Ethics Alarms Awards Update: Let Us Not Forget “The Most Unethical University Of 2014,” and The Most Unethical Ethicist Who Helped Make It That Way

The unethical ethicist.

The unethical ethicist.

I finally completed the 6th Annual Ethics Alarms Awards for the Worst of Ethics yesterday, longer and more nauseating than its five predecessors, and also, as I realized when I awoke with a jolt at dawn this morning, more incomplete.

Somehow, I managed to omit two important and prominent awards that were in my notes but managed to elude me when I was preparing the final version. Here they are: I’ll be adding both to the official awards posts today:

Most Unethical University and Worst Academic Scandal of the Year:

The University of North Carolina and its incredible fake courses scheme that for 18 years between 1993 and 2011 allowed more than 3,100 students, 47.6 percent of them athletes, to enrolled in and receive credit for  classes that did not exist.

Least Ethical Ethicist

Prof. Jeanette M. Boxill, a philosophy professor and senior lecturer on ethics  who ran the University of North Carolina’s Parr Center for Ethics, and who somehow decided it was ethical to steer U.N.C.  into fake classes to help them maintain their eligibility with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and actively worked to cover up the scam. Among other aspect of her participation, Boxill  helped players write papers, which the official university report on the conspiracy characterized as stepping across the line of permissible conduct.

Ya think??

The Chronicle of Education article about Boxill’s participation suggests that she rationalized helping the athletes graduate as “the ethics of care,” and a colleague says that she may have “often let her heart guide her.” Her heart guided her to allow students to acquire a degree that misrepresented their academic work to the world, and to perpetuate and further corrupt the already corrupt system of college athletics? Wow. For an ethics professor, she had a remarkably ignorant and unethical heart. She has,blessedly, been fired, and is appealing the decision.

I wonder on what grounds? I don’t think even The Saint’s Excuse (Rationalization #13 on the Ethics Alarms List) applies to her conduct.

18 thoughts on “Ethics Alarms Awards Update: Let Us Not Forget “The Most Unethical University Of 2014,” and The Most Unethical Ethicist Who Helped Make It That Way

    • I totally disagree. Whatever you may think of the major university football and basketball programs, I will assert that the vast majority of people getting an athletic scholarship to help (most scholarships are not full ride as in FB and BB) them attend college are genuine college students who also get a chance to play a sport they love.

      The vast majority of student athletes have no thoughts of competing past college (and many sports end at the college level). Even the majority of football programs (Division II and below) are populated by athletes who know their football careers will end after their senior year.

      The football and basketball programs generate the big headlines, big bucks, and let us not forget the big fan interest and involvement, but they are far from the only sports programs at a given college. This ‘remedy’ would be punishing the many whilst not ultimately impacting the few you’re aiming at.

        • Why shouldn’t it be? Why do we have sports at all in any society?

          It seems to be a universal urge, as far back as you care to go in human history (or pre-history).

          I don’t see why colleges should divorce themselves from such a fundamental segment of human society.

          • Colleges SHOULDN’T give up athletics, Diego. I wouldn’t want that at all. But I would maintain that athletic scholarships have served to corrupt the basic purposes of amateur athletics. I’d also argue that they have further corrupted the defining purpose of the colleges and scholarships themselves, which is a good education.

            • We’ll have to differ on that.

              However, I will still assert that the majority of college athletes are there precisely to get a good education and whatever portion their scholarships cover may be the difference in enabling them to attend college.

      • Certainly, the vast majority of them WON’T go on to professional sports, Diego. But I guarantee you every one of them has dollar signs flashing in the back of their heads when they hit the field. Some of them are so tightly focused on this goal, that they take the most basic courses they can to get a fairly worthless degree, concentrating only on that big money in the pros. What’s worse, the colleges tend to abet them. The purpose of college is to turn out a well educated and productive citizen while the ancillary of college athletics is to promote teamwork and good character. Modern colleges seem to be failing miserably in all these endeavors. I’d suggest that colleges eliminate their frivolous electives and return to a policy of every athlete on their teams be a walk-on.

        • So all the women on the lacrosse team have dollar signs flashing in their heads? All the shot putters?

          Most college sports don’t have a professional followup — these people know there is nothing beyond college, so their profession is going to depend on their education.

            • Now that is just silly. This is exactly the situation we are discussing.

              Scholarships, by definition, are a means to enable a young person to attend a school, either in whole or part. No course of English or Philosophy initiates scholarships either. They are created by the school itself either to attract young students or to enable young people to attend school who would otherwise be unable.

              Apparently you have no answer to the actual question posed, as you’ve attempted to veer the discussion onto a tangent.

              • But on what basis, Diego? Certainly, we want any young person of talent and ability to get a chance to get an advanced education. But athletics isn’t that. That’s a sideline. What you want to produce is teachers, pastors, engineers, technicians, doctors, statesmen, etc. That’s what colleges are FOR. How can you claim that this is “onto a tangent”? This IS the issue.

                • In case you haven’t figured it out, I am NOT talking about football and basketball players. That is, at most, 100 scholarship players. I am speaking of the vast majority of the student athletes at a university, for whom there is never a professional opportunity in their sport. Let us not tar them with the same brush.


                  I could speak of the football players at Army and Navy, who are _obviously_ thinking only of the NFL throughout their four years of college and four years service commitment, but that would be getting into football so I won’t.

                  • I understand your arguments, Diego. And you’re absolutely right about not “painting them with the same brush”. However, I’m not blaming the recipients of such scholarships for not taking what’s proferred. Nor do I assume that all have professional sports as their first goal. But, like I said, it remains in the back of their heads inevitably. Big money is a lure! What I’m saying is that scholarships should be on a basis of scholarly pursuits into valuable and viable careers. I think that too many of these scholarships are merely to recruit players and coddle them into meaningless degrees while utilizing them in a moneymaking venture for their colleges in what’s become semi-pro sports.

  1. There are no professional leagues in these sports. There is no big money in them for the players and they know it. There is no career after college (unless you include something like the YMCA).

    They don’t make money for the school — far from it, they cost the school money to offer them. The scholarships these athletes receive are generally partial scholarships — i.e. one scholarship might be divided amongst two, three, or more of the athletes and the students have to pay for the rest of their education themselves.

    If you know anything about college athletics, then you are aware that there are revenue sports — football and men’s basketball — that bring in money to the school. Then there are non-revenue sports — everything else — that consume the money generated by the revenue sports. I am talking about the non-revenue sports which, by and large, do not suffer from the abuses that you see in football and basketball.

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