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Developing Ethics Codes and Statements of Values

Module by: William Frey, Jose A. Cruz-Cruz. E-mail the authors

Summary: This module has been revised to provide students in Business Administration experience with different approaches to developing codes of ethics. Studying the Pirate Credo (to which this module links) helps students understand that codes embody values. It also clues students into the fact that codes of ethics are of different kinds and fulfill different functions. Exercises have been added to link this module to an Ethics Bowl module and to the module on Moral Ecologies. Finally, it reports on a successful effort by the College of Business Administration of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez to design and implement a statement of values in response to AACSB requirements. This module is being developed as a part of an NSF-funded project, "Collaborative Development of Ethics Across the Curriculum Resources and Sharing of Best Practices," NSF SES 0551779.

Module Introduction

Codes of ethics evoke opposite reactions from people who teach, do research in, or are practitioners of occupational and professional ethics. Some hold that teaching codes of ethics is essential to preparing students for their future careers. Corporations, for example, have come to view codes as the cornerstone of a successful compliance program. Professional societies, such as the Puerto Rico State Society of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, also make the drafting, revising, and disseminating professional codes of ethics a central part of practicing professional engineering ethics. But many strongly opppose codes because they promote the wrong sorts of attitudes in those who would be influenced by them. As you will see below, philosophical ethicists raise objections to codes because they undermine moral autonomy, lead to uncritical acceptance of authority, and replace moral motives with fear of punishment. These polar stances are grounded in the very different perspectives from which different groups approach codes. But they are also grounded in the fact that codes take many different forms and serve distinct functions. For example, consider the introductory considerations presented in the following:

Different Uses for Codes

Kinds of Codes

  • Professional Codes of Ethics. Professions such as engineering and accounting have developed codes of ethics. These set forth the ideals of the profession as well as more mundane challenges faced by members. Engineering codes, for example, set forth service to humanity as an ideal of the profession. But they also provide detailed provisions to help members recognize conflicts of interest, issues of collegiality, and confidentiality responsibilities.
  • Corporate Codes of Ethics. Corporate codes are adopted by many companies to respond better to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. These codes provide guidelines on particularly sticky issues (When does a gift become a bribe?) They also set forth provisions that express the core values of the corporation. These lengthy codes with detailed provisions support a compliance approach to organizational discipline.
  • Corporate Credos. Some companies have shortened their lengthy codes into a few general provisions that form a creed. Johnson and Johnson's Credo is famous in this respect and can be found by clicking on the Business Ethics Library link provided above.
  • Statements of Values. Finally, more mature companies find it useful to express and disseminate their core value commitments in Statements of Values. These form the basis of values-based decision-making. While codes of ethics clearly establish minimum standards of acceptable conduct, Statements of Values outline the aspirations that can drive companies toward continuous improvement.

