed through the link below, which will open a new tab at The Texas Program in Sports & Media website.
Full TPSM Case: Defending the Freedom of Tweets?
This case study examines the conflict of interest that arose from the Bowl Championship Series’ use of news media polls to create their team matchups. News outlets claimed that they could not fairly report sports news if their polls were used to create the news.
The full case study, discussion questions, and additional resources can be accessed through the link below, which will open a new tab at The Texas Program in Sports & Media website.
Full TPSM Case: Covering Yourself? Journalists and the Bowl Championship Series
This case study explores the different ways in which coaches and universities have limited or banned the use of social media by their student athletes. It also raises questions about the processes that coaches and student athletes follow when managing their public personas.
Full TPSM Case: Sacking Social Media in College Sports
This case study examines controversial reporting by the sports blog Deadspin over a personal misconduct case involving NFL star Brett Favre. It highlights current debates surrounding the ethics of sports blogging as illustrated by the issue of paying sources for information, i.e. “checkbook journalism.”
Full TPSM Case: Sports Blogs: The Wild West of Sports Journalism?
In 1993, it was widely disclosed that research engineers at Heidelberg University in Germany had used 200 adult and child cadavers in simulated car crash tests. The researchers argued that the use of human cadavers was necessary to study the actual effects of these crashes on the body. They insisted that the research would save lives because it would help engineers design safer cars.
There was significant public outcry against this practice from numerous groups. The ADAC, Germany’s largest automobile club, issued a statement challenging the research on ethical grounds: “In an age when experiments on animals are being put into question, such tests must be carried out on dummies and not on children’s cadavers.” Rudolph Hammerschmidt, spokesman for the Roman Catholic German Bishops’ Conference similarly decried the practice, arguing, “Even the dead possess human dignity…this research should be done with manikins.” Political leaders also weighed in on the debate. Klaus von Trotha, research minister of Baden-Wuerttemberg state, questioned the study: “Our constitution guarantees freedom in scientific research. But the constitution also guarantees the protection of human dignity.”
The university defended its research by pointing to the results. Dr. Rainer Mattern, the head of Heidelberg University’s forensic pathology department, responded to public reaction against the use of child cadavers, arguing, “The tests have saved lives of other children.”
When it was revealed that similar tests were being conducted in the United States at Wayne State University, some U.S. officials offered their support. George Parker, the associate administrator for research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration argued, “We need that type of data to find out how people are injured in crashes to know what areas of the body are injured under what conditions.” He added that human subjects were necessary to determine the validity of the data gathered from crash test dummies: “If you didn’t do this testing, you wouldn’t know what limits to put on dummies for crash tests.”
For many, the debate ultimately hinged on whether the research yielded information not attainable from crash dummies and whether or not the families gave their consent to the use of the cadavers.
1. According to those opposing the research, what harm is done by conducting crash tests with cadavers? According to researchers, what is the harm done by not doing the research?
2. Who are the moral agents involved in this case? Who are the subjects of moral worth? Explain your reasoning.
3. Do you think the idea of human dignity applies equally to the living and the dead? Why or why not?
4. To what degree should family members have full capacity to make decisions or give consent on behalf of their deceased relatives? To what degree should other considerations, such as communal values or legal restrictions, be taken into account?
5. How does research using cadavers compare to organ donation? Do you think one is more ethically permissible than the other? Explain your reasoning.
6. How does animal testing compare to this case?
German University Said to Use Corpses in Auto Crash Tests
German University Must Prove Families OK’d Tests on Cadavers
Auto Safety Crash Testing Ignites Furor: Germany: The program uses human bodies. U.S. tests using cadavers at 3 universities are disclosed.
University Promises to Prove it Had Relatives’ OK to Use Bodies