Tag Archives: abuse of power

The Humiliation of Alexus Miller-Wigfall

Prom Dress

Some stories of the malfunctioning of  ethics alarms in school administrators make me want to weep, go postal, or begin a national movement to bring down the public school system for good, so untrustworthy are its stewards.

This one made me want to do all three.

The incompetent and cruel administrators at Harrisburg’s Sci-Tech High School told student Alexus Miller Wigfall that she would be suspended because the prom dress she wore was “too revealing.” The school’s dress code, like most dress codes, is so badly worded that it defies reasonable construction: this one requires “all body parts” to be covered, suggesting that the only acceptable prom dress would be something like this…

woman in Burka

Cute! Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Professions, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunces: Ten Prominent Doctors, Surgeons and Med School Professors Who Want Columbia To Kick Dr. Oz Off Its Faculty”

The late Prof. George Wald, the best teacher I ever had. In biology, not political science. George did not acknowledge the distinction.

The late Prof. George Wald, the best teacher I ever had. In biology, not political science. George did not acknowledge the distinction.

Commenter Alexander Cheezem, who has quite a bit of expertise (also passion) on such matters, weighed in on the current controversy over the “quackery” of daytime TV star “Dr. Oz.” This time I’ll hold my comments until the end; here is Alex’s excellent Comment of the Day on the post, Ethics Dunces: Ten Prominent Doctors, Surgeons and Med School Professors Who Want Columbia To Kick “Dr. Oz” Off Its Faculty:

I’m going to have to both agree and disagree with you here. First off, I applaud Columbia University’s response and agree that the principle of academic freedom is applicable here… to a point.

Secondly, however, I’m going to have to disagree with you regarding the parallels. Linus Pauling was an embarrassment to medicine, not chemistry. Wald was overly passionate about politics, not biology. Nagel’s views on biology are an embarrassment, not his views on what he’s supposed to be actually teaching. Chomsky’s forays into political science may be an embarrassment (personally, I regard them as something of a mixed bag), but that’s not what he was the professor of, is it?

Kass, McKinnon, Harper, and Singer are closer parallels, of course, but there’s still one rather huge difference: Dr. Oz is a doctor… and runs his show as one. It is, as the comedian John Oliver put it, the Dr. Oz Show, not “Check This Shit Out With Some Guy Named Mehmet”. This is quite relevant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that offering medical advice is within the scope of what doctors do. Offering that advice while invoking his medical license as a relevant qualification, simply put, can be considered part of the actual practice of medicine. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Health and Medicine, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions

Ethics Dunces: Ten Prominent Doctors, Surgeons and Med School Professors Who Want Columbia To Kick “Dr. Oz” Off Its Faculty

Dr Oz

Perhaps they tried this because Columbia has been having a bad ethics year so far… that could be it, I guess.

For the record, here are are the ten prominent individuals in the field of medicine who called on Columbia University to kick Dr. Mehmet Oz, better known to Oprah fans and junk TV addicts as “Dr.Oz,” off its medical school’s faculty:

Henry I. Miller, M.D.
Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy
& Public Policy
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Scott W. Atlas, M.D.
David and Joan Traitel Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution
Stanford University
Stanford, CA

Jack Fisher, M.D.
Professor of Surgery (emeritus)
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Shelley Fleet, M.D.
Anesthesiologist
Longwood, FL

Gordon N. Gill, M.D.
Dean (emeritus) of Translational Medicine
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA

Michael H. Mellon, M.D.
Pediatric Allergist
San Diego, CA

Gilbert Ross, M.D.
President (Acting) and Executive Director
American Council on Science and Health
New York, NY

Samuel Schneider, M.D.
Psychiatrist
Princeton, NJ

Glenn Swogger Jr. M.D.
Director of the Will Menninger Center for Applied Behavioral Sciences (retired)The Menninger Foundation
Topeka, KS

Joel E. Tepper, M.D.
Hector MacLean Distinguished Professor of Cancer Research
Dept of Radiation Oncology
University of North Carolina School of Medicine
Chapel Hill, NC

And here is their letter. They are troubled because “Dr. Oz” has embraced dubious products and health promotion techniques on his TV show. Indeed he has. On TV, Dr. Oz is a quack. He uses his medical credentials to, as the letter says, show “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine” and to display  “baseless and relentless opposition to the genetic engineering of food crops.”  And no one can deny that  “he has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.”

