After searching the Virginia Tech Department of English website, I couldn’t find a code of ethics for our discipline. The website does link to the graduate handbook, which I’m sure has a section on academic integrity. Since I couldn’t find anything specific on our site, I decided to look to the Modern Language Association (MLA), a giant association that caters to the humanities. They’re kind of really important. The MLA offers a Statement of Professional Ethics that would definitely apply to students, GTAs, and faculty in Virginia Tech’s English Department.
This statement has sections entitled “Preamble,” “Ethical Conduct in Teaching and Learning,” “Ethical Conduct in Service and Leadership,” and “Conclusion” (MLA). The following section is taken from the Preamble, which I believe encapsulates the rest of the document:
“As a community valuing free inquiry, we must be able to rely on the integrity and the good judgment of our members. For this reason, we should not:
- exploit or discriminate against others on grounds such as race, ethnicity, national origin, religious creed, age, gender, sexual preference, or disability
- sexually harass students, colleagues, or staff members
- use language that is prejudicial or gratuitously derogatory
- make capricious or arbitrary decisions affecting working conditions, professional status, or academic freedom
- misuse confidential information
- plagiarize the work of others
- practice deceit or fraud on the academic community or the public” (MLA)
I think these points contribute to the overall idea that we as students, teachers, and faculty should treat one another with respect—no exceptions. We should learn, research, and teach with a belief in fairness and integrity. If we live according to the values of fairness and integrity, the way we treat someone, the way we write and research, and the way we teach will create a healthy and fruitful environment. Later on, in the section dealing specifically with teaching and learning, the MLA sets guidelines for how faculty members should act toward their graduate students in particular, stating that they should not take advantage of the students’ being there to work as well as learn and that faculty should be willing to help guide the students when it comes time for them to go out into the career field. It think this is a great addition because it serves to foster the mentor relationship between student and teacher as well as make suggestions that would foster a community within the department itself. I think that the MLA code of ethics works for every department in every school, which suggests that the basis of good ethics should be the same at every institution.
The Modern Language Association (MLA). “Statement of Professional Ethics.” MLA. 1991. link. Accessed 28 February 2017.