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J Acad Ethics (2008) 6:1732 DOI 10.


Value Dissonance and Ethics Failure in Academia: A Causal Connection?

John G. Bruhn

Published online: 27 February 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008

Abstract Ethics failure in academia is not new, yet its prevalence, causes, and methods to prevent it remain a matter of debate. The author s premise is that value dissonance underlies most of the reasons ethics failure occurs. Vignettes are used to illustrate value dissonance at the individual and institutional levels. Suggestions are offered for ways academic institutions can assume greater responsibility as a moral agency to prevent the occurrence of ethics failure. Keywords Ethics . Ethics in academia . Ethics failure . Value dissonance

Always do right this will gratify some and astonish the rest. Mark Twain (from message to Young Peoples Society of Greenpoint Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, New York, February 16, 1901).

Introduction Ethics is a part of the mission and culture of colleges and universities. It is here that ethics is taught, researched, modeled, and observed (Klein 2007). It is in this environment that many students first learn about, and test, the realities of citizenship and its moral boundaries. However, there is evidence that unethical and unprofessional behavior is increasing in academic institutions. This evidence is based on different levels of data including reported incidents of fraud, surveys in which faculty respondents have admitted
J. G. Bruhn Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA J. G. Bruhn (*) 8864 East Surrey Avenue, Scottsdale, AZ 85260-7613, USA e-mail:

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to engaging in unethical behaviors, and faculty perceptions of, and experiences with, the scholarly, research, and administrative behavior of their colleagues. Scholars of ethics, and federal and professional groups overseeing academic integrity, believe that instances of academic misconduct have reached an all-time high since it has been more carefully monitored over the last decade (Langlais 2006). Yet, there are others in academia who believe that the data are soft, the rates low compared to other social institutions and professions, and that the concern, therefore, is unnecessarily alarmist. The types and causes of ethical misconduct have been topics of wide-ranging discussion. We are continuously learning about the common types of ethics failure in universities and colleges, their level of seriousness, and causes (Kelley and Chang 2007; Bruhn 2002; Bruhn et al. 2002). The purpose of the present paper is to explore what the author considers to be a common cause of ethics failure, namely value dissonance, and how it might be minimized and prevented.

Literature Review Misconduct in Teaching Braxton and Mann (2004) studied faculty misconduct in undergraduate teaching. They reported that 19.6% of 4,200 undergraduates at 14 US colleges and universities said that they had instructors who had not planned their teaching properly, 5% of the respondents said that they had teachers who showed favoritism in grading, 5% had professors who showed condescending negativism toward students, and 1.8% experienced breaches of norms against moral turpitude. Faculty in Canadian business schools rated the extent to which they regarded each of 55 behaviors as ethical or unethical in undergraduate instruction. The only behavior that was endorsed as unequivocally unethical was becoming sexually involved with an undergraduate in one of your classes. When the results were compared to an American sample the general finding was that Canadian professors viewed more of the behaviors in question as less ethical than did their American counterparts (Robie and Keeping 2004). Misconduct in Scholarship and Research Of 3,247 early and mid-career researchers who responded to an anonymous survey funded by the National Institutes of Health, less than 1.5% admitted to data falsification or plagiarism, but 15.5% said that they had changed the design, methodology, or results of a study in response to pressure from a funding source; 12.5% admitted to overlooking others use of flawed data, and 7.6% said that they had circumvented minor aspects of requirements regarding the use of human subjects (Wadman 2005). Recently the scientific community and the public were greatly alarmed over the fabrication of data related to the creation of cloned human stem cells by Korean researchers (Chong and Normile 2006). In the past 5 years other examples of data fabrication (Kintisch 2005; Chang 2002), insufficient protection of human subjects (Evans et al. 2005), fraudulent use of government research grants (Wysocki 2005), conflicts of interest (Meier 2005), and purposeful misinterpretation of research findings (Wade 2002) have come to the publics attention. Data were collected from 1,645 of 5,302 (31%) surveys sent to members of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals and to subscribers of Research Practitioner regarding their perceptions of and experiences with scientific misconduct. First-hand

