This case uses the experience of a professor at a prominent business school who is involved in a grade dispute with a number of students as an opportunity to introduce core business ethics concepts.
After receiving low grades in a course, a number of students appeal their grades. Unbeknownst to the professor, the students’ appeals are processed and their grades are adjusted without the professor being given an opportunity to defend her rationale for the original grades.
Unhappy with the result, she unsuccessfully raises this issue internally both within her business school as well as with her parent university. Eventually, the professor even considers pursuing a legal remedy.
Through the case, core ethical principles related to fairness, justice, and process can be explored by looking at the scenario from the students’, instructor’s, and the university’s perspective. Additionally, there is an opportunity to reflect on what the professor should do next. Should she continue to speak-up and act based on her principles?
This is an ideal case to use at the beginning of a semester because the university context will be familiar to all participants. Through the case, foundational ethical concepts can be introduced that will set the stage for the remainder of any course that contains an ethics component.
The primary purpose of this case is to use a setting that will be familiar to students to introduce core philosophical concepts relevant for business ethics. Though philosophy is not part of the curriculum for most business students, key philosophical principles can be understood and applied in an interesting and engaging way through this case. For example, principles like Rawlsian forms of justice, consequentialism, deontology, utilitarianism, virtue ethics, etc., which are all frequently employed in the real world, though people are frequently not aware of their background, can be taught effectively through this case. Thus, the case provides a learning opportunity for students to be introduced to important ethical principles through a situation that is easily relatable.