Ethics and You: Case Studies with the New P&A Guidelines

The UFS Promotions and Awards department is responsible for any and all Promotion & Award Requests.

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Ulrich Bechir
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Hello everyone,

By now everyone is aware of the new ethics guidelines for Promotions and Awards. I have been asked by a few people if they could be in violation and how they deal with it if they are, so I decided to go through a few specific case studies.


CASE ONE

Question: My significant other and myself do not serve on the same ship, but I have a position of high responsibility in UFS. What should I do in terms of promotions and awards?

Answer: You should avoid making promotion or award requests for anyone you are in a relationship with. You should also avoid voting on their personal promotion or award requests if you have the power to do so. Any of these can be seen as a conflict of interest. Trust the overall system and the fact that other people working with this person are looking for different things than you are. If the award or promotion is deserved, it will come whether you are involved or not.

CASE TWO

Question: Someone in UFS roleplays as my child on my ship/station/colony/department but that is all it is, I have no parent/child relationship with that person outside of weekly RP and no romantic relationship with that person either. Can I put them up for an award or promotion?

Answer: It is very possible that someone only roleplays in a certain role for your weekly roleplays and they don’t necessarily have the kind of relationship with you otherwise that would necessitate you to recuse yourself form the process with them. You are the best judge as to whether or not this could cause problems at some point, however in the scenario described, it should not be a problem.

CASE THREE

Question: I am in a relationship with someone under my direct command on my ship/station/colony/department. I understand that I can’t put them forward for promotions/awards but it is part of my job, what should I do?

Answer: There are various ways that this can be dealt with. The first possibility is dividing up your crew so half of them are looked after by your XO in terms of Promotions and Awards, making sure that the individual in question is in that group. The other option deals with that person if they have a Fleet position as well, you could send that position CO an email reminding them (but not asking them to take action) about the promotion deadline for that person while being careful to inform them of your relationship. Personally, I would opt for the first method, giving the XO control over that individual’s file. This just ensures that both of you are protected. A CO doesn’t need someone to question their ethics in terms of promotions and awards and the person involved with that CO wouldn’t want people to think they were being advanced for a reason not having to do with their abilities.

CASE FOUR

Question: I am so happy that everyone in my household has joined UFS, but now you’re telling me that I can’t take part in requesting their promotion or award. Why is this fair?

Answer: To be honest, everyone wants to see their family members succeed but most want to see them succeed on their own two feet. I think it is wonderful you brought your family into UFS, but they need to distinguish themselves as their own separate entities from each other. This means trusting them to stand out enough to earn promotion and award requests from their CO or XO, or other members in the organization. It is a far greater compliment when someone outside your family unit puts forward a promotion request for someone in your family both for them and the support you clearly give them. The truth is that as a close family member, your judgement can be clouded by those familial bonds and even if that isn’t the case in your instance, enacting this rule eliminates any speculation or problems.

FINALLY

People often tend to give preferential treatment to those who are related, married, or who they are in a sexual or committed relationship with and even if you’re not doing that the possibility for someone to believe you are is ever-present. This set of guidelines eliminates those concerns keeping both you and your loved ones safe from the speculation.


I hope this clarifies some of the questions I have received. If there is something more specific to you that you feel isn’t addressed, feel free to email me at promotions@ufstarfleet.org
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Drewski Northman
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Well thought out and explained examples in there. This provides solid advice to clarify the policy change today. Thanks for this!
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Jorden Allen
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Thank you for the detailed case examples, of where the new ruling would apply.

That being said, I am still missing any argument on how any of these scenarios would be unethical on the part of the nominator. Nominations, I would argue, have no ethical component, because they have no power. Only the people who vote in the change of status need to consider the ethical ramifications. Something that already is a rule in UFS, and has been followed since our founding.

In other terms: While I would 100% agree that when it comes to the P&A committee - or any committee that decides on promotions, jobs, disciplinary action, etc - any person voting on the actions taken regarding someone they are close to (either romantically, close friends, family, colleagues, etc) must recuse themselves in concern of bias. That is surely an ethical argument - because they are in a position for their bias to change the result.

