Home / Spring 2012 / 2012-03-22 / Ethical issues create challenge for cautious authority figures

Ethical issues create challenge for cautious authority figures

   Authority is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as the right or power to enforce rules or to give orders; ethics is defined as the study of moral conduct and how it affects behavior. Society is often faced with an authority figure that does not possess ethical attributes like former President Richard Nixon or Benedict Arnold. However, authority and ethics are attributes that should be married to one another instead of living separately.
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I recently came across a controversial issue involving academic achievement and religious freedom. The instructor, who will remain unnamed due to pending administrative action, told a student that he/she did not have the right to express a religious affiliation. Violation of this rule would result in the student receiving a zero on all academic work in that class. This issue bothered me for three reasons;
1.It denied the student the freedom of speech and choice;
2.It was discriminating; and,
3.It denied the student the right to be judged based on academic merit.
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Did the instructor have the authority to make such a “rule”? Should the student fail everything in the instructor’s class because of such a “rule”?  My answer is NO to all of the above questions. No authority figure has the right to make discriminatory rules in violation of the constitutional rights and laws of the United States of America.
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I call for a reassessment in the way that authority figures are chosen. Ethics should be at the top of the list because ethics guide authority figures into just leadership. Moreover, Ken Hanson, the executive director of Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, in a live interview with David Miller, director of Faith and Work Initiative at Princeton University, discussed an issue similar to the situation involving the student and instructor mentioned above.
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“People want to feel comfortable at the work place and be themselves,” Miller said.
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“Being themselves means bringing their sex, religion, and politics into the work place.  So, a female should not feel like she should have to act in a male way. You can bring your whole self to work; you do not have to hide it.”
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Miller also said, “The company should deal with an employees’ religion cautiously.”
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In conclusion, work places, schools, and other public places must start embracing and demanding ethical leadership from people in authority and stop tolerating unethical leadership.

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