Tag Archives: college tuition

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 11, 2018: Caesar’s Wife At The EPA, Idiots On The Air, And Dreamers Demanding Discounts [UPDATED]

Good Morning!

1. Forgetting to heed the “Caesar’s wife” Principle. Whatever one may think about EPA head Scott Pruitt’s controversial policy directions as head of the environmental agency, all ought to be able to agree on this: he’s an idiot.

Here is a cultural literacy test: How many Americans under the age of—what, 45? 60? 104?—know what the term “like Caesar’s wife” means? When you have a target painted on your back because you are taking positions that are guaranteed to be anathema to powerful critics, like the news media, you are “like Caesar’s wife.” This should communicate something to you. In 63 BC, Julius Caesar, a man on the rise, was elected to the position of the Pontifex Maximus, the chief priest of the Roman state religion. The next year, his wife Pompeia hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”) in which no man was allowed to participate, at Caesar’s official residence. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a  rash young patrician, snuck into the celebration disguised as a woman, allegedly to seduce Pompeia. He was caught, prosecuted ( not for trying to shag Caesar’s wife but for the crime of sacrilege), and ultimately  acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying, “My wife ought not even to be under suspicion.”  Thus was born the saying, once well-known to educated individuals, that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Either Pruitt doesn’t know the reference, or doesn’t understand it. He has made himself vulnerable and a political liability to the Trump administration by the kind of grubby ethics violations so many of the administration’s recruits from the corporate world have engaged in. (And what does this tell us about that culture?)

David J. Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, sent  a letter this week to Kevin Minoli, the EPA’s  top ethics official,  asking the agency to take “appropriate actions to address any violations.”

Among the issues raised were Pruitt’s $50-a-night rental  of a Capitol Hill condominium from the wife of an energy lobbyist (This may not have been market value, the letter speculates, raising the question of whether it was a gift, aka “bribe.” Ya think? You can’t rent a decent garden tool shed for 50 bucks a night…), Pruitt taking an excessive number government-funded flights home to Oklahoma and back (He’s about the 78th Trump official to be caught doing this kind of thing—do these guys read the newspapers?), and worst of all, reports that agency staff members who raised concerns about these and other actions creating “the appearance of impropriety”  found themselves transferred or demoted.

“The success of our government depends on maintaining the trust of the people we serve,”wrote Apol. “The American public needs to have confidence that ethics violations, as well as the appearance of ethics violations, are investigated and appropriately addressed.”

Why yes! And anyone who holds high government office is supposed to know that. Anyone holding high government office in this administration, which is in the position of the thug sprung from police lock-up on a technicality to which an angry detective says before he strolls out the door, “If you so much as spit on the sidewalk, I’ll be there to pick you up,” should know that especially. When they are gunning for you, you have to be like Caesar’s wife.

The President should fire Pruitt for these flagrant abuses. He won’t, because he literally doesn’t think ethics matter. I wonder if he thinks stupidity and unrestrained arrogance matter… Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Citizenship, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, History, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Sports

Ethics Hero: Pop Star Nicki Minaj

I wouldn’t cross the street to watch over-the-top, beautiful but annoyingly nasal pop singer Nicki Minaj perform, but I’d walk miles to shake her hand.

Over the weekend, the mega-star answered Twitter questions about a lip syncing contest using her “Regret in Your Tears” music video. One audacious follower asked if the singer would pay for her college tuition. It never hurts to ask, right?  Minaj not only agreed but offered to pay the tuition for other fans, tweeting,

Show me straight A’s that I can verify w/ur school and I’ll pay it. Who wants to join THAT contest?!?!🤷🏽‍♀️ Dead serious. Shld I set it up?

And she did set it up. Requests came in from all quarters, containing transcripts and student loan balances.

“U want to go to college but can’t? How much do u need to get u in school? Is that the only thing stopping u?” Minaj asked an immigrant fan who said she could not afford classes. Minaj  sent the money. She also assisted a single mother who needed $500 for her remaining tuition, and sent $6,000 to cover the fall semester for another Twitter follower, including his room and board, courses and meal plan.

Yes, I am keeping my fingers crossed that Minaj’s spontaneous outburst of kindness and charity isn’t exploited by scammers. She’s certainly laying herself wide open to be misled. Yet one cannot be generous and compassionate and not be vulnerable to the worst in society. I’m sure Nicki knows that. To her credit, she is willing to court the risk to change some lives for the better.

