In college, we had to take an ethics course to graduate. The Director of the Research Office taught the class. And incidentally, "Dr. Franklin" also wrote the required textbook for the class.
Curious that the head of the university’s ethics curriculum required a class to graduate that also required the textbook he wrote 15 years ago.
More curious was that the campus bookstore did not carry the textbook for rental. Most college textbooks are available for permanent purchase or for rent. The textbook for this class, however, only had the option to buy for good, through death and through health and through undergrad, and that was it. As if I want to keep a book on scientific misconduct on my reading shelf.
And most curious was that Dr. Franklin revised his seminal text every few years and required the most up-to-date version be bought for his class.
Even before the class first met, Dr. Franklin emailed out the syllabus and mentioned that the text would be necessary by the class’s second meeting. We would definitely be using the text, we were assured. Readings and homework exercises came straight from the pages.
But don’t you have access to it? Couldn’t you just share a PDF with us? I considered emailing back.
He even sent us a link to Barnes & Noble where we could order it.
Fortunately, I found my used copy on Amazon for about $13, probably straight from the hands of a similar victim of Dr. Franklin’s ethics.
I decided soon that Dr. Franklin had to be stopped. While he seemed like a sweet man, it did not take a rocket science or a math major like myself to see this corruption. My first ploy was sharing the textbook with a fellow classmate. We had two weeks between classes. I would do the required reading, then pass the book along.
This grew tiresome.
My desk sat beside a copier machine. Problem solved.
But it dawned on me, every year my younger peers would be forced to confront this same frustration. They all would either have to individually buy this book, which padded the pockets of Dr. Franklin atop his university director salary, or share the textbook, or pass the book back and forth as an added stressor atop the stressors of everyday college. Of course, I could pass my copy down, but that only helped one or two future souls. And should I have even been forced to buy it?
I am not against buying textbooks nor am I against buying textbooks that the whole class needs. I do not normally share textbooks. What I am against is sharing an ethics textbook that the ethics professor wrote and profits from and requires every year. If you don’t want your integrity questioned, then use a different person’s textbook. Honestly, if you can’t do that, are you even qualified to teach an ethics class? Are you???
This problem needed to be nipped in the bud. While I had been copying the required readings, I took it to the next level. I uploaded the copies to PDFs and made a complete folder of all required readings—and I sent it to all my younger peers who would, in the coming years, be required to sit through Dr. Franklin’s class.
A few classes later, while discussing potential ethical conflicts, Dr. Franklin tossed in a real-life example: “It’s been suggested that me requiring the textbook I wrote for this class is unethical. What do you all think?”
Some suck-up raised their hand and actually defended the scenario as all right. “It’s your intellectual property, and it’s a teaching aid, so if it helps you teach the course, then I think it’s fine.”
Do you want an A or something? I glared at the suck-up.
In an alternate universe, I raised my hand and asked, “Would it be unethical if someone copied the textbook and shared it with all their classmates to avoid that ethical quandary?”
In both real life and in the alternate universe, the answer isn’t clear. And that’s the point. Ethics aren’t always clear. But my opinion is.
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