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experience with an incident of misconduct was reported by 18% of the respondents. Those with first-hand knowledge of misconduct were more likely to work in an academic medical setting and said that they would do nothing if they were aware of an incident of misconduct (Pryor et al. 2007). In another survey of students and faculty members of the American Physical Society, 10% of the department chairs responding reported ethical violations in their department in the past decade. Among junior faculty, 39% said that as a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow they had observed or had personal knowledge of ethical violations (Tretkoff 2004). Misconduct without Consequences and Normal Misbehavior A national survey on ethics was carried out among 2,500 randomly selected full-time faculty at colleges and universities in the USA (Knight and Auster 1999). Among the faculty respondents, 52% stated that they had complained to an administrator about the conduct of a colleague. Complainants were usually male faculty in senior ranks. In 61% of the cases the faculty said that the administration listened, but took no action. The legal quagmire, strain, and the bad press of misconduct investigations leave many university administrators tempted to ignore misconduct allegations (Brumfiel 2007). Martinson et al. (2005) found a range of questionable research practices in a large, representative sample of early and mid-career scientists. The authors concluded that mundane misbehavior presented a greater threat to science than high profile misconduct cases such as fraud. These researchers pursued their survey findings by conducting discussions on ethics in six focus groups comprised of 51 scientists at three major research universities (De Vries et al. 2006). A certain amount of normal misbehavior appeared to be common in science which the authors said allowed scientists to deal with uncertainties about proper conduct, pointed out the pinch points of science, and demonstrated the need for ethicists to take seriously both the extraordinary and ordinary conduct of researchers.

The Prevalence of Ethics Failure The total prevalence of student and faculty ethics failure in colleges and universities is unknown because integrity is defined and experienced differently and violations of integrity that are less newsworthy are only shared on ones home turf. The meaning and interpretation of what constitutes unethical behavior varies by institution, by situation, and by the actors involved. Ultimately each institution establishes its own baseline for integrity. Braxton and Bayer (2003) carried out an extensive, in depth study of the normative structure in different types of institutions of higher learning. With the exception of norms surrounding moral turpitude and an authoritarian classroom they found that the strength of moral boundaries varied greatly across different types of universities and academic disciplines. How often does ethics failure occur? There is no consensus, although science historian Nicholas Steneck of the University of Michigan has drawn up a series of estimates. At the low end is an estimate of one fraud per 100,000 scientists per year. At the high end Steneck reports that one in 100 researchers consistently report in surveys that they know about an incident of misconduct (Eliot 2000). Some federal government agencies and university and college boards believe that US faculty have not, on their own initiative, adequately maintained standards of professionalism,


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and some boards and governmental agencies have acted to reduce professional autonomy and increase accountability for individual faculty and faculty as a group (Hamilton 2007). There is concern about the integrity ethos in academia, its practice and enforcement (Whitley and Keith-Spiegel 2001).

Norms in Academia Feldman (1984) suggested that group norms are enforced if they promote the survival of the group, if they assist in avoiding embarrassing interpersonal problems, and if they symbolize the central values of the group and clarify the groups identity. The social significance of norms lies in the degree of moral outrage or indignation proscribed behaviors evoke when violated (Braxton and Bayer 2003). The violation of work rules (for example, not showing up for class) is more likely to trigger consequences from colleagues than the violation of norms of conduct, which elicit varied responses (open criticism, indifference, unwillingness to confront). The boundaries of what constitutes acceptable behavior to the collective conscience of the faculty may be quite broad, even if some behavior is not in the best interests of the institution, in order to protect faculty autonomy and protect against personal retribution. Roworth (2002), Chair of the American Association of University Professor s Committee on Professional Ethics said, Most of us dont give much thought to professional ethics as we carry out our day to day duties as teachers, researchers, committee members, and advisors. We may read about a case of plagiarism or hear about scientific fraud at another university, but such serious violations seem to be rare or distant from our daily routines. Faculty who have no problem expressing views on teaching strategies, research methods, or university politics, hesitate to question a colleagues conduct in the classroom, the space in which each professor reigns supreme (pp. 2425). Codes of Ethics: Norms of Conduct Codes of ethics are espoused and published, but unwritten ones are practiced, especially when some unethical behaviors occur and have few, if any, consequences. Clouthier (2005) observed that although formal guidelines exist for misconduct investigations in universities, there are no checks and balances, or even public scrutiny, to ensure that the institution behaves appropriately (p. 430). Although many professional organizations have adopted formal codes of ethics (e.g. American Medical Association) the academic profession has not (Felicio and Plenladz 1999). Umbrella organizations like the American Council on Education and the American Association of Colleges and Universities have no ethics code for the profession (Hamilton 2002). The responsibility for maintaining high standards of moral conduct and the power to investigate and sanction those who violate those standards remains largely an individual, internal, institutional process (Wilcox and Ebbs 1992; Braxton 1999). Ethics courses, ethics centers, ethics conferences and workshops, best practices, and written codes of ethics at colleges and universities have proliferated over the past decade, largely spurred by public reactions to the increased ethics failures of boards and leaders of corporations and businesses. However, as De Vries et al. (2006) pointed out, it is the less visible and more common ethical breaches that are most worrisome; the more egregious, newsworthy violators are usually caught and punished.

