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Professional Conduct

Karl Hostetler, in The Art and Politics of College Teaching, says, “Many of the most important questions that you must face as a professor are ethical questions. At root, college teaching is an ethical enterprise” (2001, p. 323). At Illinois, the Student Code is published each August and is available online at http://admin.illinois.edu/policy/code/. The Code provides these basic guidelines for those acting on behalf of the University:

Integrity by maintaining an ongoing dedication to honesty and responsibility.

Trustworthiness by acting in a reliable and dependable manner.

Evenhandedness by treating others with impartiality.

Respect by treating others with civility and decency.

Stewardship by exercising custodial responsibility for University property and resources.

Compliance by following state and federal laws and regulations and University policies related to their duties and responsibilities.

Confidentiality by protecting the integrity and security of University information such as student records, employee files, patient records, and contract negotiation documents.

In The Ethics of Teaching: A Case Book, Keith-Spiegel, Whitley, Balogh, Perkins and Wittig (2002) apply general ethical principles to academia. The eight points presented below are adapted from their text. These apply when interacting with students, staff, or peers.

Respecting the autonomy of others

  • Allowing others to choose their own ways in life when it does not interfere with the rights and welfare of others
  • Valuing free expression of ideas
  • Reacting to ideas in appropriate, nonviolent ways
  • Encouraging an appropriate level of student discovery as opposed to indoctrination
  • Creating an environment conducive to learning

Doing no physical or emotional harm from acts of commission or omission

  • Relating to students and colleagues in non-exploitive ways
  • Seeking consultation when ethical or personal problems may hinder judgment
  • Seeking to eliminate bias and injurious effects of bias in our work
  • Refusing to tolerate unethical behavior in others

Benefiting others

  • Contributing to student welfare and development
  • Maintaining our own competence
  • Being a dependable teacher, advisor and role model
  • Establishing and keeping office hours

Fairness and equity

  • Treating others as we would like to be treated
  • Evaluating others fairly
  • Following privacy laws such as FERPA (See the Registrar's Information on FERPA)

Fidelity and honesty

  • Keeping promises, being truthful and loyal
  • Identifying our opinions as opinions
  • Displaying openness in dealing with students
  • Utilizing informed consent when applicable
  • Following copyright laws


  • Treating others with dignity
  • Avoiding arrogance and inappropriate displays of emotion
  • Respecting diversity
  • Not talking about or criticizing other faculty or students
  • Avoiding teasing or making fun of students in a way which could be interpreted as a put-down


  • Accomplishing duties with care
  • Extending appropriate compassion to others
  • Doing your best
  • Pursuing excellence
  • Taking pride in your work
  • Spending adequate time preparing and grading assignments


  • Hostetler, K. (2001). The art and practice of college teaching: A practical guide for the beginning professor. New York: Peter Lang
  • Keith-Spiegel, P., Whitley, B. E., Jr., Balogh, G., Ware, D., Perkins, D. V., & Wittig, A.F. (2002). The Ethics of teaching: A case book. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  • Sawyer, R. M., Prichard, K. W., & Hostetler, K. D. (1992). The art of politics of college teaching: A practical guide for the beginning professor. New York: Peter Lang