She’s a deserving Ethics Hero, and boy, I needed one today.

_____________________

Pointer: Alexander Cheezem

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Heroes, Social Media

The Incredible Howard Dean

What does Howard Dean know about Hillary, if he doesn't know it, why is he on TV to talk about it, and if he does know it, why is he lying about it?

What does Howard Dean know about Hillary, if he doesn’t know it, why is he on TV to talk about it, and if he does know it, why is he lying about it?

I admit it: I watched MSNBC earlier this week. I tuned in “Morning Joe,” because the horrible Howard Dean was going to be a guest, and Dean will always say something that puts him in the running for at least an Ethics Dunce post. As far as I can see, he has no scruples or shame at all; he’s like Donald Trump with an MD. Still, I didn’t expect what transpired.

Co-Host Mika Brzezinski raised Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees, and suggested that that high prices she charges colleges undercuts her credibility when she discussed making higher education affordable.  “These kids… will be strapped with $90,000 in debt or $120,000 in debt and she’s making $225,000 in one hour,” she said.

“She’s not getting $225,000 for speeches in front of colleges,” Dean stated.

Mika’s partner, “Morning Joe” Scarborough objected, insisting that she did indeed.

“No, she’s not!” Dean insisted. “Which colleges?” A few minutes later, the Morning Joe executive producer read to Dean two examples, saying, “UNLV in October of 2014, she got $225,000. Then a month later, UCLA, she got $300,000.”

“I stand corrected,” said Dean. That is hardly sufficient, however. Some questions need to be answered. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media

1. The NY Times Has A New Author Of “The Ethicist” And 2., Boy, Did He Ever Botch The Dilemma Of The Closeted College Student

"NEXT!!!"

“NEXT!!!”

The New York Times Magazine column “The Ethicist,” long authored competently by non-ethicist Randy Cohen, had lost me due to the biased and often unethical answers to his reader’s queries by his most recent successor, Chuck Klosterman. So repellent was Klosterman’s version of the column that I didn’t even notice when the Times sacked Klosterman late last year after one bizarre response too many.

[The final straw:  An inquirer  went to a Starbuck’s  wanting to buy a regular over-priced cup of coffee, but when the woman in front of the customer  ordered a pumpkin-spice latte  and received a coupon for a free drink because the shop was out of it, “NAME WITHHELD” ordered a pumpkin- spice latte to get the free coupon. Was this ethical, he/she/it asked?” Klosterman’s answer: “No. You’re a liar and a low-rent con artist. And you live in a community where pumpkin-flavored beverages are way too popular.”  Now, “No” is correct, but it’s a great question, and deserving of a serious analysis rather than whatever that was from the ex-Ethicist. The coupon was a nice gesture to someone who had come to the Starbuck’s wanting a specific beverage and was disappointed—a store should not be tantalizing customers with products they don’t have to sell, essentially setting up a bait and switch. The coupon was an ethical “We’re sorry,” but also made the employee vulnerable to anyone who decided to misrepresent his real intent in order to get a free drink later. Yes, taking advantage of this opportunity to the detriment of the store is unethical, because the inquirer took an appropriate gesture clearly intended for a specific situation and exploited it. It was not illegal, however, and was  not a con. I would compare it to the scenario where a computer glitch has resulted in an airline selling tickets online for absurdly small amounts, and travelers rush to take advantage, rationalizing that mistake or not, the opportunity is there and they can legally grab it.]

Now the Times has a new author of “The Ethicist,” after experimenting with a new format in which a podcast including him and some other commentators hashed over ethics hypotheticals and then the podcast was transcribed and published in the Sunday Times magazine. He is Kwame Anthony Appiah, who teaches philosophy at N.Y.U.  This week Appiah’s  first solo, so I would normally say that it’s too early for any fair assessment, but boy, did he ever botch the September 2 podcast. He botched it so badly that I can’t see myself paying much attention to anything else he writes. It was an ethics disaster.

A college student asked if he could ethically lie to his anti-gay father about his sexual orientation so Dad would keep paying the student’s tuition. The father is suspicious based on some clues during his son’s high school days, and has made it very clear to his son that if he is gay, he would not only withdraw all financial support but also reject him entirely. “Questions about my sexuality are inevitable whenever I come home,” the inquirer wrote. “My father has demanded I produce archives of all emails and text messages for him to review, although I have successfully refused these requests on the grounds that he has no claim to my adult communications.”

