Asee peer logo

An Ethical Puzzle For University Administrators

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Ethical Roles: Admins, Government, Industry

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.163.1 - 10.163.4



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Craig Somerton

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Ethical Puzzle for University Administrators Craig W. Somerton Michigan State University


It has long been recognized that ethical behavior is an essential element of an engineer. Considerable attention has been given to ethics in engineering education. Some programs include a full course in ethics, while others integrate ethical issues throughout their curriculum; but all programs need to create a culture where ethical behavior is prized and unethical behavior is not accepted. This culture must be grounded in the behavior of the faculty and administrators. With rampant student cheating and plagiarism, the faculty and administration must set the example. This paper considers an ethical dilemma that is quite often encountered by administrators and presents three possible solutions to this puzzle. Each alternative is analyzed in terms of its ethical ramifications. I hope that this paper may elicit some discussions among faculty and administrators and may lead to some contemplation in terms of changing the standard operating practice.

The Puzzle

Here is the puzzle. An engineering administrator has just received a request from a company dealing with one of the undergraduate degree programs in the college and how it is addressing the company’s needs for engineering graduates. This company is a major employer of the college’s graduates and over the years has provided significant financial contributions to the college. Hence, it is imperative that the administrator respond in a timely and positive fashion to the inquiry. It turns out that the administrator does not have the expertise to respond directly, after all an administrator cannot know everything, and the request is sent down the line, finally arriving on the desk of a faculty member who is very knowledgeable on the subject. A few days later (actually very timely considering that it is summer and this faculty member is not officially on salary), the administrator receives an electronic version of a report (with the faculty member listed as author) written on the topic of inquiry. Though the report is believed to be factual, it is not as positive as the administrator may like. What to do?

Three Solutions

There appears to be three possible approaches to bring this to closure:

1. The administrator writes a cover letter for the report, in which it is given a more positive spin, and sends it and the report off to the company.

2. The administrator schedules an appointment with the faculty member to sit down and revise the report to give it a more positive spin, and then sends the report to the company under both names.

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright . 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Somerton, C. (2005, June), An Ethical Puzzle For University Administrators Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14705

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015