Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/13/2018: The All-Segue Edition

Good Morning!

(Though any day that begins with the legal gossip scandal-sheet website Above the Law sending me a “media inquiry” as they dig for dirt is not a good day.)

1. In brief. Well I have now received the appellant’s brief in a certain lingering law suit regarding Ethics Alarms. What fun. Anyone who wants to read it is welcome; those who have dealt with pro se submissions will immediately recognize the syndrome, lawyers may be amused, and non-lawyers may be edified. I expect to knock out the reply brief today, which won’t have to be more than a few pages. It’s not like I have better things to do or anything…

2. Speaking of cases that should have been thrown out of court…Reason reports:

In June, an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy pulled Dejuante Franklin over in front of a gas station for a traffic violation. While handing Franklin his ticket, NWA’s “Fuck tha Police” began to play in the background. As it turns out, James Webb, who did not know Franklin, witnessed the stop. He decided on his own accord to turn the song up louder before walking into the gas station store. When he exited, the officer slapped him with a ticket for misdemeanor noise violation, citing that Webb played the song at an “extremely high volume.”

It took 9 minutes of deliberation for a jury to bring in a verdict of  not guilty. This was an obvious attempted end-around the First Amendment by the officer, and the judge shouldn’t have let it get to a jury at all.

3. And speaking of abusing First Amendment rights…as well as “A Nation of Assholes,” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe’s” co-host and wife-to-be (don’t get me started on THAT) Mika Brzezinski,  called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “butt-boy” during yesterday’s show.  Why not? After all, CBS lets its on-air personalities call the President a “cock-holster.” Mika wouldn’t have had her filters down, of course, if the culture around MSNBC wasn’t rife with such hate, but she realized mid-show that this wasn’t exactly professional or civil news reporting, and babbled an apology. Too late!

An ethical, professional news station would suspend her, but this is MSNBC, and there are no ethical, professional news stations.

4. Meanwhile, speaking of media bias and unprofessional reporting...A New York Times “fact check” on the contentious meeting among Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer had this amusing note:

“Mr. Trump has long charged that Democrats want open borders, slinging accusations at a higher clip in the waning days of the midterm elections campaign in November. Democrats do not want open borders, evidenced in part by border security legislation that Democrats have supported. What Democrats do not want is Mr. Trump’s costly border wall.”

Oh, that’s a fact, is it? No, Democrats, at least a great many of them, DO want open borders, evidenced in part by their wilful refusal to distinguish between illegal immigrants and legal immigrants, their insistence on signalling through their support for “Dreamers” that bringing children across the border illegally is a virtuous act, their position that illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the U.S. as longs as they don’t break any more laws, their constant demonization of necessary border enforcement efforts, and their proposals to abolish ICE. Continue reading

The Epitome Of Organizational Incompetence: The Miss America Pageant Decides Not To Be The Miss America Pageant

The ever-popular Miss America talent competition!

Now, don’t get me wrong: I believe the Miss America Pageant should have been euthanized decades ago. An  anachronism from the heyday of the Atlantic City Boardwalk, the beauty pageant seemed clunky, demeaning and embarrassing when I was a kid, when we had to watch the smarmy Bert Parks sing “There she is, Miss America!” while the winner’s tears washed her make-up down her cheeks. The talent competition was ridiculous; the answers to the judges’ questions were beyond parody. The women, however, did look smashing in their gowns and swimsuits. At least that was something.

But it was essentially a meat show, as my college roommate indelicately put it. The Miss USA and Miss World contestants were hotter, if dumber, and I always felt embarrassed for those women too. And don’t get me started on the Miss Teenage America pageant.

If you are going to have a Miss America Pageant, however, then you have it, and accept the fact that it’s wince-producing. If you don’t want to have such an event any more, then you kill it, that’s it. You don’t suddenly announce, “From today on, the Miss America Pageant is a trout fishing contest!” Isn’t that obvious?

Apparently not. Continue reading

Farewell To The Boy Scouts

I’m leading off the day with this topic. My Dad, who would have turned 98 yesterday had he survived that long, would have wanted me to, I think.

