The main goal of public higher education is to provide high quality education to all students regardless of their race, gender, origin, religion or social class. The goal of providing education to all students is aimed at instilling relevant knowledge into students so as to improve their capabilities in carrying out various operations in the future, which might benefit the society at large. However, public higher education has experienced many problems over the many years, and to some extent, the goals of public higher education are not achieved (Palomba & Banta, 1999).
In order to address problems that are currently facing higher education, it is imperative to understand ethical issues in higher education. This will act as a reference point to identify why the goals of higher education are not achievable in the contemporary society. This might play an extremely crucial role in reforming the education sector in the society. Basically, for the higher education to achieve it ethical obligation towards the contemporary society, there has to be a logical and mutual relationship between instructors and students. This interaction is highly critical in higher education because students can be able to utilize their full potentials.
In order to comprehend various ethical issues in high education, we have used the article “Ethical Issues in Graduate Education: Faculty and Student Responsibilities” published in The Journal of High Education Vol. 56 pages 403-418 by Robert D. Brown & LuAnn Krager. This article has used this journal as its main source of information, and it provides comprehensive information on ethical issues in higher education and mechanisms which can be established to address these issues. Additionally, the authors of this journal provide adequate information on the responsibilities of various stakeholders in higher graduate education. The article emphasizes on the need of maintaining a strong relationship between students and their instructors or their advisors. Basically, it provides five principles that are vital to analyzing ethical issues in higher education, as explained in The Journal for High Education by Robert D. Brown and LuAnn Krager. These principles comprise of autonomy, justice, nonmaleficence, beneficence and fidelity.
Autonomy can be described as freedom of choice and action, which include the right to be autonomous as well as the responsibility of treating other people as autonomous. Non-maleficence means not causing harm to others intentionally or risking other people's lives. On the other hand, beneficence refers to the aspect of contributing to the welfare of another person, like promoting a person’s positive growth. Justice necessitates that all individuals should be treated in equal, transparent and fair manner and biasness should be avoided when dealing with some people; that is no favoring some people over others. This means that all individuals should receive fair treatment regardless of their race, ethnic groups, financial stability, gender as well as other socioeconomic factors (Krager, 2009). In addition, fidelity explains the ability of being loyal and keeping promises.
Ethical Principles and Faculty Roles
In order to provide comprehensive information and understanding of ethical issues present in many institutions of higher learning, the author of the journal examined the implications of the above principles for both the faculty and students in higher education. According to him, the best way of examining the relationship between ethical principles and faculty’s expectations is to apply those principles in many roles of the faculty.
The Advisor Role and Ethical Principles
Autonomy. The author of the journal studied the implications of ethical principles in relation to the roles of student advisor in the faculty. According to him, the students’ advisor plays a highly critical role in the life of students. The way the student advisor fulfills that role and how various students react can be significantly influenced by the principle of autonomy. According to him, most graduate programs contain a measure of rigidity, which is inherent in a student’s expectations. For instance, there is more flexibility among students in Doctorate programs compared to undergraduate students. In this case, autonomy can be studied in relation to the freedom that the student advisor grants students when choosing courses of their choice or when students design the focus of their entire professional training program. The process in which the advisor makes such decisions is related to autonomy since it is the content of the decision.
Some students may not have adequate information that can help them to make amicable decisions on course selections; some of them may be in need of direct guidance, while others may require plenty of structure. In addition, development theory claims that some students require support more than others. Moreover, forcing complete autonomy on students cannot provide true or real autonomy. Certainly, giving a student absolute freedom can be shirking responsibility, and this can result to setbacks, greater dependence or even failure. Autonomy should be mediated by the readiness of students in areas such as selecting specific courses or even dissertation topics. In this case, the final goal is to get an autonomous student who is able to recognize and value the advisor’s counsel but is not bound by it.
Non-maleficence. Despite the vital role that students’ advisors play in higher education, they can also cause harm either by action or inaction. For instance, forcing students to do courses that they are not prepared to do or not of their choice can cause potential harm to students. Another example of aspects which can cause harm to students is forcing them to give up their jobs and start learning on full-time mode without considering their financial situations as well as responsibilities. These examples of harm arise as a result of neglect or ignorance rather than through intention. In order to avoid causing harms to students, the advisor needs to know both professional and personal demands of the life of the student. Additionally, the advisor must be extremely sensitive to the time and competency limitations of the students to help them comprehend their own constraints and limitations and encourage them to make their strengths and weaknesses known to the students’ advisor.
Beneficence. Students’ advisors make significant contributions to their students’ welfare by fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as academic advisors as well as helping students in designing programs, selecting courses, distributing workload and choosing projects. They provide helpful information and counsel to all students. The advisors should ensure that the expectations of the profession and program align with a student’s individual goals and objectives.
The students’ advisor in a faculty may not be responsible for providing counseling on issues that may not be related to academics, but he/she needs to be aware of how the personal life of a student interacts with his/her academic life. Basically, there are two factors that link faculty advisor role and beneficence, and these are the ability and time.
Justice. Students’ advisors in a faculty must ensure that there is equal and fair treatment to all students in the faculty, despite the fact that this is not accomplished easily. The key aspects of justice consist of spending enough time, being available and offering proportionately or equal attention to all students in the faculty. However, not all students are equal in motivation, physical attractiveness, or interest. The advisor should try to balance his time so as to ensure that all students get equal opportunity to get counsel according to need.
Certainly, students obtain vital educational experiences through assistance from various parties such as the advisor and instructors within the faculty, but the system should be monitored to avoid abuses or negative consequences.
Fidelity. This principle is extremely beneficial to the role of the advisor in higher education. Many times, the advisor from a certain faculty must become the supporter of the student. Students require support through complete exams, when designing a dissertation proposal and during the presentation of the final dissertation.
In my own perception, the above principles play an extremely vital role in ensuring that students from different faculties are able to get comprehensive information that help them adapt, cope and improve their life at schools. Additionally, such principles play a highly critical role in higher education, because counsel from the students’ advisors helps students within a certain faculty to understand their strengths and weaknesses and issues that need improvement. Additionally, these principles guide the advisors on different issues they need to address in advising students from their respective faculties. These principles have impacted a lot the addressing of ethical issues that emerge in higher education. The lives of many students have changed due to application of these principles by advisors and instructors from their respective faculties, and this, in turn, has resulted to improved academic performance among students in higher education.
Personally, my ethical position and values have changed positively due to these principles. Student advisor in my faculty has tried to provide counsel to all students with regard to these principles. Application of these principles in addressing ethical issues has been one of the most effective methods of improving the personality of students, and I have been able to develop my personality through the counsel provided by the advisor from my faculty with regard to the stated principles.