Functions or Purposes Served by Codes

  • Discipline. This function gets all the attention. Most codes are set forth to establish clearly and forcefully an organization's standards, especially its minimum standards of acceptable conduct. Having established the limits, organizations can then punish those who exceed them.
  • Educate. This can range from disseminating standards to enlightening members. Company A's employees learned that anything over $100 was a bribe and should not be accepted. But engineers learn that their fundamental responsibility is to hold paramount public safety, health, and welfare. Codes certainly teach minimum standards of conduct, but they can help a community to articulate and understand their highest shared values and aspirations.
  • Inspire. Codes can set forth ideals in a way that inspires a community's members to strive for excellence. They can be written to set forth the aspirations and value commitments that express a community's ideals. They can point a community toward moral excellence.
  • Stimulate Dialogue. Engineering professional codes of ethics have changed greatly over the last 150 years. This has been brought about by a vigorous internal debate stimulated by these very codes. Members debate controversial claims and work to refine more basic statements. Johnson and Johnson credits their credo for their proactive and successful response to the Tylenol crisis. Regularly, employees "challenge the credo" by bringing up difficult cases and testing how effectively the credo guides decision-making and problem-solving. The CIAPR's Disciplinary Tribunal cases have served as a focus for discussions on how to interpret key provisions of the organization's code of ethics. The NSPE Board of Ethical Review decisions have also provided an excellent forum for clarifying ethical concepts (public safety, conflict of interest) in the context of cases brought to the board by NSPE members. The BER discusses cases in terms of relevant provisions of the NSPE code. Over the years, the NSPE BER has established a firm foundation for the resolution of difficult ethical cases by developing analogies with cases it has already discussed and clarified.
  • Empower and Protect. Codes empower and protect those who are committed to doing the right thing. If an employer orders an employee to do something that violates that employee's ethical or professional standards, the code provides a basis for saying, "No!". Engineers have refused to carry out directives that place in jeopardy the health and safety of the public based on statements like canon 1 of the CIAPR code. (The NSPE code has similar provisions.) Because codes establish and disseminate moral standards, they can provide the structure to convert personal opinion into reasoned professional judgment. To reiterate, they provide support to those who would do the right thing, even under when there is considerable pressure to do the opposite.
  • Codes capture or express a community's identity. They provide the occasion to identify, foster commitment, and disseminate the values with which an organization wants to be identified publicly. These values enter into an organization's core beliefs and commitments forming an identify-conferring system. By studying the values embedded in a company's code of ethics, observing the values actually displayed in the company's conduct, and looking for inconsistencies, the observer can gain insight into the core commitments of that company. Codes express values that, in turn, reveal a company's core commitments, or (in the case of a hypocritical organization) those values that have fallen to the wayside as the company has turned to other value pursuits.

Difficulties with Codes

  • The following objections lead philosophers to argue that presenting codes of ethics in ethics classes undermines several key moral attitudes and practices.
  • Codes can undermine moral autonomy by habituating us to act from motives like deference to external authority and fear of punishment. We get out of the habit of making decisions for ourselves and fall into the habit of deferring to outside authority.
  • Codes often fail to guide us through complex situations. Inevitably, gaps arise between general rules and the specific situations to which they are applied; concrete situations often present new and unexpected challenges that rules, because of their generality, cannot anticipate. Arguing that codes should provide action recipes for all situations neglects the fact that effective moral action requires more than just blind obedience to rules.
  • Codes of ethics can encourage a legalistic attitude that turns us away from the pursuit of moral excellence and toward just getting by or staying out of trouble. For example, compliance codes habituate us to striving only to maintain minimum standards of conduct. They fail to motivate and direct action toward aspirations. Relying exclusively on compliance codes conveys the idea that morality is nothing but staying above the moral minimum.

This module is designed to steer you through these complex issues by having you draft a Statement of Values for students at your university. As you work through your Statement of Values, you will learn that codes have strengths and weaknesses, serve different functions, and embody values. To get you started in this process, you will study a defective code, the Pirate Credo. A quick glance is all that is needed to see that codes are "all too human" and need to be approached critically. In a second activity you will identify the values embedded in professional, corporate, and academic codes. Working with these values, you will develop a list upon which your group will build its own Statement of Values in a third activity. Finally, you will construct value profiles that include a general description, sample provisions, value-based challenges, and value principles. These will all contribute to motivating those in your community to commit to and work in concert to realize these values.

How an academic community developed a Statement of Values

A False Start

The faculty of the Arts and Sciences College of University X decided to form a committee to write a code of ethics. This committee met several times during the course of an academic semester to prepare the first draft. When they finished, they circulated copies throughout the college. Then they held a series of pubic hearings where interested members of the College could criticize the code draft. These were lightly attended and those attending had only a few suggestions for minor changes. However, when the code was placed before the faculty for approval, considerable opposition emerged. For example, a provision discouraging faculty from gossiping was characteized by opponents as an attempt by a hostile College administration, working through the committee, to eliminate faculty free speech. Several opponents expressed opposition to the very idea of a code of ethics. "Does the administration think that our faculty is so corrupt," they aked, "that the only hope for improvement is to impose upon them a set of rules to be mindlessly followed and ruthlessly enforced?" At the end of this debate, the faculty overwhelmingly rejected the code.

