You are here: Home Honor Helpful Tips

Helpful Tips

Helpful tips for dealing with real-life ethical dilemmas.

As part of the college's ongoing effort to build awareness of honor and integrity, below are examples of real-life ethical dilemmas and helpful tips for handing difficult situations.

Flag on the play

Today is the big day. My interview for the perfect job went extremely well.  As I’m shaking the recruiter’s hand he makes an unexpected offer: advance to the final round of interviews in exchange for my football ticket.  What do I do?

When faced with such a tough situation, you have several options:

Handing over the Ticket

One alternative is to go along with the recruiter’s proposition. You may feel that it is easier to consent than to ‘throw away’ all the hard work put into your interview by standing up to the recruiter. However, by saying “yes” to the proposition and by engaging in bribery you are now a part of the situation.  This act may or may not get you to the next round of interviews, A greater concern is that you may be on the cusp of joining a company where bonuses and promotions are awarded based on reciprocity, rather than merit. What if you get there, only to discover that your hard work, loyalty and creativity cost you a promotion because a less deserving co-worker was owed a favor?

Engaging in the transaction has a larger impact; it allows this recruiter to continue to take advantage of students and makes the recruiting process unfair for everyone.

Avoidance

Another alternative is to pretend as though you did not hear the proposition. For instance, you may laugh and say: “Well, thank you again. I hope to hear from you soon,” as you hurry out of the interview room.

In this case, you have made decision to not take part in the questionable exchange with the recruiter.  Because you do not want to cause trouble, you avoid the situation and then keep quiet. However, by keeping quiet, you are allowing this recruiter to continue putting students in uncomfortable positions with his behavior. While your reticence may keep you in the running for the internship, it also may mean that internship advancement will unjustly go to those students who cooperated with the extortion.

Speaking Up

While you may feel uneasy directly confronting the recruiter, there are many people at Smeal you can talk to about the situation, including the career office, the Leadership Integrity Officer, etc. By speaking up and reporting the behavior of the recruiter, you are helping to ensure that this recruiter no longer uses his position of power to proposition students. Speaking up is not always easy and it may or may not get you to the next round of interviews; but in taking action, you are standing up for yourself and your classmates.

Test Details

The students around me are gathering detailed information about our finance mid-term from those who have already taken the test. I studied really hard and this seems unfair.

When faced with such a tough situation, you have several options:

Participate

You could choose to join the group of students: if you’ve already taken the exam you could offer ‘tips’ to those getting ready to take the exam or if you haven’t taken the exam, you could gather inside information with the others. While this may score you an extra point or two on the exam, by actively engaging in cheating, you are undermining your own education and making it unfair for other students. You are also placing yourself in a risky position as this behavior is in conflict with the Smeal Honor Code and could result in serious sanctions if brought to the attention of the professor or the Smeal Honor Committee.

Walk Away

Another option is to walk away.  You choose to not partake in the wrongful exchange, but you do not take action to stop the cheating.  With this choice you are enabling the group of students to gain an unfair advantage on the finance exam and to most likely continue this behavior on future exams.

Say Something

Though some students may feel uncomfortable confronting their peers, you do have the option to say something to the group of students. You may want to walk over the group and mention that it’s probably not a good idea to be giving / gathering test information because it is not fair to those who have prepared and do not have the advantage of inside test information. Or you may want to remind the students of the professor’s academic integrity policy and that they’d be in a lot of trouble if someone did report their behavior. This may or may not deter the students from engaging in cheating, but you have taken an active role in trying to stop the problem.

Report

A final alternative is to report the behavior of the students. There are several people that you can reach out to if you do choose to report. With this choice you are turning the case over to the professor or the Honor Committee to investigate. You are demonstrating that you are not only accountable for your own personal integrity, but also for the integrity of the Smeal Community.

Text Messages

Before I’ve finished taking my exam friends are bombarding me with texts. They want to know what’s on the test. I feel torn between my friendships and what I think the Smeal Honor Code is supposed to stand for. What do I do?

Engage

You could participate because that’s what friends do – they help each other out. Be an informant this time and a beneficiary the next.

Remember that lasting friendships are built on trust. A trusted friend shouldn’t put you in such an awkward position, let alone in harm’s way. You may not get caught this time. But you are setting yourself up to do it again and again. The habits and friendships you cultivate at Smeal will move on with you. In our digital society, there is always a trail of hard evidence anytime you hit the send key on a text or email message. Just stop and think about whether or not it’s worth it.

Avoid

Another option is to simply turn off your phone and pretend you never saw the messages. You don’t want to engage because it’s unfair to you and the many other students who studied hard to earn the grade. Besides, it’s a clear violation of the Smeal Honor Code. But rather than get involved, you walk away from the problem and allow it to perpetuate.

Walking away is sometimes referred to as management by avoidance. What would it be like to work for someone who manages by avoidance? Worse yet, do you know anyone who aspires to be one of those managers?

Say Something

You can remind your friends that Smeal students have failed exams and courses for discussing or leaking test questions. You wouldn’t want to see that happen to anyone you know. You can also let your friends know that you value the Smeal Honor Code because it sets us apart and prepares us for the what lies ahead.

You can also choose to say something to your professor. You can let them know that you think it’s unfair or that it detracts from the course value.  Perhaps the problem could be better managed with multiple versions of the test or a single exam given to everyone at once.

You also have the option to talk with the Leadership Integrity Director or a student member of the Honor & Integrity Leadership Team.   Your concerns will be heard, and the discussions will be kept confidential. Please contact Jeff Sharp, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education (email: jeffsharp@psu.edu) if you have questions about the Smeal Honor Code or would like to discuss your concerns.

Interview

The recruiter may be testing your ability to handle a difficult situation. Professionalism, pride and honesty should guide your response. You might say, “Smeal is a top business school, and I expect that you would see that in all of the candidates vying for this position. Let me tell you about my particular strengths and what I could bring to the organization.

Engage

Remember that these recruiters are visiting many universities. You could ask the recruiter to comment on what differentiates one business school from another. What are the skills or traits that they especially value in a candidate?  Use the interview session as a learning opportunity.

Avoid

You absolutely want to avoid making any negative remarks about an individual. Instead, you might suggest the following. “Professors who have had the student might serve as a better reference. What I would like to focus on is why I think I’m the best candidate for the job.”

The recruiter is not likely to name all of the candidates interviewing for the job. But remember that you are there to put your best foot forward and advance to the next round.
You are not there to provide references. Instead, your pride in the Smeal College may be summed up in a positive general statement about your classmates. Remember, every time a Smeal student is hired, it strengthens our reputation and our alumni network grows stronger!