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Case 71. Establishing Mutually Acceptable Agreements


Jill Alexander is a graduate student completing her Ph.D. in sociology at a highly respected university in the U.S. Her professor and advisor, Lawrence Fairchild, is a well-known sociologist who has been working in the area of social stratification; he has numerous publications, many of which are with former students. For her doctoral dissertation, Jill applies some of his theoretical developments and collects other primary data to further test and refine a number of his formulations. Jill completes her degree and moves on to a position as an assistant professor at another college. She submitted her dissertation to a publisher who immediately recognized its value and offered to publish it. Jill, of course, is thrilled since she considers this a great opportunity for professional recognition and advancement in her new position. In the meantime, Fairchild learns of the impending publication of the book and attempts to stop it, arguing that he should be listed as co-author since it is his original thinking that provides the basis for her study and it is his advising that brought the doctoral dissertation to fruition.


  1. What are the ethical violations that each of these parties may claim against the other? Does one take precedence over the other?
  2. What are the implications for each party, given this controversy?
  3. Are there precautions that can taken in situations such as this which could eliminate possible disagreements over the rights to intellectual property?

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.