Reflections on "A False Start"

  • Should codes of ethics be democratically developed from the "bottom up" or should they be authoritatively imposed from the "top down?" Or does this depend on certain characteristics of the community? Maybe corporate managers should have lawyers draft their codes to meet the Federal Sentencing Guidelines; these completed codes should then be implemented throughout the company at all levels. Maybe academic communities should democratically determine their own codes, and if they are unable to do so, then so much the worse for the "very idea" of a code of ethics.
  • The Ethics of Team Work module presents three ways that lead groups to go off the tracks: Group Polarization, Groupthink, and "Going to Abilene." Do you think that any of these would explain false starts in developing a code of ethics? How can these group pitfalls be overcome?
  • Groups are often polarized around different and conflicting ideologies or paradigms. Thomas Kuhn discusses paradigms in the context of scientific debates. When these debates are fueled by conflicting and incompatible paradigms, they can turn acrimonious and prove extraordinarily difficult to resolve. For Kuhn, paradigms articulate and encapsulate different world views; the meanings and experiences shared by one group operating under one paradigm are often not shared by those operating under different paradigms. Members of the Arts and Sciences faculty of University X may have disagreed about the provisions proscribing gossiping because they were operating under different conceptual systems brought about by incommensurable paradigms. If faculty members assumed different meanings for 'gossiping', 'code', and 'discipline', then this would fuel the polarization of non-agreement like that which occurred at University X.
  • Cass Sunstein proposes that communities work around ideological or paradigm-driven disputes by developing, in special circumstances, "incompletely theorized agreements." These agreements are brought about by bracketing commitments to a given ideology or paradigm. This allows one side to work on understanding the other instead of marshaling arguments to defend the set of views entailed by its paradigm. So Sunstein's recommendation to the College of Arts and Sciences of University X would be to suspend commitment to defending the core beliefs of the conflicting ideologies and try to hold discussions at a more concrete, incompletely theorized level. This makes finding common ground easier. When shared understandings are forged, then they can serve as bridges to more complex, more completely theorized positions.
  • Looking at this problem from a completely different angle, do codes of ethics require a background of trust? If so, how can trust be built up from within highly diverse and highly polarized communities or groups?
  • Finally, can codes of ethics be abused by more ruthless groups and individuals? For example, as those in the College of Arts and Sciences claimed, can codes of ethics be used by those in positions of power to strengthen that power and extend control over others?

A Success Story

  • Three years later at the same university, another faculty group set out to construct a code of ethics in order to respond to accreditation requirements. They began with the idea of constructing a stakeholder code.
  • First, they identified the stakeholders of the college's activities, that is, groups or individuals who had a vital interest in that community's actions, decisions and policies.
  • Second, they identified the goods held by each of these stakeholders which could be vitally impacted by the actions of the college. For example, education represented the key good held by students that could be vitally impacted by the activities and decisions of the College.
  • Working from each stakeholder relation and the good that characterized that relation, members of the college began crafting code provisions. Some set forth faculty duties such as keeping regular office hours, grading fairly, and keeping up to date in teaching and research. Others emphasized student duties such as working responsibly and effectively in work teams, adhering to standards of academic honesty, and attending classes regularly.

Because stakeholder codes embody a community's values, the individuals in charge of drafting the code decided that a more direct approach would be to identify the embodied values and refine them into a Statement of Values. This formal statement could later be developed in different directions including a more detailed compliance code.