None of which is justification for taking him off the faculty, where his teaching duties are unrelated to his lucrative TV persona, and are the direct result of his recognized expertise in cardiothoracic surgery.

Could it be that all of these doctors—including Professors Tepper and Fisher, and Dean Gill— have never encountered the sacred educational principle of  academic freedom? Continue reading

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Filed under Bioethics, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Health and Medicine, Professions, U.S. Society

Wait…WHAT? Where Does A Law School Get Off Ordering Students Not To Talk About George Clooney’s Wife?

Of course, Columbia could order Amal from not dressing like this, but that would be outrageous.

Of course, Columbia could order Amal from not dressing like this, but that would be outrageous.

Every day, I am more amazed that I got through my formal education without being suspended, expelled or arrested.

From the New York Times:

At 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Amal Clooney walked into Classroom 103 in William and June Warren Hall at Columbia Law School. The human rights lawyer and wife of the actor George Clooney …was by herself, far from the tangle of paparazzi who gather outside the Carlyle hotel, where the couple are staying while Mr. Clooney is in town making “Money Monster,” a film directed by Jodie Foster and co-starring Julia Roberts. Ms. Clooney, 37, greeted a man preparing slides for the class in human rights for which she is a guest lecturer this spring. As she spoke, passers-by peeked at her through the sliver of glass in the door. If anyone had thoughts to share about Ms. Clooney, they weren’t talking.

“We are under strict orders not to discuss her or anything about her class,” said a student who declined to give her name. A representative from the law school politely asked a reporter to leave.

What? WHAT? Columbia University can’t “order” students not to talk about a professor! How did they get the idea that they could, or that it was appropriate to try? Of course, Columbia of late has shown less than a sterling respect for the values of academic freedom and the Bill of Rights. Still, this is pure abuse of power.

WHAT? What kind of jello-spined, ignorant, submissive worm are they admitting to Columbia who would accept such outrageous “strict orders”? [ Well, we do have some strong indications…] I couldn’t care less about Ms. Clooney, but if my law school said that to me, I’d hold a press conference.

WHAT? Why  does this woman, who voluntarily thrust herself into the limelight, warrant special privileges that justify restricting a law school’s students right to talk about anything they want to?

University classes have been taught for more than a century by men and women with far more impressive accomplishments and greater fame than Amal Clooney. Shouldn’t Columbia be combating celebrity culture rather than catering to it?

Any students who meekly accept such restrictions on their speech and autonomy are too craven to be trusted to practice law, and no institution that would demand such restrictions should be trusted to teach them.

________________________

Pointer: Above the Law

Facts: New York Times

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Popular Culture, Professions

Our Child-Abusing Schools: Prosecution For A Prank

"You changed your grade on the school computer, kid--that's the death penalty!"

“You changed your grade on the school computer, kid–that’s the death penalty!”

In Holiday, Florida, Paul R. Smith Middle School eighth-grader Domanik Green was suspended for breaking into the school computer system to  change the background on his teacher’s computer to feature a photo of two men kissing. Then school administrators decided that the punishment wasn’t enough. They had him charged with the felony of computer hacking, and the fourteen year old will be tried as an adult.

The only explanation I can come up with for stories like this is that the school administrators don’t like kids. This wasn’t some sophisticated hack, like the stuff Matthew Broderick did in “War Games.” He knew the teacher’s password (his last name), and just changed the background. Changing a teacher’s background on his computer is the 21st century equivalent of putting an uncomplimentary caricature of the teacher on the blackboard. Charging a teen with a felony for that is excessive and cruel.  Putting in his own claim to a share of the Fascist Disciplinarian of 2015 award was Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who blathered, “Even though some might say this is just a teenage prank, who knows what this teenager might have done.”