He asks, Is it ethical for me to continue accepting financial support for my education and my career that will come from it? Could I continue to lie to accept the support and one day disclose my sexuality and pay him back to absolve myself of any ethical wrongdoing?”

The correct answer is “Of course not,” and it amazes me that anyone would think otherwise. The second part of the question is an especially easy ethics lay-up: the steal now, pay back later scheme, also known as “the involuntary loan,” or “I meant to pay it back!”, is pure rationalization, and its existence proves that the writer knows damn well that what he’s doing is wrong, and just wants someone to tell him that it’s OK.

Astoundingly, Appiah and his podcast buddies (Amy Bloom, a novelist and psychotherapist, and  Kenji Yoshino, an  N.Y.U. law professor) tell the inquirer that it is OK, because, it is clear, they are advocates for gay rights and don’t appreciate anti-gay bigots. Thus they amass nothing but rationalizations  and outright unethical arguments to justify the student’s ongoing deception. As a philosopher who knows better, Appiah should have been correcting his colleagues. Instead, he enables them, because gay advocacy trumps honesty and ethics. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Family, Gender and Sex, Journalism & Media, Love, Religion and Philosophy, Rights

Those Huge University Speaking Fees: Hillary Clinton A Venal Hypocrite? Say It’s Not So!

To be fair, she really needs the money...

To be fair, she really needs the money…

Hillary Clinton has sounded the alarms (lest Sen. Elizabeth Warren sound it louder) over student dept and the high cost of college education. Then she has blithely accepted nearly two million dollars to give one hour canned speeches at eight universities, including four public institutions.

This is causing some anger on campuses, as it should. How can a school raise tuition, claim that it is strapped for funds, and then pay a wealthy woman over $200,000 to give a speech? It can’t—not responsibly or ethically. Nor is it responsible or ethical for the speaker, while stating publicly that she deeply cares about higher education, to ask for and accept such funds.

The issue came to light after University of Las Vegas students began protesting a scheduled speech by Clinton at her going rate of $225,000, asking her to return the fee. What has followed is a lot of rationalizing and lame defenses of the indefensible.

Fact: no school should be paying the equivalent of a student’s multi-year tuition for a one hour speech, even if Abraham Lincoln has agreed to come from beyond the grave to give it.

Fact: no decent, caring public figure should charge or accept such a fee. Continue reading

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Comment of the Day: “Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned?….”

You’ve read the Comment of the Day….now read the book!

In his Comment of the Day, Michael elaborates on the ethics of college sports generally, going beyond the original topic of major football programs. The expenditures on student athletes is an ethics scandal all by itself, as Michael makes clear. When the headlines in the D.C. area were all about Maryland cutting eight varsity sports, I was stunned to learn 1) that the university spent a whopping $67, 390 per student athlete, and that this was the lowest amount in the the ACC (as opposed to Florida State’s $118, 813).  What possible justification could there be for this, when tuition costs are already crushingly high? Michael’s post makes the answer clear: none.

Here is Michael’s Comment of the Day, on Is Buzz Bissenger Right? Should College Football Be Banned? Is He KIDDING? Of Course It Should…:

“What is shocking is how big an impact this has on college student lives and how little anyone actually cares about learning and how little people actually care about the college students.

“If you have seen the news recently, there is a debate going on about college loans. There are also stories every few days about the high costs of college and skyrocketing college loan amounts that are the next big bubble to burst in the economy. It is obvious that this is going to end badly, with devastating consequences for the students, the education system, and the whole of US, but no one wants to actually do anything about it. Everyone wants to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope it will all turn out OK like that mortgage-backed-securities thing did. If you want to get to the bottom of the problem, you first need to start looking at where the money goes.

“How much does college actually cost?” Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Sports

Comment of the Day: “College: the Worst Consumer Scam of All?”

From Michael, responding to the post on a recent book’s conclusions about today’s college students, their study habits and achievements based on several surveys and studies:

“This is not surprising at all.  It is only surprising to those who close their eyes, plug their ears, and hum really loudly when any concerns like this are raised.  Student achievement has been falling so fast, it is ridiculous.  I can see the difference year to year.  Students aren’t required to study much, are not challenged, and are taught to ‘think’ by people who believe the word ‘think’ means ‘repeat everything I say’. Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Education, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society