Mark A. R. Kleiman posts an interesting real-life ethics problem.
And, he doesn't tell us what he did.
If his university ethics policy does not cover this, I would be shocked. He is at UCLA — what, UC forgot to write this section? Even my bubble-era buyside employer had a pretty simple policy that no gift worth more than a token amount (we settled on $50 for this) could be accepted, ever, from anyone — per year.
Kleiman should have said, “whether I am comfortable is immaterial, as the University of California has strict ethics policy X.” He should have admired the item and used the opportunity to allow the visitor, if he wished, to be drawn into a discussion which could have led anywhere from the utility of procedural justice to the scalability of crony capitalism.
I’m shocked that he had a moment’s reservation. Tenure really does change people, eh?
If the gift is a bribe to secure admission, wouldn’t it be just as improper to accept it on behalf of the University as individually? I don’t know if this is the case in the US, but in the UK it is considered important that university places are not sold (apart from tuition at published rates), and are seen not to be sold. There have been major scandals over this kind of thing – for example this story at Oxford.
Incidentally, wcw, if this kind of thing involved violating a written university ethics policy, tenure would be irrelevant – taking bribes counts as “gross moral turpitude”. 2 tenured academics were forced out of their jobs in the story I linked to.
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