The Boy Scouts, he made clear, taught him much of what he learned about being a man, an American, and an honorable citizen. The organization gave a young, physically unimpressive, lonely kid whose father had abandoned him and whose mother was moving between jobs and apartments during the Depression a place to meet the life-long friends who supported each other for more than 70 years, and most of all, to learn basic ethical values. Dad was certain that he might have ended up in jail without the Scouts: he was suspicious of authority, headstrong, and kept his own counsel. He definitely would not have had a family, as he was bitter about his own father’s betrayal. Thanks in great part to scouting, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. was a war hero, a Harvard grad, a lawyer, but most important of all to himself and to me, a loving, supportive, dedicated father.

So, in a way, I owe my life to the Boy Scouts as well. I joined the organization for a while, but outside of having the Boy Scout Law [“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent.”] engraved on my brain for life, it wasn’t my thing. My son never wanted to get involved at all. Yet through my father, scouting was massively influential on the course of my life, and the development of my character.

As you may have heard by now, the Boy Scouts of America is striking “boys” from the name of its flagship program for 11-to 17-year-olds, and beginning in February 2019, will accept girls into its troops. This was the dropping of the other shoe following last year’s announcement that girls could join the younger Cub Scout units. Now young women will be eligible to reach the Eagle Scout rank, the highest achievement of the organization.

Mike Surbaugh, Chief Scout Executive, told the AP, “[W]e’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” Translation: “We’re trying to survive.” The ethical problem such a strategy involves is that when an organization abandons its mission just to stay in business, it has lost its integrity, and should probably just dissolve.  The mission of the Boy Scouts since it was founded in 1910 has been to prepare boys “to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.” Preparing boys to be men and girls to be women are both worthy missions, but they are not the same mission, much as radical feminists and cultural revolutionaries would have us believe. Where does a young boy like my father go now to find a male peer group and the guidance of responsible male role models? Your guess is as good as mine, but the answer isn’t the Scouts.
Continue reading

Museum Ethics: The Rape Of The La Salle University Art Museum

“This old thing alone will fetch enough to fund that Klingon language course!”

Among its other tenets, the Code of Ethics For Museums followed by The American Alliance of Museums requires that member organizations ensure that:

  • collections in its custody are lawfully held, protected, secure, unencumbered, cared for and preserved
  • acquisition, disposal, and loan activities conform to its mission and public trust responsibilities, and
  • disposal of collections through sale, trade or research activities is solely for the advancement of the museum’s mission. Proceeds from the sale of nonliving collections are to be used consistent with the established standards of the museum’s discipline, but in no event shall they be used for anything other than acquisition or direct care of collections.

In other words,  museums cannot ethically sell off  their collections to finance or benefit non-museum goals and objectives.

Never mind. La Salle University’s trustees announced that the university planned to sell 46 paintings, sculptures, and drawings selected by Christie’s auction house and use the expected profits of $4.8 -$7.3 million into teaching and courses. That means that the University will be using the art as investments and assets rather than art.

Unethical.

“I feel as though the place has been raped,” said Caroline P. Wistar, a longtime curator of the museum who retired about a decade ago. “They’re selling all of the very best things — a Degas drawing, a Vuillard. This is major. I feel like they’ve killed the museum.” Timothy Rub, head of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and past president of the Association of Art Museum Directors,  said, Continue reading

Women And Education, Part 2. Comment of the Day: “Ethics Heroes: The Sweet Briar Alumnae And Their Supporters”

BoysGirlsI held back on Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day because I wanted the get his context posted here first, which I did to some extent in Women and Education, Part 1. HT began with this, in response to my salute to the Sweet Briar alumnae for winning their battle to foil the school’s board and keep the all-women’s college open:

I’m…. I don’t know. I’ve stayed far away from this one, because while I understand and agree with everything you said; That the administrators have a duty to you know…. administer. That they were wrong to try to close the college for the reasons stated, that it was lazy, and cowardly, that in a vacuum this victory is a great thing…. I just can’t get past the fact that this school caters exclusively to women, directly breaks title IX, and generally feels ick to me. I just don’t think that it’s right for this school to operate the way it does.

This ‘victory’ comes directly on the heels of Tim Hunt, who was arguing for sex-segregated laboratory space, saying in part “what happens? You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and then they cry when you criticize them.” What he was saying, in context was that workplace relationships make the workplace more complicated than it needs to be…. What the media ran with was “He said that women cry and shouldn’t be in the lab!” It was a horribly awkward statement, and the idea of sex segregating labs is of… let’s say…. dubious merit… at best. But the blowback from this was so intense that Dr. Hunt, a Nobel prize-winning laureate who discovered the protein responsible for cell division, thus contributing directly to cancer research in a way more meaningful than any other living human being on Earth, was forced to resign. And this was also called a victory.

