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Ethics Professor Really Reaching to Justify Suspiciously Personal Scenario


Photo by Gerry le Roux / CC0 1.0

Umm, okay? Things got kinda awkward last Monday after philosophy professor Mary Cottingham presented a suspiciously personal scenario for her ethics class to discuss.

“Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there was a professor named Mary — um, I mean Maria!” Cottingham started. “Now, let’s assume that Maria were to, say, offer a student extra credit in exchange for cocaine. My question is: would this be ethical? And if so, why?”

“What? Of course that’s not ethical,” one student piped up.

“That professor would be fired in a heartbeat,” another student added.

Undeterred, Cottingham continued with the hypothetical.

“I hear you guys, but consider this: what if Maria’s husband doesn’t pay any attention to her back home? In fact, let’s assume he can’t be bothered to give her the time of day,” Cottingham continued, her voice starting to raise. “I mean, a girl’s gotta do something to pass the time! Would it not be ethical for Maria to, you know, have a little bit of fun on her own terms?”

“Okay, okay. How about we sweeten the deal? Let’s imagine that the aforementioned student has a lot of coke on their hands. Like, a lot. I’ve never seen so much crack in one place — and for so cheap! You would be a fool to pass up this opportunity,” Cottingham explained, visibly beginning to sweat. “I ask again: was Maria justified? The answer should be obvious, I hope.”

“Now, let’s change the subject a little. Should Maria’s husband have left her once he found out about the grades-for-coke operation she had been running behind his back for the past 15 years?” Cottingham asked. “I’m inclined to say no! Haha, what do you guys think?”

“Oh, shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! What the hell has gotten into you guys?!” Cottingham yelled into the mic. “Listen: Maria can do whatever she damn pleases! Maria doesn’t have to answer to anybody, you hear? Maria’s hands are clean! Somebody, anybody, please tell me — what’s so bad about raising a student’s grade by 50 crummy percentage points in exchange for a tiny smidge of their sweet, sweet nose candy? If that’s unethical, then I say LOCK ME UP!”