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Ethics & the Exam

post #1 of 75
Thread Starter 
What do you think is the ethical obligation of an examiner who finds him- or herself assigned to a panel examining a person he or she is close to on a friendship basis or very close to in a sexual relationship?
post #2 of 75
Tough call.

Wouldn't the examiner and examinee know well before hand that there may be a potential clash? You would assume that they would tell each other of when/where they would be either assessing or being assessed?
post #3 of 75
I think the examiner needs to avoid that situation. In the East, examiners are not generally assigned to to exanine candidates from their home area. I think that's a good policy that recognizes that the perception of favoritism will devalue the certification process.

post #4 of 75
I agree with Seth that it's a tough situation, but with little or no room for debate. I think the examiner should make arrangements to recluse him or herself from the panel. To do otherwise would raise serious questions as to his or her objectivity with regards to the examining individual. In fact, I think the argument could be made that to not recluse in this situation, could reflect poorly on or cheapen the entire process.
post #5 of 75
An absolute "no win" situation! Much better to
avoid it than to waste time trying to do damage
control afterward.
post #6 of 75
during our exams here last year I talked to a few examiners that asked to be swapped because they were friends with one of the examinee's in their group(the groups are made up randomly at the beginning of the exam). Good call! It wasn't a requirement, but they felt it best.
post #7 of 75
> What do you think is the ethical obligation of an examiner who finds him- or herself...

The same situation arises quite often in business, academia, and other work situations. In fact, Nolo, if I remember correctly, doesn't your firm provide business consulting services? Don't you often run into this situation yourself in the business world, and isn't the appropriate response (ie, recusing yourself from the review) completely standard operating procedure? Why would a skiing context be any different? Why did you ask this question? Is there something else different about the particular situation that you are considering (ie, other than it involves skiing)?

In my own sphere, in reviews of scientific grant applications, if I have any relationship to the applicant or applicant's organization (either friendly or competitive), I disclose this to the person running the review as soon as I realize there is a potential problem, recuse myself, and leave the room for that particular review.

Tom / PM

[ June 19, 2003, 11:09 AM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #8 of 75
Thread Starter 
PM, I know how I would answer the question, but I am interested in how others do. The situation comes up with some frequency in PSIA and I wonder if any division ed/cert committee has addressed it. I know it hasn't been addressed in Northern Rocky Mountain.
post #9 of 75
Wow! I'm surprised that SOP for such situations wasn't set in stone decades ago by the relevant organizations.

And here I thought that the real "story-behind-the-story" was that Gonzo was applying for his L-I in your division and this was interfering with your close relationship with him. [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img] [img]tongue.gif[/img]

Tom / PM
post #10 of 75

As Nolo points out this is a problem that crops up fairly regularly in PSIA exams. There are a limited number of assesments each season, a limited number of examiners for each assesment and a limited number of canidates for any given level. For examiners to plan their seasons it is necessary that they know well in advance when they will be giving an assesment and what level they will be working with so that they can be properly prepared for the day. When canidates sign-up for an exam they don't know who the examiners for that day will be. The examiners find out who will be in their group the day of the exam. There is no one available to take over so that the examiner can recuse themselves. Switching around would usually just bring up other conflicts and sometimes would be impossible due to the level of training required to give an assesment at a particular level.

The examiners are expected to put any personal involvements aside and be completly objective about what they are doing. Is this really possible? Knowing human nature not totally but the examiners do their best under the circumstances and in my many seasons I have only heard of one case where there was a question about someone passing who shouldn't have. Personally, I think that this is one of the minor flaws in a certification process that needs to be overhauled.

post #11 of 75
The examiner has an ethical obligation to extract certain "favors" from the examinee, as such sudden movements in the power balance of a relationship are rare, and should be taken advantage of whenever possible.
post #12 of 75
I took five exams on my way to Level III. I did at least half a dozen tryouts for the PSIA division ed staff here in Central. After the first exam I took, I never had another event where I didn't know or work with at least one of the individuals examining/testing me, and sometimes all were friends. As Ydnar points out, it can be very difficult for the organizing team to avoid such connections with efficiency.
post #13 of 75
Yd, Kneale - thanks for the info. I had no idea that these events are staffed so sparingly. In the type of reviews that I am used to, there typically are three reviewers per applicant, with about 20 total in the room during any session, and all the COI (conflict of interest) problems are handled well before the review even commences.

