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Case of the Dangerous Doc

Category 3: Safety and Comportment


Professor Manick does synthetic organic chemistry. He has been successful over the years, developing a reputation for producing difficult-to-synthesize fine chemicals. Unfortunately, he has also developed a reputation in his department for unsafe laboratory conditions. Several students working in his lab have had serious accidents.

After the last incident, the university terminates Manick’s appointment. Professor Manick starts up a contract synthetic lab in an old abandoned building in a nearby small town. He advertises in the university newspaper for part-time student help, specifying his need for chemistry majors. His former faculty colleagues believe that his new facility has inadequate safety equipment. The faculty, but not the current students, knows of Manick’s past.

Stage 1

What action do you think WAS taken by the chemistry faculty?

A. They issued a blanket email warning to all students about their concerns regarding working for Prof. Manick.

B. Did nothing regarding Prof. Manick, but set up enticing research opportunities and work-study jobs for students on campus.

C. Quietly started rumors among the chemistry department's students to inform them of previous problems regarding Prof. Manick.

D. Confronted Prof. Manick regarding safety issues in the past, and urged him (under threat of exposure) not to hire any students from the department.

Stage 2

What action do you think the chemistry faculty SHOULD have been taken?
(Remember: The students are unaware of Prof. Manick’s past.)

A. Issue a blanket email warning to all students about their concerns regarding working for Prof. Manick.

B. Go to Prof. Manick’s new facility and offer to perform a safety audit.

C. Quietly spread the word about Prof. Manick’s past history with safety issues.

D. Confront Prof. Manick about their concerns regarding safety issues in his past, and demand that he not hire any students from the department.

E. Do nothing. What happens off-campus is not the faculty’s responsibility.

F. Contact the institution’s legal department for advice.

G. Find enough alternative jobs on campus so the students won't work for Prof. Manick.

H. Make the history of Prof. Manick known to all students.

Stage 3

What SHOULD be the response of the university administration to the current solicitation for student employees?
(Assume the concerns of the chemistry faculty have been confirmed.)

A. Direct the student newspaper to refuse future advertisements from Professor Manick.

B. Contact Professor Manick and inform him that he is forbidden to solicit students as employees.

C. Contact the local zoning board and other appropriate government bodies and inform them of Professor Manick's current operation and history.

D. Do nothing out of concerns of litigation by Professor Manick.

E. Find the termination documents for Professor Manick, and use the constraints (that should have been included at the time of his dismissal) to prevent him from hiring students.

F. Let the chemistry department know that anything that goes wrong will be their responsibility.

G. Work with the department to develop policies that prevent this situation from developing.

H. Find a way to silence anyone in the department bringing attention to this situation.

Stage 4

What SHOULD the department/university administration have done about the safety issues and accidents prior to terminating Professor Manick?

A. Ignore those instances when no blood was spilled.

B. Issued a reprimand for instances of documented injuries.

C. Require Professor Manick to attend and pass re-education seminars on laboratory safety.

D. Agreed with Professor Manick that the students were at fault in all cases.

E. Assigned Professor Manick to conduct safety seminars for the department.

F. Kept a written account of each incident in Professor Manick’s personnel file.

Stage 5

Does the ACS have a responsibility in matters such as this?

A. Yes, it can testify officially.

B. Yes, it can direct departments to safety documents on its website.

C. No, it cannot take any stance on safety outside its official offices.