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Ethics in the College Setting

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When it comes to career ethics, it is a very sticky business, especially in a world where individual preferences, constantly conflicting personal values, and—dare I say it—a craving for money run rampant. Quite often, these overlap, creating some uncomfortable and avoidable circumstances.

Ethics denote how we deal with issues that challenge or own personal sense of what is honest and true. Because each person’s perspective is different than any other, conflicts arise. How well-educated one is in the area of ethics, determines how strong and steadfast s/he is when relating to other in both social and career-oriented arenas.

Sometimes, however, it isn’t a matter of honesty (or dishonesty, as the case may be), but of each person’s perspective in a given situation. One person’s greed for money, for example, is another’s need for survival. Whether or not either or both should be considered justified is up for continuous debate.

Ethics in the college environment usually revolve around day-to-day issues, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Classroom issues include: favoritism in the classroom; teacher/students relationships; cheating; and [un]fairly assigned and graded work.

Take for example the scenario where student A sees student B cheating on an exam. Should s/he report it or mind her/his business? Does witnessing the encounter make student A guilty of the act if s/he wished to remain uninvolved? After all, student A isn’t involved, so is this her/his business? Further, no one knows that student A saw the act, so if student A keeps quiet and student B is found out, no one will ever know that student B knew and didn’t say anything. Would that get student A off the hook, especially since student B got her/his just-deserts?

Then there are matters outside of the classroom, where the decision to act or not act could have serious repercussions. This may involve such things as seeing students vandalizing university property, missing out on a work shift at an on-campus cafeteria to take a test (one that can’t be rescheduled) even though a substitute was not found to fill the shift, witnessing a student lying nude on a lounge chair on a dorm balcony, and student protests, such as the kind that stops traffic.

How does one handle her- or himself appropriate when ethics comes into play within the college setting, whether it is in the classroom or out?

This is why some universities are instilling a greater number of Ethics classes in their curriculum, especially as requirements. Is this justified? Is this necessary? What kind of effects will it have over student behavior and decision-making when in school and beyond? These classes will certainly bring up some very important issues for discussion and allow students to explore various options, including numerous systems of values and beliefs, as well as to challenge their own respective ways of thinking about certain questionable issues.

Not only that, but these resulting effects will definitely shape the students for the real world and conducting themselves more effectively and professionally when they are in their job settings.

The question is: Will it be enough?


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