Tom / PM

PS - Miles, I only have one thing to say to you ....... [img]tongue.gif[/img]

[ June 19, 2003, 07:47 PM: Message edited by: PhysicsMan ]
post #14 of 75
Thread Starter 
What do you say to the other candidates in a group with a situationally biased examiner? Expediency first--ethics later?

Will the paying customer (candidate) buy the excuse that staffing shortages justify their perception of bias?

Do you believe that you could fairly evaluate a close personal friend or someone you sleep with? Would you be able to bypass your own personal interest?

(The topic arises from a recent conversation with a candidate about an experience involving roughly the scenario I have drawn in a division which shall remain nameless. The situation involved the more serious of the relationships. My intent in raising the issue is to increase the professionalism of PSIA certification. Until the ethics of PSIA exams comes closer to the standard in professions such as Physicsman's, professionalism will lag behind commensurately. That's my story and I'm standing by it.)

[ June 19, 2003, 11:10 PM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #15 of 75

I want to make it clear that I am not defending the cert process. I think it needs to be changed in many ways and this problem of bias or precieved bias does need to be addressed but since I know the powers that be aren't about to make any significant changes I'll just add a few questions to your list.

Do you tell the paying customer that they can't take the exam at this time because they have some type of personal relationship with the examiner? This would often amount to saying "No you can't get your level three this season and earn a promotion/pay raise from your resort. Try again next time and hope that there is no conflict.

How do you deal with the fact that larger, better paying resorts tend to have the bulk of DECLs on their staffs and also sent the greatest number of candidates to the exams?

How about the situation where the examiner and the candidate can't stand the sight of each other or the candidate is dating the examiners ex? Should the candidate have the right to ask for another examiner?

How about the examiner who makes the day a miserable experience for all even those who pass as opposed to one who makes it a possitive experience even for those who don't make it. Should the candidates get to choose.

Should a candidate have to take an exam from an examiner who has failed them a couple time already?

We are looking at a can of very ugly worms here. Prehapse the only solution is a new can and a change of worms.

post #16 of 75
Thread Starter 
I have a solution: the examiner in question recuse him- or herself from scoring the candidate in question as well as from the post-performance discussion on this candidate. He or she abstains from voting, just as I on the school board would abstain from voting on any issue in which I have a material interest.

To do otherwise asks examiners to be super-human, and I just don't think they are that close to God.

[ June 20, 2003, 11:03 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #17 of 75
Last month, I was an examiner for the American College of Sport Medecine. I had to tell any person that I knew in a working relationship or other and I was not allowed to evaluate them. I was happy I had not to do it. This is an embarassing situation. I am a very ethical person but I cannot be unbias to evaluate a close friend or even a coworker and be fair to the other candidate in that respect. We are human above all and lets just accept it.
post #18 of 75

Your solution assumes that there is another examiner who can score that candidate. I don't know how it works in NRM but here there is only one examiner per group sometimes with a DECL in training shadowing the group. I wouldn't want my fate in the hands of a trainee.

post #19 of 75
Thread Starter 
You got me there, Ydnar.

However, even though it is the way it is, I think we may have ID'ed an area where there's room for improvement. I know that divisional cert people are always wanting to make improvements.

When I was active examining, we all got together the day before for a run-through and a preview of the candidates. We were always careful to separate home examiners and candidates--because the aftermath of failing someone you work with can be pretty grim.

Would you agree that an exam is only as good as its actual and perceived fairness on the part of stakeholders in the outcome?
post #20 of 75
We had an interesting situation at my area where our staff trainer found himself in the predicament of conducting a level 2 exam at our area. All the candidates were instructors at our area and they all passed. It was the opinion of some that not all the candidates deserved to pass and letters were written questioning this examiner's judgement. In the aftermath, he very nearly resigned. I am glad he did not because he is no doubt one of the best teachers and skiers I have ever had the privledge to know. It is also interesting to note that this same examiner failed me on my first attempt at level 3. Looking back on that experience, I can say that he was right and wouldn't have done me a favor by passing me when I wasn't ready. I worked even harder and with his help I eventually passed with high scores.( Different examiner, of course )
Anyway, the point is that I think it is possible for an examiner to give an unbiased evaluation of someone they are close to.
But the examiner should absolutely excuse him/herself when there is an intimate personal relationship involved! :
post #21 of 75
Interesting question, nolo!

