A faculty member recently brought their young child to a graduate seminar. The child had a fever -- and therefore was deemed not healthy enough to be at school. The faculty member did not ask the students if this would be okay, but merely stated the situation.

Is this a breach of ethical or professional conduct? The general expectation for students at the university is that if you are running a fever, you should not come to class. It seemed highly inappropriate to expose students to potential illness versus 1) arranging childcare, or 2) cancelling class. How should such a situation be handled? Is this a legitimate offense worth reporting?

  • Discussions on basic immunology and epidemiology as well as answers in comments have been moved to chat. Please read this FAQ before posting another comment. – Wrzlprmft Jan 17 at 10:50

Is it unethical? Yes.

Is it worse than the alternative (usually canceling class)? Probably only slightly.

Is it worth reporting? Only if it happens repeatedly.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat and further moved to the question’s main chat to have all the immunology discussions in one place. – Wrzlprmft Jan 17 at 10:50
  • There was no location tag in the question but I think it strongly depends on the location how easy cancelling class is. In Germany (and I suspect in most other European countries) you can take a sick day if your children are sick. Bureaucracy is slightly different to being sick yourself but your employer still doesn't get a say on whether you can take it or not. I somehow doubt you can do this in the US unless your employer has explicit rules allowing this. – quarague Jan 17 at 15:13
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    @quarague It's okay to cancel class for a sick child in US academia, but some US workplaces do not grant sick days for sick children. US academics don't have sick days at all. – Anonymous Physicist Jan 17 at 20:56
  • @AnonymousPhysicist curious to know reasoning behind invoking an ethical issue. By this reasoning it’s unethical to bring a sick child to the grocery store (maybe it is?). Interesting – HEITZ Jan 21 at 0:01
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    @AnonymousPhysicist please don’t misconstrue my rebuttal - it is Socratic only with no a priori notions or expectations. My argument is: how might a sick child at university be morally wrong while a sick child at grocery be morally ambiguous? Does a student at university have reasonable expectation of no sick kids while those at grocery do not? And if so does that argument even speak to ethics? – HEITZ Jan 21 at 5:14

Complain to the university.

You're paying good money to attend classes, and it wouldn't be ethical for a professor to do something that'd negatively impact your ability to attend your other classes. There's probably a Student Ombudsman, a Dean of Students, or someone with a similar position employed by your university, who might be able to help you make a formal complaint, if you choose to do so.

Even if you don't want to make a formal complaint, it'd be entirely legitimate to note it in any student feedback surveys about your course.

An exception to that might be if you were studying pediatric medicine and the presence of a sick child was relevant to class activities, but while medicine is well outside my area of expertise, I'm pretty sure they do their hands-on training during formal placements at hospitals - and breaking that pattern might be an ethical violation in its own right.

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