So let’s juxtapose that for a second. Sweet Briar sex segregates itself, and that’s OK. Hunt suggests sex segregating labs, and is harangued out of his job.

To this, Amy Tabb, a Sweet Briar alum, replied..

This is a tough one. I’m a SBC alum who also has a PhD in Engineering. Dr. Hunt’s comment was pretty idiotic, he may have meant it in jest, but he chose the worst possible time to deliver those comments. The rapid backlash has a lot to do with the speed of social media, and the backdrop of Biology labs where the PI has the power to kick you out, give you a dead-end project, or help you publish enough to get your own lab.

In the same week at the Dr. Hunt comments, in Science magazine’s (yes, THAT Science) advice column concerning an advisor who kept on looking down a post doc’s shirt during their meetings, the advice columnist — a woman — advised the post doc to suck it up because the advisor’s influence on the post doc’s career was too great to risk offense. And yet Biology has great numbers of women getting PhDs. I don’t know what the problem is, but clearly there is one. I mean, come on, people, it is 2015!

To address your other points, attending a single-sex college is the choice of the student. There ARE men’s colleges, still, though fewer since the military academies (such as VMI) were made co-ed, as they should have been since they are publicly funded. The remaining schools are privately funded. There are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) too, and they are privately funded.

My experience at a women’s college is that all that static about gender norms is removed — what to study, career choice, how to act, etc., giving me a lot of freedom to decide how to spend my adult life.

Now here is Humble Talent’s Comment of the Day, in response to Amy, in response to Humble Talent, on the post Ethics Heroes: Sweet Briar Alumnae and their Supporters. I’ll have my own post on the topic of “gender segregated” higher education in Women and Eduction, Part 3.

“Hunt’s comment was pretty idiotic, he may have meant it in jest, but he chose the worst possible time to deliver those comments.”

Agreed. 100%. But do you think that it’s appropriate to remove a Nobel laureate from his lab for stumbling over a bad joke?

“There ARE men’s colleges, still, though fewer since the military academies (such as VMI) were made co-ed, as they should have been since they are publicly funded. The remaining schools are privately funded. There are historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) too, and they are privately funded.”

Awful argumentation. Both variants of Rationalizations 22 and 24, and factually untrue. I called out women’s only schools because we’re talking about SBC, but any group that caters exclusively to people based on race or gender would be on the top of the list of organizations I think are inherently unethical, that other groups might be doing the same thing doesn’t make the behavior right…. Which is why it’s important to differentiate between what’s “Right” and what’s “My right to do”.

As to the facts of gender and racially segregated colleges…. 48. That’s the number of women’s colleges in America. Compare that to 3 men’s colleges and 0 exclusively black colleges. (HBCUs started accepting people from different races decades ago.) I’d also, as a matter of splitting hairs argue that no college is exclusively privately funded, between bursaries, scholarships and assistance programs, I’d genuinely be surprised if there was a college out there that didn’t accept some kind of public money if we considered indirect payments. I know that isn’t how we look at it, but the taxpayer is basically awarding students money to give that money to organizations that discriminate, and that sits poorly with me.

“My experience at a women’s college is that all that static about gender norms is removed — what to study, career choice, how to act, etc., giving me a lot of freedom to decide how to spend my adult life.”

Your experience, and I’m sorry, because this is probably going to be offensive… But your experience is weak. Even if you want to argue that you didn’t have that freedom outside of a segregated environment (which I reject on it’s face…. between 55 and 60% of the college population is female currently, and women are in every. single. field. I’d bet that if there was a situation where a woman in a normal college felt that she was being discouraged from chasing her goal in almost any imagined way it would be front page news and someone would get fired.), what you’re describing isn’t freedom… it’s something akin to laziness, with undertones of entitlement. The college experience isn’t just learning what’s in the books, it’s also learning how to deal with people in an adult setting, segregated colleges bypass that learning.

 

Ethics Heroes: The Sweet Briar Alumnae And Their Supporters

victory

What an inspiring story! I hoped, and I so wanted to believe, but I confess that I really thought that the traitorous, unethical Sweet Briar College board had delivered a fatal blow to this storied all-woman’s college by operating by surprise and stealth, waiting to announce its plan to close the institution so late in the academic year as to render counter-measures futile.