As has been discussed by several posts here, it is a delicate situation.

Personally, I have been in this situation on many occasions. Normally, the groups are made up prior to the event, and the examiners may specifically ask to not get a particular group, due to the attendance of a particular candidate. But it is NOT uncommon in RM for this to happen. There are only so many examiners, and so very many candidates. At some point, every examiner WILL evaluate someone they know.

But on the occasions where it is inevitable that I will examine someone that I know, I make it very clear that all past knowledge of that individual is left behind. I may only evaluate what is seen during the exam itself. If the scenario is simply someone I know, I can deal with it.

If it is someone that I've trained, then it's got to be no way. So as to avoid any perception of impropriety, I will recuse myself from evaluating that candidate. If there are multiple examiners working the together, then I don't have a problem with it, but on an individual basis, it can't justifiably happen. That makes the conflict of interest case far too valid.

This past season, I spent a great deal of time training Vail Pilgrim and Tom Burch (among others). Accordingly, Murphy's Law kicked in, and both were originally slated to be in my group at the Vail exam. It didn't take much to re-organize the groups so that neither ended up in my group. (They ended up with Bob Barnes...)

But this is only the examiners side of the issue.

On the other hand, it is the candidates right to a fair exam, and if they feel a particular examiner may not be impartial toward them, they may ask for a different examiner. They must give cause for the request, but it will surely be granted if the cause is sufficient.
post #22 of 75
My single worst seven hours, which should have been my best seven hours involving an exam was the seven hours drive home from Boyne Michigan to Akron Ohio.

Imagine three best friends driving up in one car, two are Level-2 instructors and one is an examiner. The examiner and my other friend were better skiers than I was, nothing fazed them. As luck would have it my examiner friend was one of the two examiners for our group. My Level-2 friend had nerves set in during the teaching part of the exam and screwed up on both tries.

We had to leave on Sunday afternoon right after the scores were announced for the long drive back. I passed my Level-3, my friend did not. I was exuberant going on and on until I looked at the expression of my friend who failed and the examiner told me to shut up. For the next six and a half hours not a word was spoken. Our friendship survived, he never tried again for Level-3.

The examiner and I have long ago fallen by the wayside while my Level-2 friend was just honored for forty years of continued teaching. I respect him for his dedication and love him dearly, but I will never forget that seven hour drive from hell. To his credit, he never asked our examiner friend why he didn't pass, I think he knew it after botching his teaching and at that time one couldn't make up just the teaching or skiing part as one can now.

post #23 of 75
>>>Why are you all so lame?<<<

You know, I've lived in this country for a long time but still don't understand remarks like the one above. Whatever the term means, what has that to do with shop talk among instructors and other ski professionals?

If you are from that other ski forum, I really tried to get into some of the threads there by reading diligently but I have yet to run across a thread which talks about learning skiing proficiency. It seems that most are just interested in jumping off cliffs which does not require knowing about inclination, banking or angulation, nor the agonies and ecstacies of becoming a certified instructor.

I have no daubt that all of you are great skiers, most of you have never taken a lesson and thus really couldn't understand that certified instructors go to great length to be fair, ethical and giving customers who pay large sums of money to take a lesson value for the money.

Just a thought, after all, ski instruction is a business, and shop talk there is no different than between real estate agent or plastic surgeons, for that matter, are they all lame?

post #24 of 75
Thread Starter 
I have found there is justice in irony: how often it is that the very thing a person protests the loudest is what they demonstrate most perfectly themselves.
post #25 of 75
Originally posted by nolo:
The situation comes up with some frequency in PSIA.
That is funny.

