I know somebody, let’s call him Joe, who had been a good student. Being a good student, other students asked help from him to understand the class materials. In the meantime, our university started recruiting a lot of international students. These new students, especially those who had a lot of money started hiring Joe to teach them for a fee.

Then, I came to know that Joe charged these students a set fee for the semester with the understanding that they would get the expected grade. This means that he would do online quizzes, do any specific homework problems that students had difficulty, and teach them before a major exam.

Then, Joe became a teaching assistant and now he has access to more materials that normal students may not have. Since he is now a graduate/teaching assistant, he could potentially have access to quiz/exam questions before the exam and have answer keys for those tests. He continued to assist other international students for a fee.

Now, Joe is at part-time professor. He finished his graduate degree and the university hired him for part time teaching. He is continuing to help with quizzed, do homework and possibly leaking exam questions for other students.

In future, he may be hired as a full-time professor at the university.

Personally, I know this, and I do not feel this is right. I see a case of collusion and conflict of interest with this setup.

Should I inform the university about things that is going on? I am not sure if university knows about all the things that are going behind the scene.

  • 1
    The bit about taxes seems off-topic on Academia SE, particularly as it would be country specific. The rest sounds like full on conflict of interest, no doubt.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 20, 2018 at 20:21

2 Answers 2


If this is a real, rather than a hypothetical, then yes, Joe has been unethical and probably criminal, though it might be hard to make the case.

In theory you should bring it to the attention of the authorities, but you will be creating a painful situation for yourself, conceivably being charged with slander. An anonymous letter to authorities would be safe, but easy to ignore.

A group of accusers would be more likely to be heard than an individual. A complaint transmitted by a trusted authority such as a lawyer would be relatively safe and the lawyer could advise you on your potential liability.

But the charge is a serious one.


There is definitely a conflict of interest - but the wording in your question makes it a bit fishy. You are mixing up evident facs (helping students for a fee) which can be proven with assumptions / rumors (leaking exam questions).

If you decide to report the issue (which is legit and should be done), I strongly suggest to stick to proven facts. If possible, I would take a step-wise approach since from your description Joe seems to be sliped in this situation - and at each step, I assume it was not "much of a difference to the situation before" to him. Maybe he is just not aware of the unethical behaviour, so I would start e.g. with an ombuds person or the dean of the faculty. If they are not taking action, you should escalate the situation. It might be an idea to do this anonymously or as a group to avoid personal consequences if you still have to deal with this professor.

But you are right: At the moment you are hired by a university for teaching, you can not teach a subset of students for a fee on the same topics. Even on different topics it is difficult since students might feel they have to book such teaching assistance for a different course just to be graded better in their own course afterwards.

In our university we had a potentially similar situation a few years ago, because some of our professors are teaching in a private foundation like institution and some of the students of this professor wantet to attend his courses. The decision / advise was that they would be allowed to do so, after they did all relevant exams held by this professor.

  • Thank you for the comment. About teaching for a fee, over 100 students can testify. However, about possibly leaking questions is based on speculations and rumors. I also feel you are right about 'sliped in the situation'. As things progressed overtime, he may not be aware of his actions.
    – elixir
    Sep 20, 2018 at 20:46

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