Value dissonance and ethics failure in academia


Definitions Ethics Failure We have used the term ethics failure to convey our belief that misconduct has repercussions beyond individual acts to more broadly embrace violations of the tenets of professionalism, citizenship, and the character model of the academician (Corlett 2005; Bruhn et al. 2002). Ethics failure can be defined as any act that results in harm to others. One element essential to ethics failure is intentionality; the harmful act must be done willfully. Ethics failure depends upon some degree of malice or negligence on the part of mentally competent actors (Zajac 1996). Most of what we know about ethics failure is from post hoc cases. Some cases of ethics failure are idiosyncratic to institutions, personalities, or circumstances, but some types of ethics failure are not uncommon in academia. Several examples include being late for class, using vulgarity, showing favoritism toward students, inappropriately using campus resources, plagiarizing, engaging in dual relationships with students, failing to uphold administrative duties, and refusing to uphold responsibilities of teaching and research (De Russy 2003). Other persistent forms of ethics failure include sexism (Hart 2003), sexual harassment (Paludi 1996), and racism (Lewis et al. 2000). Some of these types of ethics failure are more common than others; some are solitary actions, while still others are patterns of behavior. Value Dissonance Value dissonance is a distressing mental state in which people find themselves doing things that they do not highly value, or having opinions that do not fit institutional norms or fit with the opinions of those who monitor and enforce them. The tension of dissonance motivates individuals to either change their values and opinions, or leave the institution, in an effort to avoid dissonance. The more important the issue and the greater the discrepancy in values and opinions, the greater the dissonance. The amount of dissonance individuals can experience is directly proportional to the effort they have invested in behaviors to sustain their values. Dissonance is more likely to occur when the enforcement of institutional norms are unclear, unspecified and/or inconsistently applied.

Value Dissonance and Ethics Failure Value dissonance and ethics failure encompass problems at both the individual and the organizational level. Individual-level failure results from a specific behavior or pattern of behavior on the part of persons within the organization. Organizational-level failure results from absent, unclear, or conflicting written or unwritten procedures, rules, expectations or agreements between individuals or groups and representatives of the institution. Usually wrongdoing is more common in institutions where communication is poor, undocumented, and the personalities of the parties involved are antagonistic. Most instances of ethics failure involve values at both the individual and the organizational level. Values reflect the culture of academic institutions. Control over academicians operates largely through the values shared by the professional community (De Vries 1975). The individual faculty member and the academic institution are related to each other in a dynamic tension and both are important to consider from an ethical point of view


