Blog Post 2- Ethical Gray Areas & The Need for Perfection

I was excited about this week’s topic, as I am currently enrolled in GRAD 5014: Academic Integrity and Plagiarism. This class (which I highly recommend!) has given me what I like to consider a crash course in ethics, particularly navigating the “gray areas” that can appear in scholarship fields. Phrases like “academic bullying” were not familiar to me, and I felt like the class really has opened my eyes to the work of academic integrity as it pertains to GTA’s, students, and faculty.

The National Association of Communication released a code of ethics in 1999 that I feel outlines expectations clearly. It can be found here, and some of my favorite highlights are the emphasis on ethical teaching, the importance of integrity in research and publications, and the development of professional relationships within and outside of the field.

Ethics can feel like a confusing area for those who have not studied the terminology- take academic bullying, for example. I have a friend in another department who has told me that on multiple occasions, her superior has required her to stay late for work without compensation, since it is “for a grade”. She feels such pressure to do whatever she is told for fear that her grade will be affected or her supervisor will spread rumors about how she is “a bad student”, or “lazy”. Until I had the words for it, I just considered this to be weird behavior from another department that left a bad taste in my mouth- however after learning about academic bullying, I had a conversation with her about what her rights as a student and as a student employee were. I feel like this should be outlined clearly not only to students (we discussed it a bit in GTA training), but also to faculty! Some may feel like that’s just the way it is, because that’s how their own experience was. However, students should NEVER be made to feel that they have to do something they are uncomfortable with for fear of being reprimanded academically or gossiped about by superiors. Faculty needs to promote ethical behavior, scholarly integrity, and professional standards by educating themselves, educating their students, and upholding those standards even when it’s difficult or easier to look the other way.

(Found on the VT website) 

When I visited the ORI website (which I’m embarrassed to admit was my first time!), I was intrigued to find some updates on an educational project they launched in 2017. In addition to the various written cases of academic misconduct, they have developed Video Case Studies that give the viewer a more personal experience in the world of research integrity. I found this so interesting because in the Academic Integrity class, one of our most recent assignments included an interactive case study in which you could actually choose the next action to take and watch the resulting fallout. For example, I decided to play the “game” as the ORI officer at the fictional university, and was surprised when a decision I made about halfway through the game led to a huge roadblock! It really helped me see how important the ORI officer’s job is, as well as educating myself on proper policies and smart ways to talk about suspicions of research misconduct. All in all, I think this is a great resource that the ORI website provides, and I feel it would be really helpful in future trainings.

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