I think the examiner should fully exploit the situation, squeeze the utmost out of it for their sole benefit... demand money, or more(or better) sex. I mean hey. pins are subject to the fair market price theory too.
post #26 of 75
One year when I was working at a summer camp, the end-of-the-summer equitation competition became quite controversial. The head instructor was the judge, and he had to judge the main equitation event. Two of the contestants were a brother and sister - she, a very beautiful young lady with whom the said judge was romanticly involved. The young lady was far and away the best rider out there - and she won the blue ribbon. The judge took enormous heat for that decision, but it appeared that there really was no escape - he was the only person who could have judged the contest, and she was the best rider.

As the years passed and I became a riding instructor at another camp, and we did that event differently. Although there was no conflict (my sweety that summer was another riding instructor), we had outside judges who knew none of the participants judge the equitation, and there were two of them working together.

If a judge in a court of law did not recuse him or herself when a party or attorney was the judge's lover, that judge would be outside the bounds of judicial ethics. If a college professor graded a student with whom she or he was romanticly/sexually involved, that would cause a firestorm if discovered.

On the other hand, "knowing" someone might not rise to that level. While the ethical ideal is to avoid even the possible perception of impropriety, there are so many situations in which it is impossible to staff to avoid having the judge know any of the judged - and in fact, there are many situations in which "everyone knows everyone else" and such perceptual purity would be impossible.

Although I am surprised to read that PSIA protocols and standards do not address this issue - and as an outsider, I wish they would - there's another dimension that comes to mind: From what I have been told, the differences in judging and passing at Level I, Level II and Level III are huge. From what I've been told, almost any ambulant person can become a Level I. Level II, I am told, is a substantially greater challenge, and also of more importance to the examinee. Level III, I am told, is a supreme challenge and truly a major achievement. Perhaps the protocol considerations are more important with each level.
post #27 of 75
Originally posted by EyeHateModerators:
I was named after a mountain, born on the mountain and will die on the mountain. The bottom line is you and people like you take the fun out of skiing in return for certifications and money.

Have you ever seen a rich ski instructor? I think a valid argument could be made that folks at the other forum pride themselves on how impaired they can be at all times and how much of a maggot they can be.

I'm an alcohoholic. Luckily I grew up and got sober ten years ago. I could see life a little more clearly once the fog lifted.

On the topic of certifications. You bet I lived for that. I can remember how very excited I was when I got my level I cert. Simple reason. I studied and worked hard. Someone then tested me and I passed. I enjoyed the process. If a few folks at the other forum could pass a six grade math class they might understand the enjoyment.

How can one person take the fun out of someone else's life? From the tone of your message it sounds as though it has happened that way for you. Gee....I'm sorry
post #28 of 75

You wrote
"Skiing is a lifestyle that makes people give up money, women, health and every other standard that society has set in order to measure one's success."

This very statement sounds as though you are an addict, for the same is said about cocaine or heroin.

All the great coaching in the world, or all the great places you've skied don't add up to much, if you haven't added to the sport (or others enjoyment of it) yourself. That is called "soul". And without it, you are just another user.

I agree with you that skiing is a lifestyle, but it sounds as though you need a life.

Have a nice summer!

post #29 of 75
That is called "soul". And without it, you are just another user.
VSP when I think about the SS business model of the "soulful" resort you work at I cannot help but go mmmmmmm

"Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle", Thomas Jefferson

interesting parallel (wide track or otherwise)


[ July 04, 2003, 04:31 PM: Message edited by: man from Oz ]
post #30 of 75
Let's not get confused between how we make a living, and how we live.

After all, you were a part of the evil empire for a while too. And no one can accuse me of defending some of the practices of said company. (Should I have referred to VR as a "dealer"? The analogy might just fit!) I am one that can honestly say that the company does NOT own my soul... You and I both know there are many souls it does possess...

I had quite a long meeting with Carol L the other day when I happened to be up there, concerning the culture (or lack of same) within the SS. As she and Dee have learned, I don't mince words when I feel strongly about something. I doubt if anything will be effected out of this meeting, but who knows. Maybe I struck a chord with them. (But I won't hold my breath...)

But in the meantime, I hope that things are moving forward for you, and the boys are doing well!

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