Example: for many awards in RL, such as those given to authors, TV shows, academics, etc - one actually has to nominate themselves. In these scenarios, if you want to be considered for an award, you submit your own dossier on how you meet the requirements and why the committee should select you. This is not only completely accepted practise, but completely ethically sound (and yet something that is expressly forbidden on ethical grounds in UFS).

That being said, given the nature of UFS, over it's 15 year history, nominating close friends, family members, people you share a house with, people who you have worked closely with roleplaying over a 10 year narrative, etc - has been completely accepted practise, even encouraged, and frankly, it's hard to disentangle what defines 'close relationship' anyway.

Maybe it's just me who doesn't understand these ethical arguments - in which case, happy to discuss privately.

Thanks!


(P.S.: does this imply that there will be an investigation into 15 years of P&A awards nominated unethically? If the entire system is now as tainted, corrupt, and unethical as you suggest?)
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I understand the intentions behind this change of policy, but find it difficult to understand the necessity.

As Jorden has already said, the responsibility for ensuring unbiased and ethical decisions are made concerning promotions and awards lies with the P&A comittee and not the nominator.

Providing the nomination is made appropriately and with enough supporting information then in my view it should not matter who makes that nomination.

Although undoubtedly being done with best intentions, I cant help but feel that this is an unnecessary overcomplication of what is a simple process, and could have the opposite effect of that intended.

We are not some political cabal, we are a group of friends, and should be free to nominate whoever we want for whatever we feel is deserving regardless of how close that friendship is providing it can be justified.

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Kermie Mistwallow
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I'm going to jump in here like the Koolaid Man.

So it's been stated in Private that people may being discriminated against because action only seems to be taken against them.

Let me be very clear on something there has been no one member that this ruling has been aimed at. There have been many instances of this over the years and now it is becoming too much, hence why this ethical thing is put in place.

Can you put a friend in for promotion? Of course you can, because we are all friends here if you couldn't then noone would ever get promoted.

There have been promotions denied in the past for the very reason that people are emotionally attached to someone, be in in a sexual way, a partner way, or a RL way. The issue here is that when the same people put a person up for a promotion, and those people in turn put thier nominator up for a promotion it becomes to look like a conspiracy to just earn rank (which does not give anyone any power), and sometime the CO or XO does not even put in the promo (again this is a wider thing than just one person,it's just become more prominent and frequent now)

So if someone is doing a good job in UFS, and only .. 3 people are seeing it, then we have to ask ourselves and you need to ask yourselves too, maybe they are not making that much of a contribution and my eyes are blinded by my close relationship with them. So if people "outside the circle" or the Co and XO are putting the promotions in then guess whaty .... it's about the work put in, not about the close bonds with family.

Try to look at it from that point of view, patterns, same people, sometime poor recommendations.

Again this is NOT about 1 person, or one group of alts, this is something that has been going on for years, it's been stamped out on a smaller scale over those years, but now it seems that it is being done more now and we have to be fair to every member of UFS to make sure every member is being treated with the same standards and ensure Promotions ... which are a THANK YOU for contributions are being given to the right people. They are a Thank you from UFS, not a thank you from an individual or family member.

Just because you do not see an action taken against another member does not mean it is not happening.

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220729.0645

having read the postings here i agree with Jorden and Bodan, if you do misions on the same ship as say your RL wife you can see the contributions made to enhance the rp/mission therefore recommending them for an award is etherical and therefore should be allowed, if they present their reasons for the said recommendation. why are people being punished for recommending there RL partners for a award. it was first about sending in recommendations for promotion for your alt when challenged to provide proof none was presented so it was then said for recommending RL family and friends.
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Kermie Mistwallow
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If the person is doing so well, then should it really matter? Other people would be putting them in would they not?
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What we have here is a model based on Opinion, your opinions matter, does not alter the new rulings as they currently stand and they will not change
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To be honest, I don't even see the problem with alts recommending/being recommended for P&A. If my understanding of the process is correct, then it should be self-policing as any recommendation, completely regardless of who makes it, CO, friend, wife, or alt, has to meet a set of criteria. If it does and and can be verified then it should stand. If it doesn't then it should get declined.

