Bad teacher: When a professor doesn’t play by the rules

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The scandal at Penn State was received with shock around the country. But at least three people were not so surprised. John M. Braxton, Eve Proper and Alan E. Bayer are the authors of “Professors Behaving Badly: Faculty Misconduct in Graduate Education,” officially released by Johns Hopkins University Press last week.

“In my experience, administrators almost uniformly view their primary role as protecting the institution,” says Bayer, who has studied faculty misconduct for more than two decades. “For them, the best interest of the university is to not let the information get out, even if it’s in violation of the law. The structural constraints in higher education make it extremely difficult for a faculty member to bring their complaints publicly.”

In 1999, Bayer and Proper focused on undergraduate education in “Faculty Misconduct in College Teaching.” But a sequel was in the works almost from the beginning.

Their latest effort focuses on graduate-level education at major research institutions.

“Graduate education is where faculty have more intimate, one-on-one relationships with students — so there’s much more opportunity to take advantage of students,” says Bayer. “One of the major failures is that in most programs there are no courses that teach ethical responsibilities. So we leave it to individual faculty members to demonstrate through their behavior what the ethics should be. Often, students see unethical behavior and they think it’s OK for them to do it.”   


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