In the jurisdictional world at large, there is a difference between legal and ethical. In the business / employer / employee / customer world at large, there is a difference between justifiable and just.
In many places it is not legal for a drinking establishment to water down alcoholic beverages. In all places, it is not ethical. But what about changing recipes? Is it legal if a restaurant / bar had used a standard pour of 2 ounces for all drinks in their first two years of operation, and then changed all recipes to a 1.5 ounce pour? In many places, changing recipes is legal. It is also potentially (easily) justifiable on the basis of greater profits, competition (especially if other nearby establishments use a 1.5 ounce pour), or safety and liability. Ethical? An obtuse perspective might defend the ethicality based on the safety and well-being of patrons and (upon the drinker leaving the establishment) other drivers and passengers. But unless the business makes every customer aware of their change, I believe most would agree that the new process is deceitful and thus, unjust.
This week I am examining these opposing positions as they relate to some perceived injustice in my workplace. Specifically, (yet still figuratively), because of an increase in customers, and because management has refused to commit the resources necessary for a matching increase in beverage inventory, I am being forced to water down the drinks. In this case, my workplace is an institution of higher learning. The customers are candidates applying to a Master of Physician Assistant Studies program. The necessary resource is (approximately) $25,000 to $40,000 per year to allow for a full time (instead of the current part time) position. The beverage is an in-depth analysis of each individual application, focusing on quality. And the water is a superficial, cursory look at each application that is focused on quantity. We are still looking at each application, and there are still some quality in the form of a new consistency within our process, but (continuing the analogy) I believe our previous pour was closer to 3 ounces, now reduced to the 1.5 ounce industry standard.
This change in recipes is justifiable because we are (for the moment) keeping that hugely significant $25,000 on the bottom line, and also because (we believe) our competitors are utilizing very similar recipes to our new recipe. (For the moment) it is also legal because a court of law has not told us otherwise. I cannot see any argument that makes this change ethical or just. We are not making our customers aware of the change, and I am confident we do not intend to communicate this change to the Higher Learning Commission which is due in the Spring for an accreditation visit.
For the record, (from where I sit), this decision to change process mid-cycle did not come from within the PA program, but from the Ivory Tower across the street.
This application cycle began April 27, 2017 and applications were accepted through December 1, 2017. I began a verbal dialogue in June advocating for more resources, based on the projected increase in applications, (i.e. Customers). I supplemented this verbal campaign with a cost-benefit analysis, a self-evaluation substantiating value, and a number of emails including one (in particular) heartfelt communication literally begging for reconsideration. I believe that the Department Chair, (my immediate supervisor), presented the arguments and supporting documentation to the ultimate decision-makers; (I know the aforementioned email was copied to a vice-president). Yet no one from outside the PA Department felt this process relevant enough to visit and ask questions for a better understanding. It appears, (again, from where I sit), that this decision was based solely on the bottom line; which I believe is excessively short-sighted.
On November 22nd I received an offer for a different part time position. On November 27th I informed my supervisor of my intentions. He asked for a couple of days to explore (once again) the question of full time. On November 30th my supervisor informed me that full time would not be an option at this time. He also asked that I send a letter of resignation, to include a definitive final day of employment, to him, copying the dean and the vice-president; (I am uncertain who initiated this request).
As previously stated, in this moment, (and in my ignorance of such matters), I know of nothing illegal that has transpired, and I understand (though I ABSOLUTELY do not agree with) the justification. Yet I most definitely feel wronged. And the worst part is that as a $10 per hour, part time employee, I can see what my (theoretical) superiors either cannot see, or refuse to see. I can see that though I am disappointed and disheartened, my personal feelings are secondary to the injustice served upon those 374 unknowing applicants who trusted us to do the right thing.
I want to believe that I do not write this vindictively, and I can say with confidence that I mean no harm to those who care as I do. But I am a human impacting other humans, and like it or not, some feelings may be hurt and some animosity may result. Regardless, I am compelled to write this as a part of my reasoned struggle to move forward; in this instance by holding heedless power accountable. Sadly though, I believe, (as is more often the case), power will likely continue to act heedlessly, thoughtlessly, and with apparent disdain for those perceived as less than equal.
I once read that one measure of an ethical decision is if you will proudly own your decision when it becomes a headline and a public news story.
I am disheartened, but I stand by my claim of injustice. I have acted thoughtfully, and now I am moving on.