Better shoot him, Chris, just to be safe. Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Law & Law Enforcement, Science & Technology

An Irish Gay Marriage Ethics Quiz: Ethics Hero, Ethics Dunce…or What?

gay-marriage

It’s comforting, I think, to realize that the U.S. isn’t the only Western nation that is in cultural upheaval over the gay marriage issue.

The  Irish Government, for example, will be holding a referendum on same-sex marriage at the end of May, only two decades after homosexuality was decriminalized.  Now polls suggest that  almost 80% of the Irish people favor legalizing same-sex marriage. Kowabunga, or rather, Faith ‘n Begorrah!

 Father Martin Dolan, the long-time priest at the Church of St Nicholas of Myra in Dublin’s city center for 15 years, called upon his congregations at the Saturday night Mass and Sunday morning service to support same sex marriage in the upcoming Irish vote. Then he announced that he was gay himself.

Dolan’s revelation received applause and a standing ovation.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for the day:

Was this conduct by the priest ethical?

I have some observations.

1. Since the Catholic Church does not approve of homosexuality, I believe that it is doubly unethical for a gay man to be a Catholic priest. First, it is dishonest, and second, it is hypocritical.

2. Announcing that he is gay is a good campaign tactic, as his parishioners presumably admire him, but it is making a national and cultural decision personal.

3. Father Dolan, being gay himself, has a personal interest in the result. He is therefore not an objective advocate, and as a priest, giving guidance to a congregation, he is obligated to be objective and without conflict.

4. Yes, it is more ethical for him to disclose his bias than not. It is still a bias, and still taints his judgment and credibility on the issue.

5. If this is a moral, religious issue, then Father Dolan has jurisdiction to provide his guidance and advice. If it is a political question, then he is abusing his power and influence, and that is irresponsible. This involves a vote that isn’t binding on any church, which means the referendum is a political issue, not a religious one.

6. Verdict: abuse of power.

7. Is it ethical for a priest to directly challenge Church teachings as an official, employee and figure of authority in the Church, with a public statement he knows would not be approved by his superiors? No. It is a betrayal of trust.

My view:

The priest’s advocacy was unethical.

_______________________

Pointer: Fred!

Facts: Irish Central

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Filed under Around the World, Character, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Leadership, Professions, Religion and Philosophy

How Can Schools Teach Students About Citizenship And Rights When They Don’t Know What Rights Students Have?

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can't suspend ME...

Sorry about this, Tiffany, but your school definitely can’t suspend ME…

Today’s example of totalitarian school tactics committed by administrators who should be attending classes rather than overseeing them comes to us from Memphis, Tennessee. Highland Oaks Middle School suspended three students for posting a teacher’s mugshot on Instagram. Eighth grade teacher Tiffany Jackson had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, and a student discovered her mugshot online. He posted it,  and many more students re-posted the picture.

How could students posting public information on their own Instagram accounts be grounds for punishing them?  It isn’t. The school has no right to do this, and suspending students for such protected conduct just serves to intimidate them  and other students from exercising their rights as citizens.

That, of course, is the idea.

I agree that it wasn’t kind or fair of the students to set out to embarrass a teacher, but that’s a matter for discussion—education, perhaps— not discipline.

There has been a disturbing amount of deliberate or ignorant trampling on student speech lately, notably the University of Oklahoma expelling students for a constitutionally-protected racist chant, but also in high schools across the country where personal social media posts have been and are being treated as grounds for discipline. This is not to be tolerated from educational institutions in a democracy. Schools are fond of n0-tolerance: I can’t think of any conduct that should be less tolerated than teachers and administrators trying to control legal conduct and protected speech by students that occur off school grounds. We need to raise citizens who understand and respect individual rights, not burgeoning fascists who think that authority can and should shut down speech and conduct it doesn’t like.

At Highland Oaks Middle School, administrators eventually overturned the suspensions. I don’t care: fire them.

For this has to stop.

Meanwhile, welcome to the Streisand Effect, Ms. Jackson! Thanks to your employers trying to cover-up your offense by muzzling your students, everyone is seeing your mugshot. Just trying to do my part to discourage this blatant abuse of power….

_________________________

Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur

Facts: WNC Action 5

 

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Filed under Education, Government & Politics, Rights