Solving an Ethical Dilemma

Everyone has to solve some ethical dilemmas in their professional and personal lives. This paper analyzes a problem experienced by a college teacher. The analysis will include the description of the situation, ethical issues, stakeholders, ethical values, and possible solutions. The careful evaluation of all the factors would allow finding a decision that satisfies most stakeholders.

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The Situation

In college, I witnessed the case of ethical dilemma with my teacher. One of the students did not complete all assignments due to lack of time. This student had to work to pay for college. He was from a low-income family, and his parents could not pay for the education of their son on their own. The teacher knew about the financial situation of his student and sometimes put better marks than the student deserved. Nevertheless, the person’s performance was getting worse, and the teacher was determined that the student deserved a grade of D. The counselor said that the student needs at least C to have an academic scholarship.

Ethical Dilemma

The teacher faces an ethical dilemma because he cannot decide whether he should follow the rules or help the person in need. According to the rules, he has to put the marks in accordance with the quality of the written assignments. There is a range of clear guidelines, which explain what the student has to know to be able to obtain A, B, C, D, or other grades. Therefore, the teacher cannot pretend that he does not know what grades the student deserves. On the other hand, the teacher is also from a poor family, so he understands and feels compassion for the young man. The student needs an academic scholarship very much. Otherwise, he would have to leave college. The teacher wants the student to finish college because he realizes that a college diploma is the only way for the young man to deal with poverty. Only education would allow the student to make a successful career and help his family members. At the same time, breaking the rules might encourage the student to continue to use poverty as an excuse for obtaining benefits from others. Moreover, many young adults study and work combining the two successfully and do not have any negative impact on their academic performance (Hu & Wolniak, 2013). Therefore, the teacher should also decide whether it is fair to give one specific student such privilege.

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The Stakeholders

The stakeholders are the teacher, the student, the student’s classmates, the college, and the student’s family members. The teacher has to put the student some grade. He can put either C or D. This decision is important because the student’s academic scholarship depends on it. Moreover, this case might affect the teacher’s reputation of a fair educator, who evaluates the students’ performances in accordance with the well-known rules.

The student is also a stakeholder because receiving a grade of D would mean he would not have an academic scholarship. As a result, the student would have to leave the college. It would negatively affect his future life because he would not be able to make a successful career. On the other hand, he is working; therefore, he has at least some skills, knowledge, and working experience. This fact would allow him to survive even without a college diploma. In addition, this experience might teach him that it is important to enhance his time management skills. This student is not the only person that combines studying with work; thus, failing to earn good grades means that he simply cannot manage his time wisely.

Other people studying with the student from this case study are also affected because they see that the teacher can be manipulated. The students can use this in their own interests. For example, they might study less explaining their performance by some serious reasons. Therefore, the discipline of students will deteriorate. Moreover, they would have lower motivation and no trust in the teacher due to lack of justice during the evaluation of the students’ academic achievements.

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The college is another affected party because it gives students academic scholarships to attract talented students but not to support the poor ones. Awarding a scholarship to a person who does not enough talents means that the college would waste money. On the other hand, one case cannot significantly change the educational institution. However, the person who violates the rules once without being punished is likely to do so again. For example, the teacher can put higher grades to another student with serious excuses. Other teachers can repeat the actions of their colleague, which might have a negative effect on the reputation of the college.

Finally, the student’s family members are also the stakeholders because they hope that at least someone in their family would finish college and make a successful career. Consequently, it would help them to improve their financial position. If the student under consideration leaves college, they will continue to live in poverty. In addition, the student’s parents are involved in the case because they did not manage to earn enough money to pay for their son’s studying. Therefore, the young man had to start working.

The Ethical Norms (6 Pillars of Character)

Some ethical norms can be applied to the case. First, the teacher should consider the issue of trustworthiness. If the teacher agrees to put C, he would not follow this ethical norm because it means that he would lie. In addition, he would not be reliable because he promised the college to evaluate all students according to their academic achievements. On the other hand, helping poor people could mean following the teacher’s beliefs.

