“What’s the Right Thing To Do?” is a monthly column featuring ethical dilemmas with responses from students in the Greater Boston area. I am aware of the daily dilemmas students face and this column, of interest to both students and their parents, helps people openly discuss these issues and bring these ethical discussions we all face to the forefront. This concept is especially timely because we are faced with very challenging ethical dilemmas, which are even more prevalent now because of the power and influence of social media.
You are working on a final school project with a friend that is worth 50% of your grade. You feel you are doing all the work while your friend has done nothing. You confront your friend about this problem, and they still refuse to help with the project. What’s the right thing to do and why?
“In this situation, I would approach my teacher and tell them the problem. I would work very hard and do the project to the best of my abilities and hope the teacher recognizes how much work I am putting in compared to my partner. I will ask for the teacher to give us individual grades or change the project to an independent study. If the teacher refuses, I would still work very hard on the project so I can receive a good grade, and know for next time to never work with that partner again.”
“Imagine your friend were cheating on a homework assignment—perhaps copying their work from someone else. That’s wrong because it is passing off someone else’s work as their own, and that is unfair to all the other students who are doing the assigned work. What should you do? Well, you might start by making sure they realize that what they are doing is wrong, and telling them that if they continue anyway you will feel it is only fair to everyone else to tell the teacher. And if it continues, then, indeed, you should tell the teacher, difficult as that may be. But isn’t that what’s going on here? If your friend refuses to contribute to the joint project, they are in effect just taking your work and pretending it is partly theirs, and that’s a form of cheating as well. Warn them, and then, if they don’t start doing their fair share, you probably need to tell the teacher, difficult as that may be. Anything else is unfair to the other students, and to yourself as well.”
—Professor Shelly Kagan, Yale University
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