Turning their efforts toward preparing a Statement of Value Process, the Business Administration community went through the following steps:

  1. They discussed a flawed document, the Pirate Credo. This brought about three positive results: participants came to see how codes embody values, that codes serve different functions, and that codes clarify relations between the insiders and outsiders of a community.
  2. Participants examined "bona fide" codes of ethics such as academic codes, codes of honor, corporate codes, and professional codes. Since codes embody values, they developed lists of the values these codes embodied.
  3. The sample provisions crafted in the earlier stakeholder code effort were presented so that participants could identify the values these embodied. Previous efforts in developing a stakeholder code could be benchmarked against the codes studied in the previous step. Convergences and divergences were noted and used to further characterize the college's community in terms of its similarities and differences with other communities.
  4. In this step, faculty members were asked to reduce the values list to a manageable number of five to seven. This led to the most contentious part of the process. Participants disagreed on the conception of value, the meaning of particular values like justice, and on whether rights could be treated as values.
  5. To resolve this disagreement, discussion leaders proposed using ballots to allow participants to vote on values. This process was more than a simple up or down vote. Participants also ranked the values under consideration.
  6. After the top five values were identified, efforts were made, in describing each of the remaining values, to find places to include at least components of the values left out. For example, while confidentiality was not included in the final value list, it was reintegrated as a component of the more general value of respect. Thus, the final values list could be made more comprehensive and more acceptable to the faculty community by reintegrating some values as parts of other, more general values. Another way of picking up values left behind in the voting process was to combine values that shared significant content. Values that did not make it into the final list were still noted with the provision that they could be integrated into subsequent drafts of the Statement of Values.
  7. A committee was formed to take each value through a value template. After describing the value, they formulated a principle summarizing the ethical obligations it entailed, crafted sample provisions applying the value, and posed different challenges the value presented to help guide a process of continuous improvement.
  8. The committee presented its results to the faculty who approved this first draft Statement of Values
  9. The faculty then developed a schedule whereby the Statement of Values would be revisited, expanded, revised, and improved.

Textbox 1: Responding to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines

Recent efforts to develop ethics codes in the academic context for both students and faculty may, in part, stem from the success of ethics compliance programs developed in business and industry in response to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. Organizational codes of ethics have been integrated alongside other compliance structure and activities to prevent criminal behavior, to detect criminal behavior, and to ensure prompt and effective organizational response once such behavior has been detected.

The following section contains short exerpts from the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. For more details consult the materials referenced in note 5 below.

  • "The hallmark of an effective program to prevent and detect violations of law is that the organization exercised due diligence in seeking to prevent and detect criminal conduct by its employees and other agents. Due giligence requires at a minimum that the organization must have taken the following types of steps:
  • The organization must have established compliance standards and procedures to be followed by ite employees and other agents that are reasonably capable of reducing the prospect of criminal conduct.
  • Specific individual(s) within high levelpersonnel of the organization must have been assigned overall responsibility to oversee compliance with such standards and procedures.
  • The organization must have used due care not to delegate substantial discretionary authority to individuals whom the organization knew, or should have known through the exercise of due diligence, had a propensity to engage in illegal activities.
  • The organization must have taken steps to communicate effectively its standards and procedures to all employees and other agents, e.g., by requiring participation in training programs or by disseminating publications that explain in a practical manner what is required.
  • The organization must have taken reasonable steps to achieve compliance with its standards, e.g., by utilizing monitoring and auditing systems reasonably designed to detect criminal conduct by its empoyees and other agents and by having in place and publicizing a reporting system whereby employees and other agents could report criminal conduct by others within the organization without fear of retribution.

Recommendations by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines for an Effective Compliance Program

  • Appointing individuals to serve as ethics or compliance officers
  • Developing corporate credos and codes of ethics that effectively communicate an organization's ethical standards and expectations to employees.
  • Designing ethics training programs for all employees
  • Designing and implementing monitoring and auditing systems
  • Designing and implementing an effective system of punishments and sanctions. These must be accompanied by investigative procedures that respect employee due process rights.

