Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I am now ethical
Took the Illinois employees' online ethics "training" today. Last year, my name appeared on a list of Evil Unethical Employees who finished the on-line ethics training too quickly and therefore had to be publicly humiliated via email, pick up a packet of ethics materials from the department head, read (or not) the packet, and sign a form attesting that I had read the packet. This is how Illinois protects its taxpayers from corrupt elected officials, contract negotiators, and TAs. If only George Ryan had spent more time perusing the training vignettes. Note that I've taken this or some other government ethics training every year since finishing grad school in 1995, and in recent years the exams were exactly identical so of course I finished quickly. Also, the quizzes ask no-brainers like "Should you solicit campaign contributions during business hours?" and "Should you give a multi-zillion dollar contract for a new superhighway to your brother-in-law?" Most annoyingly, the training offers nothing specifically relevant to academics, such as plagiarism, proper use of grant funds, making undergrads fetch lunch, etc.
The training was changed this year but still any person with a bit of common sense would get little out of it. The quizlets are no longer graded, so the state gets no evidence that I learned anything or internalized the lessons. Here's their evaluation method:
"Warning – Although we are confident that the overwhelming majority of state employees take seriously their responsibility to complete this training, the time that you spend and your activities in completing this course will be monitored. This will allow for an assessment of whether you have followed the instructions to carefully read and review all of the program’s subject matter, while online."
In other words, click on every link, and every once in a while click to another window and read some blog articles to pad your time. The truly irritating part is, I do actually read all the material, or at least enough to get the point. I do not read the contrived "dialogs" because they insult my intelligence. I also have never done anything to cause the university to accuse me of unethical behavior. And yet, I was treated like someone who clearly must have cheated on an ethics exam, truly the lowest of the low.
And I'm not alone in this, either. Articles by John Gravois in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 12 and Feb 16 2007 (not pasted here because I only have access via my university account and it would be unethical to share that resource...this is not covered in the training, incidentally) indicate that "several thousand" state employees like myself passed the quiz at the end of last year's training and then received letters that they were noncompliant due to excessive speediness. Two professors from SIU went so far as to sue the state because signing the "Yes, I read and understood the paper packet" form is akin to confessing guilt on the earlier offense.