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MIT staff blogger Matt McGann '00

The Ethicist by Matt McGann '00

As many of you know, I’m an avid reader of the New York Times. Reading the Sunday paper is a favorite part of my week. During less busy times of the year, I’ll do the crossword in the Magazine. Also in the Magazine you’ll find the great On Language column, as well as The Ethicist.

Today’s The Ethicist column had a pretty ridiculous college admissions-related question:

My advanced-placement-English teacher received an overwhelming number of requests for college recommendations in past years. He said that some students abused his time by never actually submitting the letters to colleges but by reference-letter shopping instead and using more flattering letters written by other teachers. To deter this, he now charges $20 per recommendation. Ethical?

Of course, the answer was “Not ethical.” But I wonder what The Ethicist would say about today’s developments. Some folks who live abroad have figured out that they can call our shipping company to figure out if an Admit Pack is coming their way. Sure, it takes the fun out of checking the mail, but y’all are smart, so good for you. But by extension of this, some students have discovered that they can produce a list of all students living abroad who will receive packages from MIT and posted the method to this blog (since deleted) and other sites. Others have posted these students’ names on a website. This is not ethical (also, the shipping company’s site explicitly states that it is “solely to track shipments tendered by or for you[…] Any other use of [the] tracking systems and information is strictly prohibited.” Thanks, Amrik). To those of you who thought this was a good idea, I’m very disappointed in you.

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