Textbox 2: Compliance Oriented Codes and Programs Versus Values Oriented Codes and Programs

Compliance Strategy

  1. The initial and still probably the most prevalent method for responding to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines is the compliance strategy. This strategy is based on three interrelated components:
  2. Rules: Compliance strategies are centered around strict codes of ethics composed of rules that set forth minimum thresholds of acceptable behavior. The use of rules to structure employee action does run into problems due to the gap between rule and application, the appearance of novel situations, and the impression that it gives to employees that obedience is based on conformity to authority.
  3. Monitoring: The second component consists of monitoring activities designed to ensure that employees are conforming to rules and to identify instances of non-compliance. Monitoring is certainly effective but it requires that the organiztion expend time, money, and energy. Monitoring also places stress upon employees in that they are aware of constantly being watched. Those under observation tend either to rebel or to automatically adopt behaviors they believe those doing the monitoring want. This considerably dampens creativity, legitimate criticism, and innovation.
  4. Disciplining Misconduct: The last key component to a compliance strategy is punishment. Punishment can be effective especially when establishing and enforcing conduct that remains above the criminal level. But reliance on punishment for control tends to impose solidarity on an organization rather than elicit it. Employees conform because they fear sanction. Organizations based on this fear are never really free to pursue excellence.

Values Orientation

  1. To facilitate comparison, three correlative but different elements to Values-Based or aspirationnal approaches will be identified.
  2. Development of Shared Values: Using a process similar to the one described above, a company develops a Statement of Shared Values. These provide guidelines that replace the hard and fast rules of a compliance code. Statements in values-oriented codes play a different logical function than statements in compliance codes. "Principles of Professional/Organizational Conduct" in compliance codes specify circumstances of compliance: time, agent, place, purpose, manner, etc. These provide sufficient content to set forth principles of professional conduct as rules that can be violated. This, in turn, allows them to be backed by punishment for violation. "Ideals of the Profession” (or organization) set forth a community's shared aspirations. These are pitched at a level well above and beyond the minimum. Communities can and should define themselves as much by their aspirations as by their threshold standards.
  3. Support for Employees: Since Statements of Values set forth excellences or aspirations, the role of the organization changes from monitoring and then punishing misbehavior to finding ways of opening avenues for employees to realize key values in their day to day activity. Excellence is not something to be reached overnight. It requires rethinking basic motivations, attitudes, beliefs, and goals. Companies need to identify obstacles to achieving ideals and then develop support structures to help those who seek to realize ideals. Values-based approaches change from punishing conduct that falls below the minimum to providing collective support to those who strive for the excellent.
  4. Locking in on Continual Improvement: The philosopher, John Dewey, characterizes moral responsibility as the drive to better ourselves. The particular twist in Dewey’s approach is to find ways of folding what has been learned from the past into meeting new challenges that arise in the future. This involves changing habits and, ultimately, changing character. Continual improvement is the ultimate goal of corporations oriented toward excellence. The values these “moral ecologies” identify structure and channel this endeavor. What is needed at this stage is to develop concrete programs and strategies for identifying obstacles to excellence, removing them, and remaining on track for excellence.
  5. To summarize, some companies identify a compliance strategy where they set forth rules that establish minimum levels of acceptable conduct, monitor compliance, and punish non-compliance. Others, value-oriented or aspiration-oriented companies, identify core values or aspirations (by reflecting on community values and finding them embedded in extant codes of ethics), develop programs and structures to support those who strive for these values, and work to lock in a program of continual improvement or betterment.
  6. Something to think about. Compliance approaches work best in what of company, organization or moral ecology. (Think about this in terms of the central or core commitments such as those in finance-, customer-, and quality-driven companies.) Values-based approaches work best in what kind of company, organization or moral ecology? How does one transition from compliance to values-based approaches? How does one integrate the two?

Exercise 1: Evaluating the Pirate Credo

Read the Pirate Credo. Then answer the following questions individually

  • What is good about the Pirate Credo?
  • What is bad about the Pirate Credo?
  • What is the purpose served by the Pirate Credo? For the Pirate Community? For non-members?