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(Buchholz and Rosenthal 2006). The institution can be seen as a community, and the individuals are who they are in part because of their membership in the institution, while the institution is what it is because members choose to become part of it. Integrating ethics all the way through an institution suggests that both individuals and the institution as a whole are morally responsible agencies. Examples of Value Dissonance The five vignettes that follow are actual cases of ethics failure. A was a tenured associate professor who was an acceptable teacher, an eager committee member, an antagonist at faculty meetings, and a moderate contributor to the scholarly literature in his discipline and was nearing his chosen date of retirement. He took a paid sabbatical leave during which he proposed to write a book, but following his leave he produced neither a report of his activities or the book manuscript. It became obvious that there was no manuscript and therefore nothing to report on how he used his leave time. He approached his departmental chair to support a recommendation of promotion to full Professor, which would be followed by his written commitment to retire. The Provost denied the request because the faculty member did not meet the standards required of a full Professor and because promotion was not a negotiable action. For nearly 2 years thereafter the faculty member disrupted meeting agendas and distracted students, peers, and others in various settings by his ravings against the administration. A left his position bitter and alienated. A written report on how the faculty member used his sabbatical time was never submitted despite many attempts by administrators to elicit one. Faculty member A took a paid sabbatical leave from his university. Institutional guidelines required faculty to submit a plan for how they were going to spend their time with projected outcomes. At the conclusion of the sabbatical a written report was to be submitted to the Department Chair and forwarded to the Provost. Faculty A proposed to write a book during his sabbatical. Upon return he produced neither a manuscript in part or in full, or a written report. As he was continuously pressed for a report by administrators, he provided deadlines that were never kept. Other faculty in his College who took sabbaticals provided manuscripts and written reports. Faculty member A had the attitude that the institution owed him a sabbatical for his contributions to the institution. He tried to negotiate his retirement with a promotion. B was a music instructor at a community college who came to the attention of the administration when he bought $6,900 worth of used musical instruments from his son. He tried to cover up the purchases by writing fake invoices, suggesting that the instruments came from another vendor. The vendor turned out to be his sons sister-inlaw. The instrument sales and phony invoices were discovered during an audit of the instructor s travel expenses. No travel violations were found. The instructor committed a theft and lied about it but was retained on the faculty for 2 more years until students complained that he failed to meet his entire class after the first meeting. He met sporadically with some students, but others only saw him once. He was fired for the lack of integrity. C was a full Professor who had a long tenure at a large public university. He was editor of two journals in his field. At the time of his editorships the institution agreed to provide two editorial offices and secretarial help in support of the journals. However, over time with the increased shortage of office space for faculty and budget constraints, the university told the faculty member that the support for the journals would be amalgamated within existing resources of his department. The angered faculty member began a long

Value dissonance and ethics failure in academia


standing feud with the administration making it widely known that the administration cannot be trusted to keep commitments. The faculty member disengaged from committees and chose to teach at night when there were fewer colleagues and no administrators present. The department chair began to notice a sharp increase in costs for telephone, mail, fax, and office supplies. Vigilant secretaries began to monitor the usage of these resources. Evidence indicated that most of the use of these resources was occurring at night when the disenfranchised faculty member was present. He denied the allegations when confronted, but subsequently, with the establishment of tighter controls of M & O resources, costs declined. Faculty C was not willing to accept the fact that budgeting restrictions and space requirements necessitated belt tightening throughout the institution. Instead Professor C regarded the decreased financial and M & O support for his editorial duties as personal, and he chose to get back at the administration by abusing resources. He was confronted about the use of M & O resources, but was never formally charged with unethical behavior. There were no witnesses to his behavior, only a pattern of increasing telephone and Xerox expenditures noted by the office manager to occur after hours when faculty were the only persons with access to the work area. D, a chancellor, was paid nearly $500,000 over 8 years by a community college district to develop international programs while at the same time receiving thousands of dollars for his private business. A conference and convention business was established while D was chancellor and given to him by the college trustees at his retirement. The business was to help faculty deal with emerging technology and through conferences and consultations generated hundreds of thousands of dollars from colleges around the world. In some cases D used his position as chancellor to promote attendance at conferences and used district funds for overseas trips to bolster his private ventures. While all college employees are required to file an official form disclosing any potential conflicts of interest, D never filed a disclosure form. D denied any conflict stating, I believe faculty ought to be moving around the world in greater numbers (Anglen and Holstege 2007). D was treated differently than other employees. Filing a disclosure form could be conveniently overlooked. Trustees were aware of the conflict of interest since they gave the chancellor the convention business. The trustees wished to retain the benefits of the business for the college after the chancellor s retirement, hence they retained him as a parttime employee. The college trustees stated that their action was intended to benefit the college. As a chancellor emeritus D earns $500,000 as a part-time contract employee for the community college district while also running the conference business. E was an exceptional Library Director, efficient, organized, well-qualified and experienced, and had a superb reputation among his colleagues. The rare book collection in the library was of special focus for development. Being multi-lingual and a rare book collector himself, he traveled to obtain unique acquisitions for the university library. Shortly after the Director went on sabbatical leave, the Associate Director, who temporarily assumed the Directorship, noticed discarded index files in the trash can in the Director s office. The Interim Director pursued his suspicions and found many duplicate copies of rare books missing. He reported what he surmised was a theft to the Vice President of the university. An investigation confirmed the theft. Upon return from his sabbatical the Director of the Library was confronted with the findings from the investigation and admitted he sold the books in question. His reason was that he had not received expected salary increases from the university for several years. The Director reimbursed the university for the cost of the books and resigned.


