Monday, October 08, 2007

University Ethics

Part of the reason chiropractors are scorned is because their schools have liberal acceptance standards. While medical schools make it difficult for everyone besides affirmative action beneficiaries to get in, chiropractic colleges let nearly everyone in. I don't have a problem with that, in some ways. There are plenty of people who finally get their act together as seniors in college and deserve the opportunity to follow their dream.

There is a dark side, though.

Chiropractic colleges, law schools, and med schools allow many people in who don't have the intellectual chops, take their loan money and merrily roll along while the former student, or bewildered and under-qualified graduate can't pass his boards or bar exam and is stuck having wasted time, money and now struggles to find a job where he can pay off his debt. Likely, he can't.

One girl I know took an altered schedule, inflating her loan amounts because she was in school longer, and now works in retail where another friend bumped into her at the mall. She was a nice girl, not very bright, and not doctor material. She should never have been allowed to continue fumbling through, but the green-eyed administrators took her money. She is a slave to the school now, like the rest of us with college loans, but she will never, ever pay them off. I'm not sure the administration cares about that either, as long as she pays. And she is not alone. By the end of my third semester, nearly half of my class had failed out. Fine, right? But they already had nearly $30,000 in debt.

Another friend, again not too bright, worked his arse off to get into dental school. He struggled academically, but had excellent hands. Being a dentist, like being a chiropractor, like being a surgeon, is really a blue collar job in a white collar. The work is repetitive, highly skilled, and requires a sixth sense for knowing what's "off"--that is discerning when the problem you're seeing isn't really the problem. The stakes are higher and the machine more complicated and intricate, of course, then your average Chevrolet, but it's similar work. My friend the dentist is thriving. He runs another doctor's five practices. That doctor is more a business man. My friend is a technician extraordinaire. Had he been excluded from dental school, it would have been a shame. He still had the smarts enough to pass boards.

Universities don't just deal unethically with under-qualified students. The list of sins is long as Paul Berkowitz editorializes in The Wall Street Journal. Students receive far worse punishment than professors for similar violations like plagiarism, he notes. KC Johnson exposed the dark underbelly of the workings of Duke University--the poster child for post-modern muddledness. Berkowitz says:

The return to campus this fall brings sharp reminders of the confusion about their purpose that plagues our campuses, and so underscores the need for serious study of university ethics. In the recently published and already critically acclaimed book "Until Proven Innocent," K.C. Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. show how the Duke University faculty and administration collaborated with a reckless press and a lawless prosecutor in the rush to convict in the court of public opinion -- and, but for the superb work of their attorneys, in the criminal courts of Durham, N.C. -- three white lacrosse players falsely accused of raping an African-American stripper.
The problem at Universities is simple: unaccountability. I would think that the Duke Board of Regents would roast Duke's President Broadhead over an open pit, but no. Who knows how many millions of dollars they paid out to the Duke players and guess who will pay? That's right. Future students.

Universities are hermetically sealed environments. Their primary goal is the continuation of the organism. Educating students is secondary for the leadership. They have money concerns. Fine. But they should be as transparent as their ethics departments encourage private industry and the political class to be. I'll give the final word to Berkowitz:
But don't expect the leading ethics centers -- Harvard's Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics, Princeton's Program on Ethics and Public Affairs, or Yale's Program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics -- to sponsor lectures, fund graduate student and faculty fellowships, or publish writings that examine these and numerous other ethical questions that stem from contemporary university life. While lavishing attention on legal, political and medical ethics, and to a lesser extent business ethics and journalism ethics -- worthy areas of inquiry all -- our leading university ethicists have shown scant interest in exploring university ethics.
David Bernstein has more. Glenn Reynolds gets the hat-tip. My question for these law professors: When they see a student who obviously has no chance in the real world, do they fail them? Do they recommend expulsion? And are they overruled by administration?

I've talked about addressing the loan monopoly and getting rid of student loans. That would clean up Universities some, but there is no question that Universities could use shining the bright light of truth on their own unethical practices and then change them.


Anonymous said...

Intelligent people don't need to point out those who are "not so bright."

Dr. Melissa, you are too intelligent to keep making this same mistake over and over again. Pointing out those who in YOUR opinion are "not so bright" makes YOU look not very bright, not to mention, immature.

Take care of your own self-esteem and you will not need to make other's feel small.

Melissa Clouthier said...

I thought "not too bright" was a very nice way to say stupid. Maybe I should have said academically challenged.

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