Ethical Standards

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Ethical Behavior in My Classes



Student Cheating

What are my expectations?

How will I behave?

What are the penalties for ethical lapses?

Acceptance of these conditions.

Universities by their nature require freedom. Without it a university cannot exist. The search for knowledge has as a fundamental requirement the freedom for participants to do and say what they want. There are of course limits, when it comes to injuring other people; as with all freedom, there is responsibility.

Given the level of freedom on a university campus the opportunity for abuse exists. This is not a weakness in the university, but is a side effect of freedom. This is not unusual in human endeavors.

For example self-service stores have increased the opportunity for shop lifting. The price of giving the customer the ability to handle and look closely at merchandise means the merchant runs the risk that some of the merchandise will disappear. Fortunately the amounts are relatively small and the benefits of self-service stores to shoppers are large. If a store sets as its objective the elimination of shop lifting it would also more than likely eliminate shopping, and therefore, sales and its very reason for existence.

Universities could probably eliminate many inappropriate or unethical activities by changing the way in which universities are structured. But doing this would change the university in such a fundamental way that it would no longer serve the purposes for which it was founded.

Thus for a university to succeed it must count on ethical behavior from its participants. This applies to three major groups:


Each has a duty to deliver ethical behavior and to expect ethical behavior from the others. Without these expectations universities will fail.

Student cheating is a breach of ethical behavior. It is not difficult to do in a university setting. The very openness of our environment makes it easy to do. Fortunately, in overwhelming numbers, students choose not to cheat. (Do not fall for the "everyone does it" argument!)

Student Cheating

Student cheating can be the downfall of a university. It attacks the foundations of what a university is. One response that a university could have is to attempt to control this cheating by eliminating freedoms.

Society has found that certain individuals just cannot be allowed freedom. So society has put these individuals in a situation where they have almost no freedom—it's call a prison. It is fairly obvious that is not a way to run a university.

Thus the university has to depend on ethical behavior from students, if it wants to remain a university. And students have to depend on ethical behavior from faculty and administration. We are all bound together!

Unfortunately, some students think that because it's easy to cheat in an open environment it is acceptable. After all if the university doesn't hire armed guards to patrol the library to keep books from being defaced and stolen, if it doesn't install video cameras in the classrooms to watch students during exams, if it allows work to be done outside of direct classroom supervision, then it is sending a signal that cheating is acceptable. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is because we do not take these sorts of freedom limiting actions that ethical behavior is so important. Without the opportunity to cheat, cheating is not an issue. All of us are smart enough to drive the speed limit when there is a cop behind us. Ethical behavior in this case is to drive the speed limit even when we know we won't be ticketed for speeding.

What are my expectations?

I expect you to behave in an ethical manner at all times. This means that you will not engage in cheating. Such behavior as copying some else's work and submitting it as one's own, plagiarism, accepting or giving help at inappropriate times or cooperating in giving a copy of your work for someone else to submit as theirs.

In general giving or receiving help on an assignment where it is reasonable to conclude that the intention is to deceive someone is not acceptable.

Note that does not mean that group work is inappropriate when that's the nature of the assignment. Nor does it mean that you can't help your fellow students learn. Study groups are encouraged; copy groups are not. I think we all know the difference between helping and cheating.

How will I behave?

I will not make you prove you are ethical and honorable. I will assume you are unless you as an individual have demonstrated otherwise. I will not monitor your behavior, except for normal course interaction. Since I plan on giving trust I expect it back.

What are the penalties for ethical lapses?

If I find that you have violated ethical standards I will apply the most severe punishment that I can. This means at minium a failing grade in the class, regardless of the nature of the assignment or incident. I will also file the appropriate forms with the Judicial Procedures Office. More information about this office can be found at:*

I sincerely hope and expect that this will not be necessary in the class.

Acceptance of these conditions.

By continuing your enrollment in my class you are accepting these conditions.

* The following is from the Office of Judicial Procedures:
Academic Misconduct. Includes the following examples as well as any other similar conduct which is aimed at falsely representing a student's academic performance: cheating, plagiarizing, unauthorized collaborating on coursework, stealing course examinations or materials, falsifying records or data, or intentionally assisting another individual in any of the above.

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© Copyright 2006 Pieter A. Vandenberg All rights reserved