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Analysis These five vignettes illustrate the role of values in ethics failure. Faculty member A took a paid sabbatical leave permitted by university rules and filed a plan to accomplish a specific outcome resulting from the sabbatical as university rules proscribed. Faculty member A failed to submit a report of what his sabbatical activities were and produced no product. Administrators repeatedly pressed A to follow through on his part of the agreement, but fearing they might be charged with harassment, they backed off. A tried to bargain for an early retirement if the administration would promote him to full Professor. As behavior was unethical; he exempted himself from the rules that applied to all members of his academic community. When the university would not compromise, A retired. B knowingly violated state law when he created phony invoices to cover up purchases from family members. He violated college work rules by not doing what he was paid to do, namely teach. He was a negative role model for students and his behavior, as it became known in the newspaper, reflected on the reputation of the college. B had no integrity, but the administration continued him on the faculty for 2 years after his theft was discovered. This case raises the question of the ethical culture of the college at all levels. Professor C was accomplished and well respected in his field. Yet, he was unwilling to adjust his needs to the changing fiscal needs of his college. While his colleagues made adjustments to help the college during a period of budget reductions, C viewed requests that he also reduce overhead as a sign of administrative distrust and undue personal sacrifice. While unproven, circumstantial evidence showed that he sought his revenge by skimming off the colleges M & O resources. His values were not communal and, as such, he was largely ignored by most of his peers. A newspaper reporter uncovered the plan of greed by the Chancellor of a Community College District when his lucrative private business was discovered while he received state funds for his full-time job. Yet, perhaps most egregious was the fact that the Board of Trustees knew of the Chancellor s personal business income, did not require him to file a disclosure form, and retained him as a part-time employee after he resigned as Chancellor, with the rationale that the worldwide business benefited the college system. This exemplifies malicious ethics failure, where public servants willfully misuse public resources for personal gain in this instance the Board of Trustees failed, along with the Chancellor, in their responsibilities as moral agents. Both emerged unscathed. It is noteworthy that in all five cases the individual faculty members actions were intentionally directed toward harming the institution they were a member of by either: (1) acting against existing rules and procedures; (2) seeking retribution for a perceived wrong; or (3) acting on personal ambitions which were in conflict with the consensual goals of their colleagues and profession. Institutional distrust and disloyalty were common in all five cases. The degree to which faculty sought alternatives to resolving their institutional grievance varies among the cases. It is speculated that the negative feelings associated with the acts of misconduct were cumulative and attributed to the institution in general.

Ethics Failure as a Process and a Pattern The previous vignettes illustrate the range in seriousness of ethics failure and the element of premeditation and willfulness that seems to characterize its most serious occurrences. What we know from case histories of ethics failure is that it appears to be a pattern of behavior that develops over a period of time. The general pattern ethics failure takes appears to entail

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the interplay between the personality of the individual, the perceived opportunity to engage in unethical acts, the degree to which the individual feels aggrieved, alienated, or harmed, and the effectiveness of an institutions mechanisms of social control. Ethics failure is the result of a complex, ongoing process in which individuals experience continuous unresolved value conflict between themselves, their colleagues, and/ or the institution as a whole. It is our assumption that individuals are at greater risk for behaving unethically when they privatize their value conflict and accompanying feelings, and either perceive no options for resolving them within the institution, or have been unsuccessful in doing so. As the individual feels increasing pressure to conform to institutional values and expectations, and has limited or no positive outlets for dealing with their negative emotions, coping by retribution can be an alternative.1 Figure 1 illustrates the hypothetical development of ethics failure. The institution plays a key role in ethics failure. Values are why most academicians choose to affiliate with a given institution. Some degree of value dissonance can be expected in academic institutions as faculty, staff and administrators turnover and value priorities change.2 The socialization of new faculty is usually the first time values, especially those associated with professional rewards, are discussed. The department is especially important in the determination of professional values (Becher and Kogan 1992).3 Louis et al. (1995) emphasize that an important factor affecting faculty behavior regarding values is the climate of the department. Climate refers to the work environment shared with colleagues over time. Researchers have found that the climate of a department affects the attitudes and activities of department members. Department colleagues are important forces of control on a faculty member. Department colleagues and the department climate can be either an enabling or

Value dissonance is not always expressed verbally. We cannot assume that if value conflict is not openly expressed that it does not exist. Similarly, without such overt expression it is not possible to evaluate the degree of value conflict an individual is experiencing and their coping repertoire. This explains why unethical behavior is least expected of some individuals.

