There are others, but three situations in my experience underscore the futility of expecting guidance from "campus leaders" in matters of ethics, research related or otherwise. Most, or at least some, may not be as sad as these three cases, but there seem to be a lot of moral midgets, "just following orders" (policies).
It seems that there are two types of topaz, a clear and thus valuable gemstone, and a cloudy variety that has much less value. Somehow it was found that irradiating the cloudy stone in the reactor clarified it and greatly increased its value. (The scene this conjures is amazing: grown men putting various items in the reactor late at night to see what happens -- topaz, spam, frogs, Barney dolls, Barbie dolls, etc.!)
Well, money makes the world go around. The physics faculty soon began to have trouble finding time to schedule for reactor use, because the reactor manager was being directed to buy cloudy topaz, zap it, and then sell it at a profit for the university.
Not to miss an opportunity, the reactor manager went into business for himself at the same time. He began to buy topaz with his own money, zap it, and sell it along with the university's stones. Then he progressed to doing it in a way that passed along the costs to the university (oops, that's the taxpayer).
He was eventually detected, because he used campus phones to check his off-shore bank accounts for deposits, charged customs fees to the university, and other brazen actions.
This was called to the attention of the university, but nothing happened -- the old under-the-rug strategy (or is that, ahem, "silence is golden"?). Then a local newspaper learned of it a couple of years later. The man was still working as manager, all was as before.
Confronted with the flagrant abuse, the university president said, "We do not have a policy against that." No, sir, we just have laws and centuries of morality to suggest that theft is (at least) inappropriate! Leadership indeed.
Of course, while all this was going on, no doubt the bean counters were diligently tracking wayward petty cash expenditures by secretaries, travel claims by faculty, and so forth.
Far be it from me to suggest putting some heads in the reactor, to see if we could clarify some values for these folks. But please, maybe at least a Singapore caning?
Then an apparent pattern was identified: offers to male candidates began to take several weeks whereas offers to female candidates zipped through as usual. The result was that offers to men were approved officially so late that many times the candidate had already accepted an offer elsewhere. And, in such cases, a new search could then result in an offer to a woman, which would be promptly approved.
Yes, this strange pattern occurred with a woman in the Provost's role, and when she left things normalized. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck.
However, a dream case appeared, no need for arcane statistical adjustments to show inequity: a man and woman hired as new PhDs in the same year, into the same department, from the same institution, etc., but the woman was hired for $5,000 less than the man. No way to quarrel with this, a clear problem.
The comparables couldn't be more clear-cut. However, the committee reviewing the appeal decided against the woman, on the advice of the committee chair, the campus Provost. This committee chair was a woman who presented herself publicly as a champion of women's rights.
No, the committee chair was not publicly disgraced, that's the "advantage" of such star chamber decisions.
I would like to tell you that these three executives of their universities were summarily sacked and sent to walking the streets forever. Alas, it doesn't work that way: each of them left to take a step up the career ladder elsewhere. Shifting to a new portfolio to cover up a mess is not a strategy employed only by politicians.
Your mileage may vary, but I could add others, such as the Stanford president a few years ago who was using grant funds to upgrade the presidential yacht, or an institution who hired as an affirmative action officer a person who was dismissed from their former job for sexual harassment. Some stories make "dumb criminals" seem dull. Others make campus governance look dumb. No, these are not isolated cases, The Shadow University details the administrative "leadership" of various other heroes defending academic freedom.