Exercise 2: Statement of Value Challenge

  • Is the SOV comprehensive? (For example, can you think of a case that it does not adequately cover? Are there values that it leaves out in the sense that they cannot be subsumed by one or more SOVs?
  • Are the value descriptions clear? For example, if you have confused values on the multiple choice or matching sections of your exams, is this because the descriptions need reworking and clarifying?
  • Last year, an ADEM stakeholder group suggested that values should be paired with one another. For example because integrity is a meta-value it should be paired with other values like trust. Or should trust and responsibility be paired with one another. In this case, should the SOV be expanded to explore the relations between different values?
  • When ADEM stakeholders identified their values in 2005, they prioritized and ranked them. Justice was ranked highest followed by responsibility, respect, trust, and integrity. Should this hierarchy or ranking be changed? For example, last year stakeholders suggested that integrity should be ranked first because it is a meta-value that talks about the relation between other values.

Exercise 3: Developing Corporate Codes of Ethics

  1. Ethics Bowl Corporations. You have been assigned corporations corresponding to two of the six ethics bowl cases. For your presenting corporation, you will be developing a partial code of ethics. For the commenting corporation, you need to familiarize yourself with the moral ecology of the corporation, its needs, and be ready to comment on the code offered by another group.
  2. What kind of moral ecology is predominate in your corporation? Is it financial-, customer-, or quality-driven. Look at how the type of moral ecology structures other organizational activities: allocation of praise and blame, exchange of information, treatment of dissenting opinions, and central of moral concerns. All of these issues need to be addressed directly or indirectly in your code.
  3. What is the ethical challenge that is highlighted in the ethics bowl scenario based on your case. For this information go to the "Ethics Bowl in the Environment of the Organization" module. m21191.
  4. What functions are you addressing in your code outline? Looking above, these would include educate, inspire, create dialogue, discipline, empower, secure and express identity.
  5. Develop within the time available a sketch of a code. This could be a section of a compliance code, a corporate credo, or a statement of values. In choosing your form, think carefully about the function(s) of your code. Have something that you can present, informally, for around 3 to 5 minutes.

Exercise 4: Evaluating Bona Fide Codes of Ethics

Form small work teams of four to five individuals. Carry out the following fours steps and report your results to the rest of the group.

  1. Review a few sample codes per team.
  2. List the values you identify in the codes. Express each value as a word or in as few words as possible.
  3. Identify any recurring values.
  4. Record and post the list of values.

Exercise 5: Do a Statement of Values for Students at Your University

In this third exercise, work with your group to develop a refined list of five to seven values. You can refine your list by integrating or synthesizing values, grouping specific values under more general ones, and integrating values into others as parts. Do your best to make your list comprehensive and representative.

  1. Brainstorm: list the values for your group. Keep in mind that values are multi-dimensional. For example, in the academic context, the values will break down into dimensions corresponding to stakeholder: faculty, students, administration, and other academic stakeholders.
  2. Refine: reduce your list to a manageable size (5-7). Do this by rewording, synthesizing, combining, and eliminating.
  3. Post: share your list with the entire group.
  4. Revise: make any last minute changes.
  5. Combine: a moderator will organize the lists into a ballot
  6. Vote: Each person ranks the top five values

Exercise 6--Conveying Our Values: Crafting a Values-Based Code

Each value in your Statement of Values needs to be accompanied by a Value Profile. Give a description of the value in everyday, non-technical terms. Think concretely. For example, those who exemplify your value behave in a certain fashion, exhibit certain commitments, pursue certain projects, and show certain attitudes and emotions. Try to think of general guidelines to keep in mind when working to realize your value. Finally, values challenge us because portray our aspirations. Think of specific ways values challenge us. For example, students may set for themselves the challenge of working responsibly in teams. They can further spell out what kinds of actions and attitudes this might require. Faculty members might set for themselves the challenge of grading more fairly. This could require actions like developing rubrics and refining exams to make them clearer. The purpose of this fourth exercise is to provide content to your statement of values and begin its implementation in your community. The following steps ennumerated below will help.

  1. Value: Responsibility
  2. Description: a responsible person is a person who...
  3. Principle: The faculty, students, and staff of the college of business Administration will...
  4. Commitments: Keep office hours, do your fair share in work teams, divide work into clear and coordinated tasks, tec.

