Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Ethics training liveblogging
The first part of my ethics training comprises three lessons. It turns out that it's possible to rapidly click through each page of the first lesson without reading it, so I did. Tried the same with the second lesson, but on page 11 there's a question that must be answered. I'm going to say "No." Apparently, that was incorrect. The good news, however, is that having answered the question I'm able to move on and, get this, I still haven't read anything. Woo hoo! Page 15, another chance to answer a question. I picked the third answer of the three given. Apparently, that was incorrect as well. Moving on to lesson three. Page 9, answered A. It was wrong, but so what?
So that was the education portion of the state mandated online ethics training. I feel like I got a lot out of it. Now, on to the quiz.
Last year, by the way, the quiz portion wouldn't let you answer a question incorrectly. I'm hoping that this year I'll be able to flunk.
Crap! I accidently skipped a lesson. What I thought was lesson one was really just the introduction. Damn it! This is what happens when you try to complete your online ethics training without actually reading any of the information presented. The good news is that I finally got one of the questions right. The answer was "No."
Another question right! "No" again.
Ok, here comes the quiz. My answers:
A bad cad, dad. Get it? That's what an unethical person is. Sure hope I did well...
Crap. I only got 6, 7, and 10 right. I'll have to retake it. This time I'll try: B C B A D A D A B D
Crap! Those clever nellies shuffled up the questions. Looks like I'll have to do some reading after all. Here we go.
Mira is processing payroll for her department when her supervisor suggests that she assign his time (and thus salary costs) to a federal grant program that is unrelated to the work functions he performs. Mira knows that falsely reporting her supervisor's time is improper and against university time-reporting policy.
Which of the following actions would be appropriate for Mira to take?
A. Tell her coworkers that she thinks her supervisor is doing something wrong.
B. Go along with his suggestion, because he is responsible for approving her payroll report.
C. Do as her supervisor suggests, since he's the boss.
D. Report her supervisor to the appropriate authorities.
Hmmmm. This is tough. Clearly, 'D' is wrong. If Mira were to report her supervisor he wouldn't have an opportunity to break the rules and she'd have no hope of soliciting a bribe. 'A' is also a bad idea, since spreading this sort of thing around could lead to the supervisor getting caught before Mira has a chance to get paid. That leaves 'B' and 'C'. I'm pretty sure that the answer must be 'B', because it's the supervisor's responsibility for the report which makes him a proper target for bribery. Very subtle.
You have reason to suspect that a state or university employee, or someone conducting business with the state or university, is violating the law or behaving unethically at work. What is your responsibility as a state university employee?
A. Consider whether embarrassment to you or the university would result if you reported the situation and, if so, remain quiet.
B. Avoid asking questions if doing so might interfere with accomplishing your daily responsibilities.
C. Report your concerns only if you believe that what's going on could affect your personal reputation.
D. Report your concerns to your supervisor, the university Ethics Officer, or the Office of Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor.
Easy. 'D'. There's no point in bribing a peon. By reporting her, you let the higher ups know that there are consequences for refusing to pay up.
All but one of the following people are violating state rules by including false information on a university document. Who is acting properly?
A. Mike, an hourly paid employee who includes on his time sheet two hours of overtime he worked that was approved in advance by his supervisor so that he could meet a project's completion deadline.
B. Becky, who enters in the "Salary History" section of a university job application a salary that's $5,000 higher than she was actually making at her last job.
C. Derek, who in his department's section of the university annual report makes it appear that his department accomplished more work than it actually did.
D. Danielle, who puts on her time sheet that she worked 40 hours this week, even though she took a half-day off, without approval.
Clearly 'A'. Mike was smart enough to fuck around during regular work hours so that he'd get time and a half once the project deadline loomed. Way to go, Mike!
Ann, a university medical center employee, receives a call from a physician's office requesting routine medical records for a patient treated in her office. The caller requests that the records be faxed to her immediately since she is leaving on vacation tomorrow. Ann knows there is a law that requires the patient to authorize the release of such records and she has no such authorization from this patient.
Which of the following would be proper for Ann to do?
A. Fax the records to the caller, since she needs them immediately.
B. Request that the caller fax a written request.
C. Obtain the patient's authorization to release the records before sending them to the caller.
D. Offer to read the information needed by the caller over the phone, since it's not appropriate to send the patient's records without authorization.
This one is tricky. You might think that 'B' is best, because it seems to give Ann a chance to ask for a kickback from the physician. One problem here is that Ann doesn't really know how much the records are worth to the physician. This, combined with the fact that she doesn't have any dirt on the physician, means that in choosing 'B' Ann would run a real risk of getting in trouble. A better choice is option 'C'. While it's true that Ann won't benefit at all if the patient gives permission, she'll be giving herself a chance to make a serious profit if the patient refuses, since Ann would then know that he has something to hide and could use that knowledge to extort money or favors.