Turnover in academic institutions has not been a topic of great concern in the literature, perhaps because the student is seen as the consumer. In general, faculty turnover rates in large universities with faculties of 500 or more averages about 5% compared to an average national faculty turnover rate for all sizes of institutions of 7%. The three reasons given most often by faculty for leaving their jobs as expressed in exit interviews are: personal, better opportunity, and work environment. Johnsrud and Rosser (2002) studied faculty members morale and their intention to leave their institution. They found that faculty are rarely satisfied with their own institutions. They see administrators as incompetent, communication as poor, and their influence as declining. This discontent is in contrast to their satisfaction with their intellectual lives, the courses they teach, and their collegial relationships. The extent to which faculty actually act on their discontent remains an empirical question. Turnover is both a blessing and a curse for institutions, however, too often the faculty who leave are those the institution would prefer to retain. A greater understanding of what constitutes this value dissonance, especially personal conflict that leads to negative actions toward the institutions and colleagues warrants serious research by educational institutions. The department is especially important in the determination of professional values, especially those values that graduate students acquire during socialization (Becher and Kogan 1992). Research has shown that students who experience their departments as competitive and unfair are more likely to have been exposed to research misconduct (Anderson et al. 1994). This led Louis et al. (1995) to hypothesize that, in departments where the sense of collective responsibility is strong, collegial interaction may create disincentives to engage in sloppy science, while competitive departments may have fewer perceived restraints of misconduct. In a faculty survey of 98 departments in 49 research institutions they found that highly productive departments were just as likely as less productive departments to show instances of misconduct. There were no disciplinary differences in the rates of research and personal misconduct when they controlled for department characteristics, yet the researchers acknowledged that certain forms of research misconduct may be discipline specific. They concluded that departmental climate is more important than structure in affecting the context of graduate education (Anderson et al. 1994). Climate makes a difference as a variable that can be affected through administrative intervention and organizational development (Louis et al. 1995).


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Fig. 1 Flow chart of the hypothetical development of ethics failure

ameliorative force in faculty value dissonance. Colleagues in other departments, colleges, and in other universities also can provide input that encourages or discourages value dissonance. It should be expected that some academic institutions will have more instances of value dissonance and ethics failure than others, depending on the values and skills of their leaders.4 Some leaders sustain an infrastructure that is geared to early intervention and prevention of severe value dissonance. Heeren and Shichor (1993) point out that it is necessary to look at the opportunity structure, systems of social control, and other enabling processes which exist in the situation of ethics failure. Turnover in academic institutions, like other organizations and institutions, necessitate the recruitment and retention of individuals at all levels of the institution who will subscribe to, and put into practice, values of the institution of which they are a member.5

A major source of institutional value dissonance is what some in academia refer to as rigid disciplinary silos, many of which seem to behave as if they existed independently from the institution of which they are a part. Edwards (1999) criticizes departments as bastions of traditional academic ways, Damrosch (1995) decries departmental nationalism, and Tierney and Bensimon (1996) lament the loss of an academic community because faculty find intellectual homes in the disciplines rather than institutional peers (p. 11). Failure to attain institutional rewards is often blamed on faulty socialization and inadequate mentoring in departments, while departments blame the college and institution for poor communication, faulty processes (biases and politics), behavioral inconsistencies (treating people differently), and unclear policies and procedures. Buchholz and Rosenthal (2006) emphasize that, to develop a moral organization or institution, every individual must hold themselves morally responsible for the jobs they are doing, and they must hold others morally responsible for doing their jobs. In this way a culture of moral responsibility can be created where moral conduct is institutionalized.

