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Caroline Whitbeck Elmer G. Beamer-Hubert H. Schneider Emerita Professor in Ethics Case Western Reserve University Case Western Reserve University More Posts
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A Question of Mentoring Bias


Author(s) Albert R. Meyer Caroline Whitbeck

A scenario designed to stimulate discussion about ethical aspects of the supervisor-trainee relationship and bias.

Author(s): Adapted from a scenario by Albert Meyer and Caroline Whitbeck

You are a native-born American whose parents were born in Round-endia. You were delighted to receive a Research Assistant (RA) offer from Professor Blunt, and were unconcerned that Professor Blunt is a naturalized U.S. citizen born of a prominent family in Blunt-endia, a country with a centuries-old enmity toward Round-endia.

As with all his research advisees, Professor Blunt regularly meets with you to discuss research. Blunt has given you fair feedback on your work. By the end of the second year of grad school, you feel your research is on track.

You have begun to notice that Professor Blunt spends a great deal of time interacting informally in the lab and socially outside the lab with his several Blunt-endian students. When visiting scientists come to the lab, Blunt seems more likely to introduce his Blunt-endian students to the visitor than his non-Blunt-endian students. Professor Blunt also spends time in nontechnical "mentoring" career discussions with his other students, but discusses only technical work with you.

You feel that you are not getting as rich of a professional education as the Blunt-endian students with whom Professor Blunt seems more comfortable. In fact, Professor Blunt seems even more formal and impersonal in his private dealings with you than with any of his other students. You suspect this may reflect the fact that you are the only Round-endian in the group.

What, if anything, can or should you do to address your concerns?

This scenario can be discussed with variations to make race, rather than culture, the central difference.


 From Discussion Scenarios for Group Mentoring in Responsible Research



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Contributor(s) Caroline Whitbeck
Notes Caroline Whitbeck introduced methods and modules for discussing numerous issues in responsible conduct of research at a Sigma Xi Forum in 2000. Partial funding for the development of this material came from an NIH grant. You can find the entire sequence on the OEC at Some information in these historical modules may be out-of-date; for instance, there may be a new edition of the professional society’s code that is referred to in an item. If you have suggestions for updates, please contact the OEC.
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Year 2000
Language English
  • Using Case Studies Bibliography


    This bibliography includes examples of different ways instructors have used case studies to introduce ethical topics to their students and resources for finding cases and incorporating them into the classroom.

    Author(s) Kelly Laas
    Year 2016
  • Added08/23/2006

    In this essay, Dr. Whitbeck outlines an 'agent-centered' approach to learning ethics. The central aim is to prepare students to act wisely and responsibly when faced with moral problems. She provides a number of examples and cases with descriptions of questions and directions for promoting student participation and stimulating thought and discussion.

    Year 1995
Cite this page: "A Question of Mentoring Bias" Online Ethics Center for Engineering 8/17/2006 OEC Accessed: Sunday, December 11, 2016 <>