Would you risk your career for money?

Would you risk your career for money?

I’m trying to figure out what motivates people to choose a career path. Some people, I know, are in it for the most money, some just want to be able to travel and some people honestly never have a career. I don’t understand though, going through the crappy hours, honestly low pay of getting a PhD, all to throw that away with fraudulent NSF grants.

I’m talking about the Virginia Tech professor who was recently accused of financial fraud for sending money to China and not paying the correct amount to Virginia Tech. Now his trial will be in 2018 and until then I am just going off of the alleged accusations because this man is not the first nor the last to throw away his career for money.

What gets me though is, he has a tenure track job. He has won the academic lottery and is getting paid to theoretically do what he wants. I don’t know about you but I honestly wouldn’t waste my entire career on money, that I don’t even get to keep!!! I’m sure this is where the nuance of ethical violations comes in. Its a slippery slope and I have to assume that this Dartmouth educated professor didn’t go through his grad program thinking – if only I can land a tenure track job, then I can steal a million dollars and send it back home.- Thats not enough motivation to get you through the years of school.

But what, I wonder, was the first pebble that fell to lead him down this slippery slope? I’m sure it was something simple, like maybe a contract they held did more than they were supposed to and wanted compensation. But when should someone or could someone have blown the whistle? This seems like a case that from the inside doesn’t seem as bad as it looks from the outside. But it looks really bad.

Every grant I’ve been on has been painstakingly obsessed with a clear budget and maybe its because I’ve gotten lucky on who I work with. To me though, I’m happy to get a PhD but I’m not just doing it for the sake of it. I hope it helps me get a job I want down the line and I don’t plan on throwing away (oh god) whats going to be at least 20 years of education for fraud.

Until next time,



3 Responses

  1. Marina says:

    Hi! I worked on proposal before and I felt frustrated before about the amount of money we give away to VT just because we have to use their name or their building. It is frustrating because of all the money we get, a large portion of it will not be used for our actual research. But this is how it works. Was it greed that pushed this professor to send money away or his frustration. I don't know his motives but I know my weaknesses. I understand my limitations and all I can do is do my best to stay true to myself. Tenure track is a great way to keep your best researchers around but it also provides to some professors a feeling of entitlement and maybe replace humility and gratitude. Maybe this professor thought he was too valuable for VT to be investigated…who knows what lead to that ?

  2. Jessie Donati says:

    I agree that it is completely not worth it to risk all of those years of school and the reputation that you've worked so hard trying to build for the sake of money. Of course, like with most cases of ethical misconduct, it started off small. Maybe he got away with embezzling a very small amount of money, and then justified it in his head somehow. But when does this stop? Once you have gotten away with something once, it becomes very easy to do it again, maybe to a worse extent. You think that you will never get caught… until it blows up in your face. If you chose not to succumb to these small unethical behaviors, you will never slide down that slippery slope.

  3. Matt B says:

    If you wouldn't throw your career away for money, is there anything you would throw your career away for? What would it take to give up a tenure track position, or make your 20 years’ worth of education a waste?
    Or (not saying you would or wouldn't)
    If there isn't anything that would cause you to give up your life's work and career goals, are you essentially giving up your ethical-self for money and job security?
    I personally think it is valuable to understand (with yourself) what it would and would not take to ‘walk away from it all’, so that if those situations ever arise you can be prepared. I totally agree that it doesn’t make sense to through away your life’s work to steal money from a grant, but what if you have to throw away your life’s worth because of an unethical conflict?
    I feel that valuing a career above all else may be just as large of a pebble leading down the slippery slope.

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