Value dissonance and ethics failure in academia


At the heart of value dissonance is the concept of the person role conflict or role congruence (De Vries 1975). Both conflict and congruence refer to the amount of agreement between the role requirements of an individual and his expectations, values, and capacities. If an individual is required to engage in activities he feels are unimportant or inappropriate, he experiences role conflict. The more role conflict a faculty member experiences, the less satisfied and productive he is. The resultant psychological effects will be to find ways to vent negative feelings, which can take the path of unethical behavior. Figure 2 presents a flow chart of key steps in the psychological process of knowingly engaging in ethics failure. Ethics failure takes the form of the personality and coping style of the aggrieved individual. A decision is made to engage in retribution towards others and/ or the institution. The target(s) and type(s) of retribution will be considered against the opportunities available to engage in unethical behavior and the personal and career consequences for the individual. Indeed, this involves a willful retribution plan and a decision to accept short and long-term consequences for it. When discovered the institution will respond to the behavior; the response will be determined by the seriousness and public knowledge of the behavior and various pressures on the institution to act as a moral agent.

Deterrents to Ethics Failure Faculty Collaboration Katzenbach and Smith (2003) wrote that the basic structure of the workplace is the relationship. Each relationship is part of a larger network of relationships. Work gets done through relationships. In academia we attempt to create high performing colleges and universities by assembling a collection of individuals who have the potential of being high

Fig. 2 Flow chart of the steps in the process of knowingly engaging in ethics failure


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performing, and we reward them individually when they succeed. In non-academic organizations the approach is to create high performing cultures by assembling individuals who have the potential to create and share information through networks of relationships to reach common goals. Cohen (2004) pointed out that traditionally scientists have believed strongly that if you get the science right, everything else is irrelevant. While this view may be harmless in a scientist working by him or herself, it is detrimental when adopted in a social or organizational context (p. 32). Increasingly faculty are working collaboratively across the boundaries of disciplines, challenging the norm of solitary work and pursuing collaboration and cooperation (Bohen and Stiles 1998). While interdisciplinarity is not new to academia there is reinvigorated interest in collaborative work, despite strong barriers against it. Faculty collaboration occurs in a variety of settings and takes different forms, depending upon the nature of the collaborative team and its goals. Collaboration can occur among individuals or academic units on the same campus or in different institutions. Faculty collaboration is a cooperative endeavor that involves common goals, coordinated effort, and outcomes for which the collaborators share responsibility and credit. Many believe that collaboration increases productivity, maintains motivation, stimulates creativity and risktaking, and can be a deterrent to value dissonance and ethics failure (Austin and Baldwin 1992). Collaboration is not unique to academia; models of teams exist in health care, business, and public policy. Collaboration is especially attractive to academics because of changing technologies, increasing specialized knowledge, time constrains on individual faculty, the complexity of many current problems, and the increased competition in attracting research funding. Collaboration does require those in academic institutions to be willing to shift paradigms from one centered around the individual and reinforced by individual rewards, to a small group model involving negotiation among stakeholders and a willingness to share in rewards (Austin and Baldwin 1992). Lattuca (2002) studied the processes, contexts, and outcomes of interdisciplinarity based on interviews with college and university faculty involved in a variety of interdisciplinary scholarly activities. Informants concerns about interdisciplinarity centered around concerns about promotion, tenure, and other rewards. Of central importance was the degree to which the institutional administration supported faculty involved in interdisciplinary programs and projects. An indicator of institutional support that facilitated faculty collaboration was the availability of internal funds for interdisciplinary graduate programs. Lattuca concluded that institutions that consider faculty to be works in progress will create facilitating contexts for faculty learning, such as opportunities for collaboration. Better Cultural Managers Argyris et al. (1985) suggested that organizational effectiveness will be higher in organizations where there is congruence between espoused values and actual organizational practices than in organizations that have contradictions between espoused values and actual practices. In this vein, one would expect less value dissonance and ethics failure in congruent organizations. Smart and St. John (1996) studied the relationships between culture type, culture strength, and the effectiveness of organizations in a national sample of 334 4 year colleges and universities. The most prevalent culture type was the clan form, which they found was also the most effective, especially on campuses with strong cultures. Strong clan cultures (those aligned with the community-of-scholars perspective) were also found to be more effective than strong bureaucratic cultures. The clan form of culture consists of fraternal values, a sense

