ETHICS DEBATE AND PROFESSIONAL DISCOURSE

For professionals in psychology, it is important to critically evaluate ethical actions by gathering information and considering alternatives. It is important for psychology professionals to be able to present alternatives and respectfully agree, but also to respectfully disagree.

For this discussion, select one of the case studies from the Ethical Case Studies media. Summarize the case you selected in your own words. Supporting your thinking with specific ethical principles and standards, construct an initial post with a recommended clear course of action for the instructor in the case you selected.

TRANSCRIPT FOR THE CASE STUDY CHOSEN:

Introduction
Founded in 1990, the Institute for Global Ethics (IGE) is an independent, nonsectarian, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting ethical action in a global context. Their challenge is to explore the global common ground of values, elevate awareness of ethics, provide practical tools for making ethical decisions, and encourage moral actions based on those decisions. These two real-life ethical dilemmas from IGE come to you without resolutions. How you might resolve them? Select one of the case studies in this presentation. You will use your selection to complete this week’s discussion.

Cheating Yourself
As a professor of mathematics and computer science at a large regional university in the south, Al regularly teaches a remedial algebra course. The course typically enrolls students who have done very poorly in high-school math—a number of whom feel they were hopelessly incompetent in math and are frightened of failing yet again.

Al’s course, which has 90 students, has five exams during the semester. After grading the first one, he makes a mental note to pay close attention to a few students—this year including Sarah, a sophomore who does particularly badly on the exam. She confesses to him that she has never understood math at all but needs this course for her major. So Al is surprised to see that she is not in the room during the second exam. He does, however, think he sees a young man whom he hasn’t seen before. When the young man turns in his test paper, Al puts it aside to look at later. Sure enough, when he turns it over, it has Sarah’s name on it.

On this point, Al knows, the rules of the university are particularly clear: he could initiate action that will surely lead to the immediate and dishonorable dismissal of both Sarah and her friend. But he knows that such a dismissal would become a permanent part of their records. As such, it could forever warp their futures. To be sure, they did something terribly wrong. And certainly, given the well-known levels of cheating in the university system, the faculty has to send strong messages that such cheating will not be tolerated.

But do these two deserve to be singled out and academically destroyed? Is it fair to punish two individuals for the increased cheating statistics of their generation—especially when Sarah seems to have been driven into temptation through an almost helpless sense of fear? Al finds himself in a right-versus-right dilemma, with his strong sense of justice pitted against his powerful sense of mercy. So he calls them in to see him. The young man, it turns out, is Sarah’s boyfriend and a senior engineering major. Al lets them know the serious trouble they are in, and sends them away for a week while he considers what to do.

Lost in Translation?
Brian McNally is a part-time faculty member at a mid-sized university located in Boston, Massachusetts. He has worked for the University in his current capacity for less than five years, but is well versed in the university’s policies he has agreed to uphold.

In McNally’s survey course on American History, an international student turns in her first term paper. During the grading process, McNally discovers that the student’s work is a textbook case of plagiarism. The majority of the paper is copied directly and without attribution from the references listed at the back of the student’s paper, and little of the work is the student’s own.

The university has a strong policy about plagiarism, which is outlined in the course syllabus that McNally knows this student received. When confronted about plagiarizing her paper, she claims that she did not realize what she was doing was plagiarism, since the academic culture in her own country is very tolerant of such copying. McNally explains to her that the policy, as outlined, requires that he fail her, but that he would consider her explanation over the weekend.

In this justice-versus-mercy decision, McNally thinks that on one hand it is right to fail her and maybe even eject her from the class, because there would be no chance for her to pass the course after failing this assignment. He would be just in his decision because the rules were clear. On the other hand, it is right to show mercy and ask her to rewrite her paper. If she truly did not understand the rule, it would seem unfair to penalize her so harshly, especially if this was just a case of cultural mistranslation.

What should McNally do?

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