Agony aunt

November 26, 1999

Q) 'I have been given a bottle of champagne as a millennium gift from a student and am wondering, should I accept it?'

Seiriol Morgan.

Philosophy teaching fellow University of Leeds.

A) If a gift is valuable it probably should not be accepted. If the gift is offered around marking time, then it is safer to declare it openly. Basically, there are two categories of gift offered by students to academics. They are alcoholic drink, especially whisky, and other things, including ties, engraved pens, tasteless statuettes and other worthless paraphernalia. This latter category can be safely ignored. No self-respecting lecturer is going to raise a student's essay a class in exchange for a medium-sized paperweight. Indeed, any students who thought that buying me a pen would help their marks are more likely to have them reduced.

Piers Benn.

Lecturer in medical ethics and law Imperial College School of Medicine Philosophy.

A) There is the issue of the quality of the wine. A lot of suspect fizzy wine passes itself off as champagne. A postmodern humanities student might offer such inferior stuff as a send-up. To counter this the lecturer should offer to break open and share the champagne with the student concerned. This may confuse the issue of who bribed whom, should the case ever come to court.

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