Are There Ethical Professors?

There was a popular situation several years back (2009) concerning Ward Churchill, a former Professor at the University of Colorado.  Psychology Today wrote, “Ward Churchill got into trouble for things he wrote about the 9/11 attacks and politicians called for his ouster. Meanwhile, charges of academic misconduct started to surface, including plagiarism and fabricating facts. A faculty committee found evidence for this misconduct, and Churchill was fired from his job in 2007.” A link to the full story can be found here:

ethics  image.jpgPhoto credit to:  Janet Brown

Unfortunately, there are many more stories like this. It’s unlikely that this professor, and the many others, woke up one morning and decided to start acting unethically. Likely, they started with small transgressions that just snowballed over time. A pattern of unethical behavior could start with a small indiscretion like taking home office supplies, then it slowly moves into bigger indiscretions such as exaggerating on expense reports, and so on. This is a big problem for many companies, so having a clear Code of Conduct or Code of Ethics standard, along with a descriptive Policies and Procedures manual, is very important.

At the college where I work, we have a very simple, but very clear, set of guidelines for professional conduct in our workplace. In case you have never read one, here is the gist of it: We agree to fulfill our roles and responsibilities with the highest standards of conduct, we need to keep our private/personal/financial interests to ourselves so they don’t conflict with our duties, and we need to act honestly, prudently and diligently, always acting in the best interests of the college. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, like the story above, these lines can easily get crossed, and when the lines get blurred there can be a quick descent down a slippery slope. I believe that having a strong Code of Ethics, along with a clear Policies and Procedures manual, can establish a clear warning to *hopefully* keep everyone in the lines and deter them from crossing them lines. What do you think? Does your workplace have these important guidelines in place?

Handelsman, Mitchell M. Ph.D. March 10, 2010 Ethical Professors: Fact or Fiction? Are there ethical professors?


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