Exercise 7: Creating Awareness of the UPRM College of Business Administration Statement of Values

This exercise provides you an opportunity to study and discuss the UPRM College of Business Administration Statement of Values (available via the PREREQUISITE LINKS). Your task consists of the following tasks:

  • Read the entire UPRM CBA Statement of Values (individually)
  • Discuss the particular section/value assigned to your group and briefly describe what commitments or challenges does this value present for the students, faculty and/or staff of the CBA
  • List the most important commitments or challenges as precise and concise principles

Exercise 8: Assessing the UPRM College of Business Administration Statement of Values

This exercise offers four scenarios in academic integrity. Your job is to discuss each scenario in terms of the values listed in the UPRM College of Business Administration Statement of Values (available via the PREREQUISITE LINKS).

Marta Acevedo, a business administration student, has a report due tomorrow. She has been overwhelmed for the last few weeks with assignments from other classes and doesn't really have time to complete this exercise. She discovers that her roommate took this same class the previous semester and has a complete report on disk. She considers using her roommate's report. Should she? What would you do if you were her?

  • Is Marta threatening any of the values listed in the ADEM SOV? Which ones?
  • What can be done prevent this kind of problem from arising in the first place? Should Marta have planned her course load better when registering? Can teachers coordinate to prevent overloading students with the same deadlines? Whose fault is this? The students? The teachers? The system?
  • Can this problem be posed as a conflict between ADEM values and other values held by students and teachers? If so, what are values that are in conflict? How can these conflicts be addressed?
  • Do you think the ADEM SOV adequately addresses this problem? If not, how can it be improved?

You are head of your department. A recent study has revealed that plagiarism, which is a university-wide problem, is especially bad in your department. Imagine your relief when a member of your faculty brings you his latest software project, a super-effective and comprehensive anti-plagiarism software program. This program does everything. It detects subtle changes in style in student papers. Its new search engine quickly connects to existing online paper data bases, greatly expanding the ability of a professor to detect the sources from which their students have copied. Furthermore, it allows professors to upload papers and projects from past semesters and provides fast and flexible indexing to help them identify recycled student work. Professors can zero in on students using recycled papers, and the former students who have become their suppliers. Following the recent lead of Ohio State University, you can now revoke the degrees of past students who participate in this version of academic dishonesty. In short, this new and exciting software package allows you to monitor the work of present and past students to a degree thought impossible even in the recent past. “Plagiarism,” your colleague tells you, “will now become a thing of the past.”

  • Does this anti-plagiarism program threaten any of the values in the ADEM SOV? If so, which values?
  • Is the department chairperson treating students disrespectfully by adopting and implementing the anti-plagiarism software? Can faculty treat students disrespectfully as "justifiable" retaliation for student cheating and plagiaring? Do two wrongs make a right?
  • What is the cause of plagiarism? Do students do it out of ignorance of standards and practices of documentation and achnowledgment? Do they do it because they procrastinate until they do not have time to do the assignment properly? Do students resort to plagiarism because they have too many conflicting obligations such as family, job, large course loads, etc.?

You teach an advanced course in Engineering Economics that has both graduate and undergraduate students. At the end of the semester the students turn in a group project that comprises 40% of their grade. One of the groups complains to you that only 4 out of the 5 members have done any work. The fifth student, the one who allegedly has done no work, is an undergraduate. The others are graduate students. You talk with the undergraduate who claimed that she tried to involve herself in the group activities but was excluded because she was an undergraduate. What should you do?

  • ADEM faculty have identified students not working together effectively in groups as a major concern. Do you find this a problem? What do you think are the causes of students not participating effectively in work groups?
  • Assume that the teacher in this case is committed to implementing the ADEM SOV. Which values are at play in this case? Design an action for the teacher that realizes these values?
  • Assume you are a member of this student work group. What can groups do to ensure that every member is able to participate fully? What do group members do to exclude individuals from participating?

