A helpful reader submits this Ethics Quiz question based on the following news item:
The AP reported that U.S. Naval War College professor John Schindler was placed on leave after a photo of a penis with the professor ‘s name over it was posted on Twitter. It was unclear who sent it and who posted it.
After a blogger sent a complaint to the War College’s administration, the college’s president, Rear Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., ordered an investigation. A college spokeswoman said that investigators would look into whether the photo was not really of Schindler.
Now THAT should be an interesting investigation.
Schindler, a professor of national security affairs and a former National Security Agency intelligence analyst, has deleted his Twitter account. He has said his criticism of NSA leaker Edward Snowden and others has caused him to be the object of harassment on various social media.
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day has two parts:
1. Is it fair for the War College to place Schindler on leave before it has even been established that he sent the photo or that the body part in question belonged to him?
2. If he didn’t send the photo himself but it is established that the body part in question does belong to him, should the Naked Teacher Principle* apply?
My views: regarding question #1, if I understand the facts so far, I see no reason why Schindler should be put on leave. I’d say the chances of a sane professor at a military college posting his naughty bits to Twitter with his name attached are on par with the chances that the U.S. will invade Sweden, and one would think that there are some allegations too remote to take seriously. The message intended by the tweet seems as obvious as it is crude, and the blogger who made the complaint seems to be operating under the influence of a similar motive: Let’s make trouble for this guy. I recognize that there may be policies in place that require a staff member to be placed on leave when an investigation is ongoing: it is still unfair.
To answer the question the Ethics Alarms reader asked: yes, if Schindler posted a photo of his own schnitzengruben with his name proudly attached, he cannot complain if he is relieved of his employment. True, children are not involved, and schnitzengrubens are not germane to his field of study, but the military does require a high standard of honor, and I would have no problem with U.S. Naval War College deciding that such conduct would render a professor untrustworthy and useless as an instructor. I would also approve if he was required to undergo psychiatric evaluation. Of course, I haven’t seen the photo…maybe I would be proud too.
My answer to question 2 as I posed it is, though not as emphatically felt, the same, and for substantially the same reasons. It can be persuasively argued that taking a private selfie of Mr. Wiggly is none of the Navy’s business, but it becomes the Navy’s business when the self-portait becomes public, and the reason doesn’t matter. Yes, the Naked Teacher Principle applies.
*The Naked Teacher Principle: The Principle states that a secondary school teacher or administrator (or other role model for children) who allows pictures of himself or herself to be widely publicized, as on the web, showing the teacher naked or engaging in sexually provocative poses, cannot complain when he or she is dismissed by the school as a result. The original formulation of the NTP can be found here. It has had many tweaks and variations since, which can be found here.
17 thoughts on “Ethics Quiz, “Naked Teacher Principle” Division: The Alleged Naked Naval War College Professor”
I agree with your answers.
Of course, if this were popularized, a great deal of confirmation bias would stack public opinion against him. His aggressive methods on twitter and elsewhere don’t garner a ton of supporters.
I agree with you but I take issue with this statement: “I’d say the chances of a sane professor at a military college posting his naughty bits to Twitter with his name attached are on par with the chances that the U.S. will invade Sweden, and one would think that there are some allegations too remote to take seriously.”
While the chances are remote, holding an office of high stature should not be used as a compelling rationale to dismiss the charge; Bill Clinton and Anthony Weiner come to mind. However, If the photo cannot be proven to be submitted by the accused, let alone be part of the accused’s anatomy then holding the accused accountable would be reprehensible.
A more appropriate argument is that anyone can post a picture of a person’s genitalia, superimposing a different person’s name over it, on the web. What would be unethical would be to compel the individual to expose himself for comparative purposes. Just how would the evaluators explain the differences that might exist between the two without subjecting the man to potential further ridicule?
As I understand the naked teacher principle, one of the important elements is to establish an incontrovertible link between the exposed anatomy and the accused individual’s other recognizable features so that the viewer associates the behavior with the individual and, by proxy, the institutional expectations that the accused has allegedly transgressed.
1) Weiner is NOT sane. He is ill.
2) Even then, he posted the photo to a public feed accidentally.
3) I should have included the adjective “intentionally” in the statement quoted, which was indeed my meaning.
4. Personally, I think taking a photograph of one’s wanger is proof of some kind of mental defect all by itself, if one is more than 13 years old.
Fair enough on 1,2 &3 but that means that we must have a vast sect of our population that is insane or at least stupid as hell. Nonetheless, I do believe that, given how easy it is to destroy an individual anonymously on the Internet, it is incumbent on the accuser to give the benefit of the doubt to the accused. Just as I would not want to require a rape victim to go through a physical re-creation of the alleged rape, I think it would be absolutely reprehensible to require the accused to drop trough for inspection to attempt prove his innocence. I did not think we had to prove our innocence.
If delusions of grandeur and a willingness to embrace the disbelief of wrongdoing for personal benefit and power is insanity then that must also apply to Elijah Cummings when he rants that allegations against the IRS, State Department, or other House Oversight Committee hearing.
Without any other basis for determining whether Schindler is “sane” or “ill”, the caveat becomes a useless “No True Scotsman” distinction.
That said, if he posts dick selfies (or even takes dick selfies in a way that makes an “oops, did that go online?” scenario plausible), yes, that says something unflattering about his judgment.
Something unflattering indeed, as in: he’s an idiot.
I don’t think that’s a “No True Scotsman” example. No sane person who is a trusted government official intentionally posts a close-up of his dick on social media. Period. Res Ipsa Loquitur.
Possibly it’s an anonymous dick and was posted with the prof’s name on it to indicate the prof is a dick.
That has certainly been my assumptions, and the Occam’s Razor answer.
I’d actually forgotten how many terms meaning “penis” there are, Jack. You’re right on the ball!
Songs have been written exposing the variety of terms…
I am reminded of the Monty Python song.
Ha! I’m unfamiliar with that one. I’ll look it up. I had in mind the spoof of “we didn’t start the fire” called “Pet Names for Genitalia” an amusingly catchy tune…