James is a full-time university professor. Besides teaching several graduate classes, he consults on two major research projects for a public corporation. James obtained prior written approval of his research projects as required by university policy and state law. Lately his workload has caused him to cut back on office hours normally devoted to students. For now, James also delegates teaching duties for a weekly class to a graduate assistant. Which of the following is true of James's actions?
A. The university approved his consulting contract, so missing some of his teaching commitments is okay.
B. Reducing his teaching schedule is only temporary and therefore doesn't represent an ethical problem.
C. His actions are justified, since he is contractually obligated to his outside employer.
D. His research activities have interfered with his commitment as a state employee and he needs to resolve the situation.
Clearly, the answer is 'D'. James is a big-time researcher and deserves to be compensated accordingly. He should go to the Dean and demand that his teaching duties be eliminated and his salary trebled. After all, the university's only other option is to lose the research dollars he brings in. In short, he's got the bastards over a barrel.
Martin is an assistant in one of the university's administrative offices. He has been directed by his supervisor to destroy certain official records in preparation for moving into new office space and to free up some filing space. Martin knows that maintaining these records is a requirement of state law under the State Records Act (5 ILCS 160/1).
Is it wise for Martin to destroy the records?
A. Yes, because his boss told him to do so.
B. Yes, because even though he is aware of the State Records Act, getting rid of old records will save the university the cost of additional file cabinets and more office space.
C. Yes, because Martin is pretty sure the records are no longer needed.
D. No, because he knows that destroying the records without proper approval under the law is unethical and improper.
This one is also quite simple. Martin should not destroy the records. Instead, he should remove them from the office to some private location. This will increase his options because, depending on the content of the records, he will either be able to extort funds from his supervisor or those mentioned in the records.
Candace witnesses someone in her department accepting a bribe. She knows she needs to report the incident quickly. As a state university employee, she's protected a few different ways when she files her report.
Which of the following best describes Candace's potential protections under the law?
A. She can request that her identity be kept confidential to the fullest possible extent.
B. The law offers her potential protection if someone tries to fire her in retaliation for making the report.
C. The law offers her potential protection if someone tries to reprimand, suspend, or demote her, or deny her a promotion, for making her report.
D. All of the above.
Well, 'D', though it seems to me that this question is based on a false premise.
Professor Smith is a full-time faculty member who also conducts research that is often funded by private corporations. He has recently been contacted about conducting a short-term research project for a large corporation that employs his wife.
Which one of the following actions is appropriate for Professor Smith to take?
A. Review the university's policies regarding research and conflicts of interest.
B. Disclose the potential conflict of interest related to his wife's employer to his supervisor, department head, or the university's Ethics Officer.
C. Avoid committing to the research project until it has been determined in conjunction with the university's administration that a conflict of interest does not exist.
D. All of the above.
Clearly, the answer is 'D'. It is very important to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. I mean, think about it. If somebody has dirt on you, how on earth could you successfully bribe them?
Jason receives a couple of tickets to a professional basketball game from one of the contractors he's been working with on behalf of his university. He suspects that he should not accept the tickets. However, he recalls that the contractor is doing some work at the arena where the game is being held, and he thinks this would be a good opportunity to see some of the contractor's work before deciding whether to use this contractor for the next phase of his university project.
What's the best action for Jason to take?
A. Take his wife to the game because she's a big basketball fan.
B. Take his wife to the game because it's a good opportunity to check out the contractor's work.
C. Thank the contractor for the gift, but return the tickets and explain that the state Gift Ban prohibits him from accepting them.
D. Give the tickets to his neighbor.
The answer is 'C'. In the first place, this best satisfies the no-dirt-on-me principle mentioned above. But, more importantly, this communicates to the contractor that he's going to need to sweeten the pot.
Duane, a student-employee, is contacted by an investigator from the Office of Executive Inspector General, who requests his participation in a confidential interview. During the interview, Duane is questioned about coworkers who were asked by their supervisor to spend part of the workday collecting signatures from fellow students for a political campaign petition.
After Duane hangs up with the investigator, whom can he discuss the investigation with?
A, His coworkers who were asked to collect petition signatures.
B. His supervisor's boss.
C. His roommate, since he doesn't work for the university.
D. No one, except individuals specifically authorized in advance by the OEIG investigator.
This is really an unfortunate turn of events. If Duane had known about the interview in advance, he could have contacted his supervisor and arranged to be paid for a favorable cover story. As things stand, Duane's best course of action is to keep his nose clean and hope that the next supervisor will be savvy enough to pay him a retainer before investigations ensue.
Now the results...I passed. Somehow, though, I missed the first question. Seems to me that the designers of this little quiz could use a few lessons themselves.