Friday, February 9, 2018

UT Student Punished for Seeking Copies of Old Math Exams on Facebook

A University of Texas student who went online to request copies of old math tests by a professor received a penalty ("UT Student on Academic Probation after Posting in Facebook Group." The Daily Texan, January 29, 2018). While the university administrators said that they do not monitor online student activity, they will act if they are alerted about a suspected student conduct infraction.

Discussion Questions:
  1. While we do not know if the student actually received any of the requested exams and the answers to the questions, do you think it's fair that the student is put on academic probation for the act of asking for the exams? Why or why not?
  2. What should happen if a student supplied old exams by a professor upon request? Should that supplier get the same punishment as the requester?
  3. Do you think studying the old exams gives a student an unfair advantage in future testing? Why or why not?

Monday, January 15, 2018

College Courses Prepare Students for Ethical Issues at Work

In a time of polarizing workplace issues, professors are asking students to consider their moral and ethical obligations on the job beyond the bottom line ("Business Schools Now Teaching #MeToo, N.F.L. Protests and Trump." The New York Times, December 25, 2017). "Students have said ethical issues, not finances, are a business’s most important responsibility, according to a survey of business school students worldwide conducted by a United Nations group and Macquarie University in Australia."

Discussion Questions:
  1. Although a campus discussion of ethical and moral responsibility at work can be useful, how does a recent college graduate face corporate culture that condones discriminatory behavior?
  2. If you have experienced unethical actions at work, how did you handle the situation? Was the outcome fair to all parties affected?
  3. If a student in college does not already possess a moral compass of right and wrong, can a college class positively change his/her perceptions and actions? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Common Knowledge or Plagiarism?

Seemingly inadequate paraphrasing and verbatim copying recently stung a noted poet and editor in her latest book ("Writers Step In to Defend Author Accused of Plagiarism in New York Times." The Guardian (UK), October 4, 2017). Yet, seventy-two well-known authors minimized the nature of the situation even though there appeared to be obvious and frequent word-for-word verbiage by Jill Bialosky, noting that the similarities were not a case of "egregious theft intentionally performed." Find examples of her writing compared to the original sources in the Tourniquet Review. In the letter of defense for Bialosky written by the seventy-two authors, it is mentioned that she included in her book "a handful of commonly known biographical facts gleaned from outside sources.”

Discussion Questions:
  1. Why would such a noted editor copy such a large amount of information from other sources and not cite it? Does she consider this information about other noted poets as common knowledge that doesn't need to be cited?
  2. Is there a particular amount of common knowledge that one can include in a 200+ page book before the text appears to be very unoriginal and providing few new insights on a topic?
  3. What motive would the seventy-two authors have for supporting this poet and editor if she indeed was guilty of plagiarism? Note that quite a number of these authors work with the same publishing house as Bialosky.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When Stealing Is Not Okay in Professional Baseball

Using an Apple watch to relay them to their team, the Red Sox stole signs from the New York Yankees and had to pay the price levied by the Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred ("MLB Punishes Red Sox with Only a Fine for Apple Watch Scandal," Boston Herald, September 15, 2017). Actually, the Yankees had a fine imposed on them, too, and all MLB teams were put on notice that use of technology to steal signs may prompt more substantive penalties in the future. Interestingly, the fines will be going to Florida's hurricane recovery fund, since the two teams play spring training games in the state. League rules prohibit "hand-held devices" during a game and employing technology to take signs, although stealing signs unaided by communication equipment is allowed. Since the investigation found that the Yankees employed a dugout phone "illegally in a 'prior championship season,'" they were assessed a smaller fine.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Professional sports teams obviously have some rules that they need to follow for fair play, but since this penalty seems mild, are they likely to try some similar tactic to steal signs in the future, even with the threat of more severe punishment for new infractions? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think players and coaches that were involved in these illegal actions feel better about not playing by the rules since the fine money is going to a good cause, namely hurricane relief? Why or why not?
  3. Do these actions by both teams hurt the team or players reputations? Or are sports teams expected to do anything to win, even if it means going against the rules? Do their fans care that they acted illegally? Why or why not?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sloppy Research Harms Your Reputation

What happens to a scientist's reputation when a journal has to pull an article because of questionable research practices ("How Retractions Hurt Scientists’ Credibility," MIT News, September 5, 2017)? Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers supported by the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation found that with only one retraction or experience with an article being discredited, other articles by that author become suspect even though they remain in good stead. If articles by more famous scientists are found to be clear cases of incompetent research, their work cited by others drops even more precipitously.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Does it make sense that well-known scientists experience more fallout if one of their articles is found to include obvious sloppy research? Why or why not?
  2. Why do you think it takes years to establish a professional reputation that can be tarnished with one poorly researched article?
  3. Do you think this situation holds true for other professions or jobs, where if you make one mistake on the job, your reputation suffers?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dealing with Unethical Situations at Work

Learn how to handle a directive to engage in unethical behavior on the job with these practical suggestions ("When the Boss Wants You to Do Something Unethical," The New York Times, July 6, 2017). Get clarification from your supervisor to make sure you understood what is being asked of you. Research the situation to decide if the potential action goes against company policy. Determine the consequences of compromising your integrity to save your job before you bring your concerns about your boss to another person or group overseeing your boss. This article provides more great options should you encounter such situations at work.

Discussion Questions:
  1. Did you think the article provided useful strategies for employees who have been asked to do something unethical at work? Why or why not?
  2. Have you faced such a request to do something you thought was dishonest? Did you decide to stay on the job or resign?
  3. Do you think it is important for a company to have a code of ethics, so employees know what is expected of them on the job? Why or why not?
  4. Do you think companies that place an emphasis on maintaining an ethical workplace are more profitable? Why or why not?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Academic Dishonesty in Computer Coding Classes

Learning how to write code in a computer science class can be a ticket to a lucrative job, but professors are encountering students who turn in assignments with copied code from unauthorized sources ("As Computer Coding Classes Swell, So Does Cheating," The New York Times, March 3, 2017). Specialty software can catch copied code especially when students use substitutes for typical coding terms. One interesting idea at Harvard University was when a computer science professor added a “regret clause,” allowing those who confess to cheating "within 72 hours receive an unsatisfactory or failing grade on the assignment, and avoid further discipline — unless they do it again" and mentioned in an earlier blog post. Still some class members are unclear about how much consultation with other students, as encouraged by professors (and professional programmers), is acceptable. On one Harvard syllabus it states that "you may have your code viewed by others, but you may not view theirs."

Discussion Questions:
  1. What do you think about the "regret clause" where you can confess to cheating within a certain time to avoid harsh punishment?
  2. How can professors make it clear what's acceptable collaboration and what isn't? Should they include a list of what you may and may not do to avoid cheating? Or should punishable offenses be obvious to students once they reach college?