The university may be seen as the evolving network of ethical systems that govern teaching, research and administration, changing and adding new rules progressively to a body of regulations covering issues of cheating, human subject research, academic integrity, research on animals, environmental ethics, and the ethics of sexual harassment. These interconnected systems of ethics did not emerge altogether in one rational process but reflected the ongoing historical and dynamic development of law and ethics in relation to the creation of new values.
A recent collection entitled Creating the Ethical Academy (Gallant, 2010) focuses on cheating, bending admission rules, fudging research, and plagiarism, arguing that if we allow a corrupt academy what hope is there for society. The collection focuses on two questions: Why does academic corruption occur and what should we do about it? Gallant adopts a systems view suggesting that corruption should be seen as part of a holistic approach rather than individual dysfunction. Similar approaches and questions have been raised in other kinds of learning institutions at secondary school level. New technologies have made ‘cutting’ and ‘pasting’ easy and the Internet has exploded with problems based around student and faculty plagiarism and issues springing from the ‘paradigm of the copy.’ Quite recently other field of ethics have sprung up on academic integrity (Bretag, 2016), originally based on the southern honour code (duty, pride, power, and self-esteem) in the eighteenth century, evolving into a more contemporary concept that distinguishes between students and faculty, focusing respectively on cheating and publishing ethics. The contemporary concept, challenged by technological disruption of academic writing, began to pick up steam in the 1990s with the work of McCabe (1992, 1993) on cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty.
Research ethics, while somewhat more established, has also undergone changes with a greater emphasis on institutional indemnity. Universities now have a code of ethical conduct for research, teaching and evaluations involving human participants focused on ‘risk of harm’ to research participants, voluntary consent and ownership of information. Recently, these codes have banished all forms of ‘deception,’ questioned the ethics of control group methodology, laid down strict rules for privacy and confidentiality, and added concerns about social and cultural sensitivity. In the early twentieth century there were no regulations regarding the ethical use of human subjects in research. The Nuremberg Code established in 1948, stated that the voluntary consent of the human subject is absolutely essential and it was only recently in the 1970s (Hedgecoe, 2009) that universities began to pay systematic attention to the protection of human subjects based around respect for persons (informed consent), beneficence (assessment of risks and benefits), and justice (fair procedures and outcomes).
Many universities now have statements on academic integrity for students and staff, outlining procedures concerning the discipline committee and hearings, and also courses. The Journal of Academic Ethics began in 2003 and The International Journal of Educational Integrity was established in 2005. Invariably the ‘ethics’ involved is elaborated from the point of the institution against the individual who is judged against university codes and policies. Rarely is there an ethics that also turns its attention to focus on the institution itself. Some authors, however, do turn the ethical gaze on the neoliberal university to talk of a ‘moral loss’ that substitutes management for ethics and advocates the discourse of moral reconstruction (e.g., Bone, 2012; Brady, 2012). This special issue focuses on new conceptions of the ethical academy and their critique. We are particularly interested in the critique of systems of ethics that carry a hidden institutional bias but we are also prepared to consider papers on any aspect of the theme of the historical development of ethical systems in the university.
Brady, N. (2012) Oxford Review of Education, Vol. 38, No. 3, June 2012, pp. 343–355.
Bone, J. (2012) The Deregulation Ethic and the Conscience of Capitalism: How the Neoliberal ‘Free Market’ Model Undermines Rationality and Moral Conduct, Globalizations,
October 2012, Vol. 9, No. 5, pp. 651–665.
Bretag, T. (Ed.), Handbook of Academic Integrity. Singapore: Springer Singapore.
Gallant, T. B. (2011) (Eds.) Creating the Ethical Academy: A Systems Approach to Understanding Misconduct and Empowering Change in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
Hedgecoe, A. (2009) “A Form of Practical Machinery”: The Origins of Research Ethics Committees in the UK, 1967–1972, Med Hist.,Jul; 53(3): 331–350.
McCabe, D. (1992). The influence of situational ethics on cheating among college students. Sociological Inquiry, 62(3), 365-374.
McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1993). Academic dishonesty: Honor codes and other contextual influences. The Journal of Higher Education, 64(5), 522-538.
Willinsky, J. & Alperin, J. P. (2011). The academic ethics of open access to research and scholarship, Ethics and Education, 6(3)
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