Value dissonance and ethics failure in academia


of mutual interest, pride in membership, and an extensive collegial network. Long-term commitment is supported by a sense of history and tradition. The role of superiors as models and mentors emphasizes the importance of continuity and experience. Peer pressure underscores the need to perform in ways that are consistent and widely shared among members. The star is not as highly valued as the team player (Kerr and Slocum 2005). The clan structure exists mainly at the department level on academic campuses. Some departments have stronger clan cultures than others. As one moves from the department to the college level where the culture is composed of diverse sets of clans, concerns and issues become cross-departmental or cross-clan issues, such as promotion and tenure, and require integration and understanding of the institutional culture and total college or university system. Achieving individual faculty goals and receiving awards becomes less focused around a set of values and norms that are consistent with a departmental or clan culture and more performance-based evidence consistent with institutional or bureaucratic culture. While peers evaluate other peers at the department, college, and institutional levels and attempt to make decisions that are equitable and defensible across academic units, some of the key values intrinsic to the evaluation change. As the faculty member moves along the peer evaluation process the emphasis changes from being a team player at the department level to being a star performer at the institutional level. Value dissonance is not difficult to discern. It is usually apparent in the attitudes and behavior of those most dissonant. A remedy for value dissonance is better management of the diverse cultures in academia by the administrative gatekeepers of those cultures. It is often too tempting for administrators and peers to dismiss individual value dissonance as disinterest, aloofness, or elitism when the deeper feelings are anger, disappointment, frustration and/or abandonment. Value dissonance often resolves itself by affected faculty leaving the institution. The Academic Institution as a Moral Agency If ethical behavior in academic institutions is to be more than espoused values, there needs to be a stronger alignment between espoused values and actual management practices (Smart and St. John 1996). As Whitley and Keith-Spiegel (2001) and Trevino (1990) have emphasized, academic institutions need to develop an academic integrity ethos which has the clear and proactive support of its leaders at all academic levels. Practicing ethics is more than each of us ensuring the integrity of our own professional conduct. It is an institutional responsibility (Zajac and Comfort 1997; Bennett 1998). Damrosch (1995) observed, The norms of alienation and aggression still enshrined in the university are the products not of nature, but of cultural choices... (p. 106). The fear of retribution for reporting unethical behavior is often the choice that perpetuates the academic code of silence. One approach to weakening this code is for the annual performance reviews of all academic units and their members, faculty, staff, and administrators, to include a discussion of how they have contributed to the promotion of an ethical organization.

Conclusion Ethics failure is not new nor unique to academia. While there is information on student academic misconduct, the prevalence of ethics failure among faculty is largely unknown. Defining ethics failure and delineating its boundaries, especially its less egregious forms, differs widely among academic institutions. Indeed, the prevalence of ethics failure can change as institutional leaders, faculty, and policies change.


J.G. Bruhn

Ethics failure is more likely to emerge as a problem in institutions where it is difficult for members to meet their needs and realize their goals, and where the colleges and departments within the institution provide little or no support, or inconsistent support, to assist a faculty member in realizing goals. Ethics failure is often the result of a sustained period of value conflict or dissonance usually resulting in frustration, anger, and perhaps isolation on the part of a faculty member in her attempt to achieve recognition for reaching institutional goals for ones work. It could be hypothesized that the greater the value dissonance experienced by a faculty member, the greater the likelihood that she would engage in unprofessional and unethical behavior. Value conflict or dissonance is often resolved by the affected faculty member leaving the institution. Value dissonance can be created by changes in institutional, college, and departmental leaders, and policies. Knowledge of policies and procedures to achieve individual recognition and rewards for ones work is not sufficient to prevent value dissonance. Value dissonance is, in part, due to a poor institutionfaculty member fit, that is, when a faculty members career goals are not synchronous with the institutions norms and expectations. Value dissonance among faculty can be minimized in most instances beginning with the socialization of new faculty. It is during this time that new faculty are acculturated to a new institutions culture, its norms and expectations regarding rewards and advancement. Rewards for advancement in academia are tightly connected to promotion and tenure. Value dissonance can be a fait accompli when there is a mismatch between a faculty members career goals and the mission and reward policies of the institution they contemplate joining. Some of the ways the path toward value dissonance can be avoided include: (1) greater proactive management of the institutions culture beginning with the socialization of new faculty; (2) annual monitoring of individual faculty member s progress in meeting institutional norms for recognition and advancement; and, (3) increasing opportunities and rewards for faculty to engage in collaborative activities across disciplinary boundaries, thereby lessening the probability of faculty isolation and disenfranchisement when they encounter disappointment and frustration.

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