My Experience with Favoritism, Was I Unethical??

When I saw that the topic of this week’s blog is Ethics, the first thing that popped into my mind was the peer review system. However, I have decided against this topic since many people are likely to cover it. Instead, I would like to share a story from my undergrad involving favoritism in force adding students to classes. Admittedly, this story involves an ethics violation by both my advisor and I. I’ll leave it to you guys to judge on whether or not my actions were justified.

The story begins on the first semester of my undergraduate studies. My university follows the American standard of education, and courses are picked almost identically to how they are picked here at tech. The exception is the first semester where your advisor must register your courses and you do not have the power to do it yourself. After the registration process, I ended up with 4 courses on MWF and 1 course on TTH. For more background, back in the day I was not motorized, and proper public transportation is basically nonexistent which transformed a 30 min drive to campus into an 1h 30 min trip involving 4 buses and at least 20-30 min of walking (assuming it’s a nice sunny day).

Understandably, on the day of drop and add I was planning to drop the TTH course and force add the same course on MWF. When I went to my advisor, he refused to sign my force add request stating that I will not get force added to the course. Note that my advisor does not have any say on whether or not my force add request is going to get accepted, he only needs to sign the paper, so I can file it. Additionally, a couple of my friends who also wanted to transition where able to get their signatures right away from their advisors. After a couple of minutes of arguing I asked him to drop the course and register me in some free elective. He bluntly refused stating that this course should be taken in the first semester (There is no rules that forces me to do that, it is just usually recommended since it was an introductory course to engineering).

Feeling that a 3-hour commute to attend a 1hr 30 min class is not justifiable and that I can spend this time studying or doing something useful, I contacted a professor (an old acquaintance) in the department of business asking her for help. After explaining the situation, she contacted the dean’s secretary, explained the situation, and sent me to meet her. There, the secretary accompanied me to my advisor’s office, where he very gladly signed my papers and even stated, and I translate: “You came back with a powerful ally”. After this process, the secretary filed my papers and I got the 35th seat in the MWF class which was the maximum physical capacity of the class. Admittedly, there was at least 10 people I knew that wanted that seat and I was able to get it only because I called in a favor.

Back in the day, when this incident happened, I was very mad at my advisor and really glad I was able to “beat” him. Now that I reflected on the incident, I noticed that I also behaved in a somewhat unethical manner. That being said, I do not regret my actions and I’m pretty happy with the outcome. So what do you guys thinks, were my actions justified? Was my advisor allowed to deny my signature even though it’s not his decision? was my advisor allowed to deny my request for a free elective, even though I was legally allowed to do so? Or was I at fault, and should have conceded? Eager to hear different perspectives.





4 Replies to “My Experience with Favoritism, Was I Unethical??”

  1. Thanks for sharing this story. I think that your advisor didn’t treat you fairly and he had no right to deny your request as it didn’t violate any rules. Regarding favoritism, I don’t think what you have done is unethical. I mean you tried hard and sought many ways to add that course. I believe your hard work to add that course justify your actions.
    Your story reminded me of a similar situation I had with my advisor. I wanted to add the summer internship in the summer of my senior year along with one online course. The advisor turned my request down stating that it against the rules to have summer internship with courses in the summer. I told him you have allowed it to a colleague so why not allow it to me. He said that this is my decision and it is not questionable. That is, I told some of my colleagues about this incident with my advisor and one told that your advisor just love it when someone beg him. So, I thought why not especially I need to graduate and don’t want to delay my graduation. I went to my advisor and begged him to allow me to add summer internship along with one online course and surprisingly he agreed right away. So, all what my advisor want was someone to beg him.
    So Remy, maybe your advisor just wanted you to beg him!

  2. I also don’t think you behaved in an unethical manner. From your story, it sounds like the advisor was not taking enough responsibility in their job and the secretary you had help you was just ensuring they did. While it sucks for the other students trying to change their schedules that there weren’t more spots, you did nothing wrong, just changing one class to another. Seems excessive that you would need a favor to do that, but that is a fault of the advisor, not you.

  3. I don’t believe you behaved unethically either. You followed the process, and your advisor did not hold their end of the bargain up, so you acted on your own behalf to seek help from another source. I think that this type of student empowerment is very important and something that we should all strive to instill in our students (eventually, once we graduate!). While boundaries (and when to accept “no” as the answer) are important to establish, I am always in favor of students standing up for what they believe. In your situation, you had a justifiable reason to be upset with your advisor and I’m glad you did what you did!

  4. I do not think you did anything unethical. The professor has the right to advise but the final decision is always with the student. Asking for help from an acquaintance was something that must have come to your mind then and I do not think that it was wrong. Although, it is sad that the other 10 students could not get a seat in that class. You thought about your schedule and course load and there was nothing wrong in it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *