Coming Home: Ethics and the American University by James F. Keenan, SJ

In his article, Dr. Keenan makes the distinct difference between academic ethics and what he coins as university ethics.  He says that university typically look at academic ethics as an examination of behavior by faculty members such as inappropriate relationships with students, plagiarism and cheating. University ethics, on the other hand looks at the standards of ethics as they pertain to out of the classroom issues such as student affairs, athletics, tuition, residential life and all other functional areas of the institution.

Keenan asserts that” isolationism and the attendant lack of solidarity dulls our sensitivity to matters that should be critiquing.” He sites that  faculty work alone, teach alone and write alone to support his notion of isolationism.

As Dr. Keenan points out, there have been numerous articles that show how truly “unethical” the university is. This can been seen in regards to numerous sex scandals, hazing in band and fraternal organization initiations and the misappropriation of funds.  These are all examples of “systemic failures” because universities do not hold their its employees to professional ethical standards.”These failures can be seen both the American higher education system and abroad.

Dr. Keenan asserts that faculty members are not trained on behaving ethically when it comes to grading papers, maintaining office hours and other behaviors that occur in solitude and behind closed doors.  Because there are very few “structures of horizontal accountability” faculty members only pay attention to what pertains to them and not what others are doing.  Additionally, because academic administrators come from the faculty, they have no more expertise or proficiency in ethics than the faculty members that report to them.

The author believes that we should move away from the concern of academic ethics and towards university ethics because that is the only way to adequately address the former.


2 thoughts on “Coming Home: Ethics and the American University by James F. Keenan, SJ”

  1. Hello Tamara,
    Your post made me think that there are some many aspects of our lives that deal with ethics and we are not fully aware of it. As you mention, even when it comes to office hours and grading, we still have to be prepared to face ethical dilemmas. As I suggested in a previous post, the training/preparation of faculty and students in terms of ethics should ensure that even the simplest scenarios are presented and described. I believe that sometimes people behave unethically because they simply do not know…

  2. I think the matter of holding the university employers to “Professional ethical standards” will always be a matter of debate. How can anyone do that? In universities or in any work place. At the end you will need to depend on people’s integrity that they will be ethical and honorable.
    Also, it’s so hard to divide university ethics and academic ethics. They are a lot intertwined. Are not the professors in the classrooms are the pool the university administration usually come from? At the end, they will be the ones most probably deciding the university’s policies. I think we should focus on both in parallel. May be training is really our best option.

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