You are studying frantically for your exam in a computer engineering course. It will be very difficult. But your roommate, who is also taking the course and has the exam tomorrow, seems unconcerned. When you ask why, he tells you that he has a copy of the exam. Apparently, a group of students in the class found out how to hack into the professor’s computer and download the exam. (They installed a Trojan horse called Sub-Seven into the professor’s computer which allows unauthorized access; then they searched through the professor’s files, found the exam and downloaded it.) Your roommate has the exam in his hand and asks you if you would like to look at it. What should you do?

  • A group of students in a computer ethics class created a survey that asked students if they would avail themselves of exams obtained through means such as that described in the scenario above. Sixty percent of the respondents said that they would. Compare this to the value commitments expressed in the ADEM SOV? Is there a gap between aspiration and behavior? What can be done to reduce this gap?
  • Suppose you took the exam. Would this have any long term effects on your character? Would acting dishonestly this time make it easier to do so in the future?
  • Suppose you wish to uphold standards of academic integrity in this case and not take the exam. Should you turn your roommate in to the teacher? Would keeping this exam theft a secret undermine any of the UPRM ADEM values? If so, which ones?

You have now discussed some or all of the above cases in terms of the ADEM Statement of Values. What do you think are the strengths of this document? What are its weaknesses? Do you recommend any changes? What are these?

Sources for Cases

  • Case 1 has been developed by William Frey, Chuck Huff, and José Cruz for their book, Good Computing: A Virtue Approach to Computer Ethics. This book is currently in draft stage and is under contract with Jones and Bartlett Publishing Company.
  • Cases 2 and 3 were developed by UPRM faculty teams from the College of Engineering during workshops held for the ABET 2001 Steering Committee and the Department of Industrial Engineering. These workshops took place April 6, 2001 and May 14, 2001.
  • Case 4 has been modified from “The Plagiarism Detector” written by Moshe Kam. It can be found at the beginning of the ethics chapter in Practical Engineering Design, edited by Maja Bystrom and Bruce Eisenstein. Moshe Kam. “The Plagiarism Detector”, in Practical Engineering Design, edited by Maja Bystrom and Bruce Eisenstein. Boca Raton, FLA: CFC Press, 2005: 27-28.

Assessment Tools

Figure 1: This table will help you document your class discussion of the ADEM Statement of Values.
Ethics Across the Curriculum Matrix
Media File: EACMatrix_Template_ADEM_Feb_17.doc
Figure 2: Clicking on this media file will open a word format for the Muddiest Point Exercise. Students are invited to discuss the strongest and weakest facets of the ADEM Statement of Values.
Muddy Point Exercise
Media File: MP.doc
Figure 3: Clicking on this media file will open a general module assessment form taken from Michael Davis' IIT EAC workshop. This form will help you assess the SOV activity as well as other EAC modules.
Module Assessment Form
Media File: MAP.doc

This presentation is composed of slides previously given before the AACSB, ADEM faculty at UPRM, and material published by the authors in Technology and Society Magazine. (See bibliography below)

Media File: SOV_Development.pptx

Bibliography

  1. Lynn Sharp Paine (1994) "Managing for Organizational Integrity," in Harvard business review, March-April: 106-117
  2. Gary R. Weaver and Linda Klebe Trevino (1999) "Compliance and Values Oriented Ethics Programs: Influences on Employees' Attitudes and Behavior," in Business Ethics Ethics Quarterly 9(2): 315-335
  3. Stuart C. Gilman (2003) "Government Ethics: If Only Angels Were to Govern," in Professioinal Ethics, edited by Neil R. Luebke in Ph Kappa Phi Forum, Spring 2003: 29-33.
  4. Stephen H. Unger (1994) Controlling Technology: Ethics and the Responsible Engineer, 2nd Edition. New York: John Wiley and Sons: 106-135.
  5. "Federal Sentencing Guidelines--Sentencing of Organizations," in Ethical Theory and Business, 5th Edition, edited by Tom L Beauchamp and Norman E. Bowie, New Jersey: Prentice Hall: 182-187. This article was reprinted with permission from The United States Law Week, Vol. 50 pp. 4226-29 (March 26, 1991) (Bureau of National Afairs, Inc.

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