The seven ‘deadly sins’
An education law expert explained what they are and how to avoid them.
Ethics is about resisting temptation and then understanding why you’re doing so, higher education law expert Ann Franke, JD, of Wise Results, LLC, told
participants at APA’s 2013 Education Leadership Conference.
Franke provided an overview of common ethical issues
within academia, using the seven deadly sins as a framework:
• Sloth. One example of sloth is plagiarism. “In this Internet
culture, cut and paste is so easy,” said Franke. “And attributing
sources is something students don’t quite get so very often.”
Faculty must think about how to define plagiarism, model ethical
values for students and respond to violations of those values.
• Gluttony. While alcohol and substance abuse issues among
students receive much attention, less attention is paid to such
problems among faculty, said Franke. Psychologists are well-placed
to become resources for addressing this issue, she said, inviting
participants to initiate frank discussions in their institutions.
• Lust. Most universities now have policies forbidding romantic
relationships between faculty and students, either altogether
or when there’s a supervisory relationship. “Nonetheless,” said
Franke, “this deadly sin is still very much with us.”
• Greed. Academia sees plenty of financial greed, whether
it’s conflict of interest in research or outright embezzlement.
But greed also takes the form of research fraud. With pressures
to publish or perish, Franke said, “people are greedy for
publications and the prestige that goes along with spectacular
research results” and may be tempted to fake results.
• Pride. Franke cited a long list of academics falsely claiming
such credentials as doctorates, Rhodes scholarships and Navy
SEAL status. “Check those credentials,” she urged. “This is
not something to take on good faith because there are people
without good faith out there in the world.”
• Envy. One particularly sticky issue is denial of tenure,
which Franke said often comes down to junior faculty claiming
in court that senior faculty are simply jealous of their greater
productivity. Consistent feedback before junior faculty come
up for tenure is one way to avoid such problems. It borders on
unethical to string junior faculty along, then deny them the
tenure they’ve been expecting, she said.
• Wrath. Whistle-blowers often face adverse consequences,
said Franke. “It happens more times than I care to recount,” she
said, citing cases of universities retaliating by firing individuals.
Fortunately, said Franke, “juries really understand payback and
revenge” and often award large settlements.
When you spot one of these or other ethical infractions, try
a “bystander intervention” by informally engaging the person,
Franke suggested. If that doesn’t work, turn to formal processes,
such as ethics or fraud hotlines or grievance procedures.
— REBECCA A. CLAY