Q: My husband teaches at a private high school, where several students under the influence of marijuana came to an event and consequently were required to miss a day of class. The school called this a “restriction,” not a “suspension,” so as not to have to report it on college applications. The students were separated from the community for a day without damaging their chances of admission. Was this use of language ethical?
Interesting approach. And if students go on a cross-country shootin' spree and are sent to prison, you can call their “separation from the community” “happy fun time.” Another way to phrase your question: Is it acceptable to use deliberately deceptive language to a college admissions office? I'm going to go with George Orwell's “Politics and the English Language.” School officials should be required to read it when they're “at the beach.”
Some parents esteem private schools because they are reputed to do well at getting their graduates into top colleges. This school's ingenious use of language should embellish its reputation for efficacy if not ethics.
What about gift cards?
Q: My partners and I are in the early stages of selling our long-established French bistro. Any new owner is apt to change the menu but offer similar cuisine. During the holidays, we sell many gift certificates that people give as presents. If we don't find a buyer soon, recipients will have plenty of time to redeem their presents, but if we do so quickly, they will not. May we still sell gift certificates?
With things this uncertain, you may honorably operate as ever, and that includes selling gift certificates. But you should make it a condition of the restaurant's sale that the new owner honor these gift certificates or, if the customer prefers, refund the full amount. The refund option implies no criticism of any new chef, just acknowledges that a yearning for beef bourguignon may not be satisfied by tekka maki.
If possible, you should alert those holding gift certificates to any change of cuisine. A little honesty, like a little butter – all right, a lot of butter – can improve everything. (Maybe not sushi.)
Who gets damaged clothes?
Q: While staining the frame of a mirror in our house on a hot day, a skilled but distracted worker had a large fan blowing on him. Behind him were thousands of dollars of our clothes, which ended up spattered with brown stain. Efforts to remove the stain were unavailing. The worker's company deducted the cost of the clothes from our bill, then asked to keep them. We declined and plan to donate them to a charity. OK?
Keep your (stained) shirt on, or rather, in your charity basket. If you badly damage your car and put in an insurance claim, the insurance company doesn't come by the house to pick up the debris. It is not buying scrap metal; it is making good your loss. The imperfect painter, same deal. He's compensating you for an injury, not for purchasing your spattered unwearables. Incidentally, I'd be surprised if any charity wanted those begrimed clothes. Even poor folks prefer unstained clothing.