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The Ethicator: Should I Indulge My Former Prof?

March 3rd, 2011

Professor Blowhard

Dear Ethicator:

Big fan here; longtime reader, first time writer. I have a question about my obligations to my former PhD advisor. Now that it’s been a couple of years and the ink on my diploma has dried, do I still have to keep buying and pretending to read my advisor’s books?  Should I be honest and tell him that I think his work is boring?

Looking forward to your answer,

A former student of Professor Dickhead

Dear Former Student:

Your situation is truly heart-rending. You have spent countless, soul-crushing years laboring under a sadistic petty tyrant – one whose sole compensation for his own mediocrity is his power to ruin the lives of people under his supervision.   Now, years later, with all of that horror behind you, he still insists that you remain a sycophant, incessantly praising his worthless, mind-numbing academic papers at every turn – even though your own ideas are constantly showing up in his research, with no attribution.  I feel for you.

It would be unethical for you to continue indulging him – in fact, I think you are ethically obliged to destroy his career – but you should first consider getting some compensation for your suffering.  Write a letter of complaint to the university administration, preferably with some photographs included (Photoshop is very user-friendly these days, remember).  Before you send it,  show him everything and then give him the opportunity to offer compensation.

This may seem improper, but keep an eye on the big picture: You are the injured party.

Go get ’em,

The Ethicator

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