Fairness could also be applied to the case because putting a grade of C would mean that the teacher is not fair to other students, who spend more effort to earn their grades than the student under consideration does. The teacher would also be unfair to the college because putting C is against the organization’s rules.

Finally, the pillar of caring can be applied to this ethical dilemma. The teacher would be able to help people in need. Since the student has financial problems, which force him to work, and needs an academic scholarship to cover his expenses, the teacher would have a natural desire to violate the rules related to the evaluation of students. In this case, humanity might prevail over a set of rules.


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Alternative Courses of Action and Tradeoffs

The first alternative is putting the grade that the student deserves. In this case, the teacher would maintain his reputation of a trustworthy and fair specialist. The college would not have to pay an academic scholarship to a person who does not have enough talents. Moreover, other college students would see that their skills and knowledge are evaluated objectively and justly. The student’s family members would benefit because the student would be able to work more hours. However, this course of actions has also disadvantages. Thus, the teacher would feel guilty due to placing the rules above the interests of the person in need. The college could lose one good student because the young man will not be able to afford college. In addition, the educational institution has already spent some money and time on training the student from the case study. Other students would not have any significant disadvantages. However, they might feel more pressure because they would understand that even serious reasons cannot justify their low performance. Finally, the student’s family would not have anyone with a college diploma and opportunities for obtaining a well-paid job.

The second alternative course of action is putting a grade of C. In this situation, the teacher would help a person who truly needs it. The college would keep a student who might bring some benefits in the future. The student would receive an academic scholarship and continue to study in the college. Other college students would see that their teacher is a caring person, who is able to understand the problems of other people. The life of the student’s family members would not change. The only advantage of this course of action for them is that they would keep their hope to have a relative with good education and career opportunities. On the other hand, the teacher would lose his good reputation among students because they expect him to put grades fairly (Scott, 2014). Moreover, the college would have to give an academic scholarship to a person who does not demonstrate high academic performance. The student would not develop skills, which he needs for a future career. Since the main objective of the written assignments is to train students, the young man from the case study would lose this chance. Other students would see an example of the rules violation and unfairness, which might motivate them to invent their own excuses for low performance. The student’s family members would not experience any negative changes.

The third alternative course of action is asking the student to complete all the tasks, which he has not done yet. The final grade should be based on the results of these written assignments. This solution is likely to benefit all stakeholders. The student would be able to continue his studying in case he receives good grades for the assignments. He would also understand that it is important to learn to manage time wisely in order to be able to combine work and college effectively. The college would give an academic scholarship for real achievements. The teacher would give the student a chance and keep his reputation in the eyes of other students. Finally, the student’s family would preserve an opportunity to have a relative with college diploma. Thus, this course of action does not have any significant disadvantages.

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The ethical dilemma could be solved using the Utilitarian Principle. According to this guideline, the person should behave in a way, which brings the greatest number of benefits to most people. Thus, the first possible solution brings many problems to the student and his family whereas the teacher, the college, and other students would have more benefits than issues. The second alternative course of action has many benefits for the student, his peers, and family members but has negative effects for the teacher and the college. In addition, the student would not learn from this situation. The third course of action does not have any great disadvantages. At the same time, all the stakeholders would have benefits; therefore, this idea is the best one according to the Utilitarian Principle.

Personal Beliefs/Feelings

The teacher should talk to the student and explain him his options. The student should choose what he wants to do next: he should either complete all the necessary tasks or agree to receive a grade of D. Furthermore, the teacher should tell the young man that he understands his financial problems, but it is unfair to put a grade of C in this situation. The teacher should also recommend some effective ways of combining work and studies. This solution would encourage the student to review his attitude to studies in college and develop his time management skills.

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In conclusion, the teacher faces a complex ethical dilemma. He cannot decide which grade to choose taking into account different aspects of his profession and his beliefs. The educator has three possible solutions, but the best idea is to allow the student to complete all the tasks, for which the teacher can put the mark. The pillars of character applied to the case are fairness, caring, and trustworthiness. In the end, the teacher should rely on the Utilitarian Principle making the final decision because it suits the case the best.

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