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The Ethicator: Should I “campaign” for an award?

April 5th, 2011

Just to get the ball rolling . . . Hello Ethicator –

I am an ethics graduate student myself, but find to be stuck in a sticky ethical situation. I am currently a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for an upper level undergraduate course. The semester is almost over, and the department I am working for is offering a TA award. The way it works is to have students nominate you, and get the professors to co-nominate. From what I can tell, the profs I am TAing for would have no problem co-nominating me, however it must be the students who initiate it.

I would greatly appreciate getting this award, not only because there is a monetary and certificate component, but also I believe Idid a grea t job at TAing this semester. I spent more hours than allocated meeting with students, giving thorough feedback on midterm reviews, and guidance throughout the whole semester regarding presentations and the final paper (on top of all this, I myself am a full time student with a heavy course load!)

The profs have announced the award through the online course system, though I don’t know how often students actually check it. It’s also a bit of a runaround and somewhat inconvenient:  printing, filling out, signing, scanning, emailing/faxing…

Because of this, I feel the need to remind the students, yet I find myself torn as to whether I should make an announcement on the last day of class or via email asking to be nominated- what do you think? How should I go about this? Does this sound like I am campaigning myself? My internal ‘yuck’ factor is kicking in – but I am concerned if I don’t remind or persist for it by the students, I may not luck out. How do I work the system ethically?


Ethically Perturbed TA.

Dear Ethically Perturbed TA,

Yuck factor? Walk it off. This is just the first of many compromises you’ll make in the ethics racket. This job ain’t for sissies.

Here’s what you should tell your students: The nomination process is difficult and lengthy, but it’s a small price to pay for what they are likely to receive for nominating you. The payoffs for them could be material, such as free drinks or prescription meds; or they could be something less tangible, such as the knowledge that you will be in a much better state of mind when you grade their final papers .

Unseemly? Not at all. Remember: You are not bribing; you are incentivizing.

Also, one final word: You have competitors for this award, and they’ll need to be dealt with. I`ll leave the details to you.

Keep building your brand,

The Ethicator

Advice Column, Ethicator

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