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CASE STUDY: Final Project
This case study shows the pros and cons of diversity in a group communication
This case study emphasizes the benefit of knowing one’s role in a group and its importance
This case study exposes the negative consequences of falling in some decision-making traps
Word count: 1084
Ms. Dy assigned the students from every level to work on a mock trial, a case about an aggravated assault
and she wants these group of students to defend the assailant. Aera is an international first-year law student
and it is her first time working with complete strangers, especially seniors out of campus. As an introvert
herself, she dreads this day and was on edge for most of her classes until it’s time for her to go the meeting.
She was the last to walk out of class, when she was at the door a woman stood up at the sight of her.
“Hi! I am Nicole, you must be Aera. I will be one of your groupmates. I am here to escort you to the meeting
place since this is your first time to be out of campus.” Nicole extended her hand and Aera shook it while
smiling awkwardly.
“Hi! Nice to meet you. I’ve never been out of the campus that much and I really do not know my way
around the city so thank you.” Aera said looking down at her shoes. Nicole linked her arm with hers and
they went on their way to the meeting place. Once they got in, Nicole waved and ran to a man and a woman
seated in the far corner of the coffee shop. Aera stood there at the entrance frozen, she’s scared because she
doesn’t know anyone. Nicole called her and she hesitantly obliged. Her breath hitched at the feel of eyes
on her.
“Guys, this is Aera, she came here all the way from South Korea, she is a first-year law student that makes
her our junior so be nice to her.” The two students whip their heads to look at Aera. She nervously glanced
at Nicole and then turned to the two strangers, she awkwardly waved and smiled at them, luckily, they
smiled back at her. A girl tapped an empty seat beside her and Aera took it. After the formalities and
everyone has already introduced themselves, a guy wearing a brown trench coat cleared his throat and
clasped his hands.
“As you all by now, I am Justin, I am a 4th year law student. Now, I don’t want to be that guy, but Ms. Dy
didn’t explicitly say anything about who is in charge so I would just fill the spot because I am older and I
believe that I am more experienced than you guys are.” Everyone hesitantly nods and looked intently at the
man talking, he got out of his seat and stood at the end of the table. “Let’s just cut to the chase, Ms. Dy
wants us to defend the assailant. She has already sent us the facts of the case. I assumed you have already
gone through them. Now, any ideas?”
“Is the victim a black woman?” Zenia asked looking down at the sheet of paper. Everyone looked at her.
“Why is that relevant?” asked Nicole.
“The defendant said that her boss told her that he would never ever put his hands on a “mammy”.” Answered
Zenia with a hurtful look on her face clearly taking this personally.
“A what? A mummy?” asked Justin. Aera furrowed her eyebrows at Zenia.
“No, a mammy.” Zenia gave the piece of paper to Aera, upon seeing the underlined word “mammy” she
looked for her phone and searched it. Justin looked at the paper too along with Nicole.
“A mammy refers to a Black woman serving as a nurse to white children especially formerly in the southern
U.S. It is considered as an offensive term for black women.” Aera almost whispered the last lines. Everyone
was quiet, all looking at Zenia. Aera pats her back and smiled at her, Zenia gave her best toothy smile. Aera
knows she’s hurt and she could empathize with her.
“Well, would you look at that, even in a mock trial, we black women can’t get a rest, can’t we?” Zenia
forced a laugh. No one dared say a word. They do not know whether to laugh because it was a joke or feel
bad because it is partly true. “Hey, come on, we have a case to win here. Let’s make her have her justice”
Everyone looked up and smiled at Zenia. They continue to work on the case for hours until Ms. Dy came
by to check on them.
“How is everyone doing? How is the case going?” said Ms. Dy plopping her bag to an empty seat beside
“We now know that the defendant’s boss is possibly a racist. We wouldn’t even know without Zenia’s help
and I have already divided the tasks to everyone.” Said Justin. Ms. Dy nods and smiled at Zenia, then she
looked at Aera.
“We are trying to rule the case as self-defense.” Said Aera excitingly.
“But I find no reason for the court to rule this case as self-defense. We don’t have evidences, and if we do
it’s not strong enough. There are no witnesses to testify that the defendant was hit first and that made her
retaliate.” Said Justin. Aera was shocked and furrowed her eyebrows at Nicole.
“Then you should’ve said so in the beginning before we worked on it for hours!” exclaimed Nicole. Seeing
Justin with his poker face only made Nicole more furious.
“I suggest that we just let the defendant tell the truth, that due to her past trauma, she wasn’t able to
distinguish a friendly handshake from a slap and it made her feel threatened thus the crime.” Said Justin
calmly. Nicole scoffed, Zenia balled a fist.
“And then what?! Let her plead guilty?! Do you think that a friendly handshake is indistinguishable from a
slap?!” said the furious Zenia.
“Don’t take this personally Zenia this isn’t about you. You should listen to me! We… I… My previous
team have done this before! It is the only way!” Justin snapped.
“No! We could still look for evidences and rule this as self-defense we have worked on it for too long! I
refuse to listen to you!” said Nicole. Aera was frozen in her seat. She could not say anything, after all this
is her first group assignment and she is their junior, who would take on her ideas? But deep inside, she
knew that Justin was right. The only way to atleast give the defendant justice is to plead guilty, that will
hopefully reduce her sentence. After all there were indeed no evidences strong enough for self-defense.
Summary of Characters:
Aera – 1st year law student, international law
student, Asian (from South Korea)
Zenia – 3rd year law student, POC
Nicole – 2nd year law student
Justin – 4th year law student
Key Terms:
a) Group Decision Making: formed because either out of necessity or opportunity
b) Professional group: a group that meets out of necessity with a common goal.
-Application: The group was formed out of the necessity to complete a project.
c) Diversity: involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of
different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
-Application: The group assigned by Ms. Dy features a diverse group in terms of gender, age and
race, it also helped them understand the case.
d) Social Identity: primarily relational and based on various positions in society
-Application: Aera is younger than everyone in the group, she felt that she could not say anything
because no one would take on her ideas.
e) Decision Making Traps: hidden biases and distortions in our thinking
-Application: Nicole caught in sunk cost trap, Justin with status quo trap, he also became too closed
minded and showed some advocacy type of behavior.
f) Status quo: sticking with the way things are; reacting the same way one did before
-Application: Justin argued that he is older and more experienced that’s why they should listen to
him and that he had taken a case like this one before and his idea is the only way to win.
g) Constraints: it helps people by enabling them to make connections and associations because
without it we are faced with endless possibilities.
-Application: Before making decisions about the case, the group were given facts about the case
and some evidences that’s why they could make decisions easily.
h) Sunk costs: sticking with flawed decisions because of the time and energy already spent
-Application: Nicole argued that Justin should’ve said so in the first place his arguments before
they have already worked hard on it and refused to take Justin’s idea because they have already put
in the work.
Discussion Questions:
What decision-making traps did Aera and her peers fell into?
How did Aera and Zenia’s social identity made them a bad group member?
Did you think that the members communicate effectively by choosing the right words?
What contributed to Nicole’s decision to still work on the self-defense ruling?
What is the key issue here and how can it be avoided?
How did Justin’s bias to his own ideas affects the group?
Who are you when it comes to group decision making? Aera, Nicole, Justin or Zenia?