But as Kermnie has just said, it's just an opinion. :)
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220729.0743

who's opinion?? if the awards committee feel the promotion is not justified then they can turn it down,
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Alright, I am going to offer a bit of transparency here and perhaps help some people understand why these policies have been added to the manual.

Situation #3 with the CO being involved with a person in their direct chain of command? That’s me. Emma and I have been close for years, long before either of us were in UFS. And even after we both joined UFS, we were not in direct chain of command of each other, so it was never really a concern, but now that I am her CO and she is my chief medical officer, there is an added wrinkle.

The term that no one has used before that I think is important is this: conflict of interest, defined by Oxford Dictionary as such, “ a situation in which a person is in a position to derive personal benefit from actions or decisions made in their official capacity.” A CO promoting or awarding someone that they are intimately involved with is a MASSIVE potential conflict of interest. Is it my job to promote and award my crew members? Yes, but there are proper ways I can do that that stay above board and avoid those conflicts of interest.

Is a person promoting their loved one a potential conflict of interest? Yes, definitely. The motives for the promotion or award could be unclear, and it would look like a member is showing bias toward their favorite people. We want to avoid favoritism and cliquishness in this group, hence the policy change.

Is there conflict of interest in a person promoting their own alt? There’s a dump truck full of conflicts of interest there. One potential one is exemplified in another area today. Elon Musk wanted to buy Twitter which was valued at $44 Billion, but there was a question as to how many accounts on twitter were real separate individuals, and how many were bots, or alts. If one person controls many accounts, they can use those separate accounts to make it appear that more people have the same opinion on a particular issue than exist in reality. They can fudge polls and reactions to others’ tweets.

Similar issues arise within UFS if one person can have multiple alts and put those alts in key positions on their own ship or in the fleet. They can game the promotion system for their own personal benefit. They can create consensus opinion when there is none. They can use their alts to abuse another member from multiple angles. This is why UFS is taking steps to keep everything above board and without reproach.

TLDR: It all stems back to avoiding a whole host of conflicts of interest, and the fleet will be better for having a more above board and ethical approach to promotions and awards. I am personally affected by these rulings and I 100% support them.
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220729.1016

well drew I understand where you are coming from but the situation you have described here is not actually what has happened but thank you for it
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I think you might be misunderstanding me. Case #3 from Ulrich’s post is literally based on a question that I asked him that directly applies to my situation. I am illustrating the fact that there are potential conflicts of interest that arise, and I am stating in general that we as a fleet need to do what we can to avoid them. I am not at all sure what you are referring to other than that.
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I think it's simple enough. if you're a CO, and you serve with someone close to you on your SOTL, have your XO submit the promotion and award requests for them. I don't think these rules are unjust or out of norm for any situation, and Ulrich has shown there is a totally viable and simple solution. The XO, or even another member of the senior staff who aren't related to you and your SO/Child in any capacity are able to see why they warrant the promotion or award as well as the CO is.

As far as alt characters, if they aren't on the same ship as you, I don't really see an issue. The CO you work under would submit the request as normal. I know back in the day there were even stricter rules on alts, and the sense of fairness with the modern rules seems like a perfectly fine trade-off.

I will add, for me personally, (Now that I'm older, and I'd like to think wiser) I don't see the need to be promoted right at TiG, and am quite content where I am. I wish more people could realize promotions aren't what's important, it's what you do and how you enjoy yourself otherwise.

I really appreciate the steps Ulrich is taking to make sure promotions and awards are given fairly, ethically, and all above board!
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I agree with Drew and Lan. Its a pretty valid way of making sure people getting promotions ans awards are fair. It doesn't have any affect on 90% of membership it just gives guidelines to the other 10% ans COs and XOs on ways to handle these situations.
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