Like that disgraceful crew, I underestimated the determined women of Sweet Briar and their allies.

From the Washington Post:

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s office announced Saturday night that an agreement has been reached to keep Sweet Briar College open next year.

The agreement, which requires court approval, involves a $12 million commitment from an alumnae group and permission from the attorney general to release $16 million from the school’s endowment.

The president of the private women’s college in rural Virginia shocked many in March when he abruptly announced that the college, which is more than 100 years old, would close in the summer. Since then, supporters have been working feverishly to save the school, protesting, raising money and filing lawsuits challenging the closure.

On Saturday, Herring’s office announced that — if Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James W. Updike Jr. approves the agreement — Saving Sweet Briar, the alumnae group, would give $12 million for the operation of the college for the 2015-2016 year, with the first $2.5 million installment to be delivered in early July….

Both the alumnae group and other challengers to the closure say the funding would be enough to keep the school operating for the 2015-2016 academic year.

The agreement comes barely a month before the historic school was slated to close — and in advance of court hearings on multiple lawsuits. It does not resolve the ongoing issues that the school’s current leadership cited in making the decision to close, such as concerns about enrollment and revenue. It does not explain where next year’s class will come from, since accepted students were told to apply elsewhere and current students were told to transfer. But it provides a stopgap…

Leadership would change: If the agreement is approved, at least 13 board members would resign, and 18 new ones would be appointed — a majority that would control the board… Continue reading

Sweet Briar College’s Fate And Fait Accompli Ethics

high-noon-clock

 UPDATE (6/15): I am officially nominating this post as the Most Typo-Riddled Ethics Alarms Article of 2015. At least I hope it is—alerted by a reader, I just found and fixed about 10, and I have no idea what happened. I suspect that I somehow pasted the next-to-last draft instead of the final. My proofreading is bad, but not THAT bad. I am embarrassed, and apologize to all: that kind of sloppiness is never excusable, but I especially regret it on a topic this important.

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Sweet Briar College was officially scheduled for termination, date of execution later this summer, by a board that chose not to offer alumnae and other interested parties a fair opportunity to raise objections, propose solutions, or mount a rescue effort. Indeed it was almost an ambush.

Although the distinguished graduates of Virginia’s unique and venerable all-female college have mounted a spirited effort to reverse this dubious move, time is not on their side. Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, working with the passionate opposition to Sweet Briar’s closing, argued in court that this would violate the terms of the will upon which the college was founded, and that the college’s board has engaged in malfeasance or misfeasance, violating its fiduciary duties and misusing charitable funds. A circuit court refused Bowyer’s request for a temporary injunction that would at least delay the closing —Tick-Tick-Tick!—and the case was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court. Those  justices concluded that the lower court, in denying the injunctive relief, erred by concluding that that the law of trusts do not apply to a corporation like the college.  It does. So now the case returns to the circuit court to reconsider the merits.

Tick-Tick-Tick!

I find this infuriating and heart-breaking. As I’m certain the college’s treacherous board knew in March, legal challenges and court decisions take time, and the realities of the academic year halt for no man, or woman. It’s June now, and Sweet Briar has no 2015 entering class. Its sophomores and juniors are seeking, or have found, other schools as well. One of Sweet Briar’s problems—not an insuperable one to a board appropriately dedicated to is traditions and mission—was increasingly lagging enrollment. Whatever the solutions to that may be, skipping a year of entering freshman is not one of them. Faculty have to eat: presumably most, if not all of them, and the staff, are seeking employment elsewhere. The battle to save Sweet Briar, as noble and as important as it is, may have been lost from the start, simply because the clock, and the calendar, keeps moving.

This was, I fear, a fait accompli of the worst variety, an unjust, unfair, even illegal action that is successful because once set in motion, there is no way to stop it. Using the fait accompli strategy is intrinsically unethical, and the mark of an “ends justifies the means” orientation. It is based on the principle that an omelet, once made, cannot be unmade, because eggs can’t be put together again. In a situation where the ethical, fair, procedurally just approach is to debate and challenge a proposed policy action before it takes place, the fait accompli approach operates on the practical maxim that if you have no options, you have no problem. In essence, it says, “Yes, you may be right, but what are you going to do about it?” Continue reading