Standards of Ethical Practice
Student Life Studies developed its Standards of Ethical Practice to assure a shared staff understanding and commitment and to inform others of these standards. The Standards have been developed by applying and adapting information from the Association for Institutional Research Code of Ethics, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Characteristics of Individual Excellence and Statement of Shared Ethical Principles, and Texas A&M University Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects.
These Standards are a document that must change and be shaped by new developments in the field and by experience. They should be reviewed annually and revised as deemed necessary by the consensus judgment of the staff.
- Student Life Studies staff will not claim or imply a degree of competence they do not possess.1 They will possess appropriate knowledge of relevant theories, literature, and philosophies on which to base informed practice.2
- Student Life Studies staff will only accept assignments requiring competencies they have unless they can effectively rely upon the assistance of colleagues or acquisition of the necessary competence prior to conducting the assessment. Use of methodologies or techniques that are new to staff will be used only after appropriate study, training, consultation, and supervision from people who are competent in these methodologies or techniques. 1
- Each staff member has the responsibility to develop his/her own professional skills, knowledge, and performance to keep abreast of changes in the field.1, 3 This knowledge includes the historical context and current issues in the profession.2 Staying current includes, but is not limited to, reading, attending conferences, enhancing technological literacy.2
- Staff will maintain current Human Subjects Protection Training (http://rcb.tamu.edu/humansubjects/signing-up-for-human-subject-protection-training-in-citi-1).4
- Student Life Studies staff will approach all requests for assessment assistance with an unbiased attitude and strive to gather evidence fairly and accurately. Staff will be sensitive to avoid personal conflicts of interest, or appearance thereof, when performing services. 1, 3
- Staff will conduct all tasks in accordance with accepted technical standards. 1
- Before a project is initiated, staff will clarify with the client and/or major users the purposes, expectation, strategies, and limitations of the assessment.1
- Special attention will be taken to recommend assessment techniques and designs that are appropriate to the purpose of the project.1
- Special attention will be taken to advise the client and/or major user, both at the design phase and, should the occasion arise, at any time during the execution of the project, if there is reason to believe that the strategy under consideration is likely to fail or yield substantially unreliable results. 1
- Staff will accept responsibility for the competent execution of all projects and will indicate individual and/or office authorship, as appropriate, on all reports. 1
- Staff shall exercise reasonable care to ensure the accuracy of data gathered by other individuals, groups, offices, or agencies on which s/he relies, and shall document the sources of such data. 1
- Staff will ensure that all reports of projects are complete; are clearly written in language understandable to decision-makers; fully distinguish among assumptions, speculations, findings, and judgments; employ appropriate statistics and graphics; adequately describe the limitations of the project, of the analytical method, and of the findings; and follow scholarly norms in the attribution of ideas, methods, and expression in the sources of data. 1 In short, information will be relayed accurately.3
- Staff will document the sources of information and the process of analysis in each task in sufficient detail to enable a technically qualified colleague to understand what was done and verify that the work meets all appropriate standards and expectations.1
- Staff will uphold the basic ethical principles of respect, beneficence, and justice in research and assessment. (The Belmont Report, Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protections of Human Subjects of Research, https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/index.html.)4
- Students will be informed of the voluntary nature of each assessment. They can also request to be removed from a “reminder e-mail” list for electronic surveys that track responses.
- Staff will abide by Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University System, The State of Texas laws and regulations as well as with Federal copyright laws. When appropriate, staff will obtain permission of the Texas A&M Institutional Review Board (https://rcb.tamu.edu/humansubjects/approvals)4 or ensure that the client does before conducting the research.
- Student Life Studies will apply all reasonable means to prevent irrevocable loss of data and documentation1 and follow Texas A&M University Records Management procedures (for specific information, see http://rules-saps.tamu.edu/PDFs/15.99.03.M1.03.pdf and http://rules.tamu.edu/PDFs/61.99.01.M0.01.pdf).
- Student Life Studies staff will develop and implement regular assessment tools for the evaluation of its own services. 1
- Each member of Student Life Studies will have a personal copy of these Standards and they will be published on the Student Life Studies website.
- Staff shall organize, store, maintain, analyze, transfer and/or dispose of data under his/her control in such a manner as to reasonably prevent loss, unauthorized access, or divulgence of confidential information.1 Student Life Studies will maintain ownership of client data to report on Division and University priorities in aggregate, while maintaining confidentiality of individuals. Student Life Studies staff will inform the client about their responsibility for the confidentiality of the data.
- At the design stage of every project, staff will thoroughly explore the degree of invasion of privacy and the risks of breach of confidentiality that are involved in the project, weigh them against potential benefits, and make a subsequent recommendation as to whether the project should be executed, and under what conditions. 1
- Staff will ensure that all participants are informed of their right of refusal and of the degree of confidentiality with which the material that they provide will be handled, including where appropriate, the implications of any freedom of information statute. Any limits to confidentiality should be made clear.1Unless other wording is needed, surveys will state, “Your responses are confidential; your identity will not be associated with your response.” For information about public information requests see http://rules-saps.tamu.edu/PDFs/61.01.02.M0.01.pdf.
- Staff shall apprise institutional authorities of the implications and potentially binding obligations of any promise to respondents regarding confidentiality and shall obtain consent from such authorities where necessary. 1
- Staff will follow Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html) guidelines set forth by Texas A&M University (http://registrar.tamu.edu/Catalogs,-Policies-Procedures/FERPA/FERPA-for-Faculty-Staff).
- In reporting information, staff will communicate all relevant facts and information while respecting privacy and confidentiality.3
- Staff and others working with data analysis (e.g., practicum students and participants in content analyses) will sign a confidentiality agreement.
Relationships to the Division of Student Affairs
- Student Life Studies staff will provide equal access and opportunity regarding services and activities of the office to Texas A&M University Student Affairs departments and Texas A&M student organizations. 1
- Staff will follow Texas A&M University and Texas A&M System rules and policies related to equal educational and equal employment policies. Staff will serve individuals without regard to race/ethnicity, color, creed, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, age, or disability.
- Staff will make every effort to anticipate and prevent misunderstandings or misuse of reports within the Division of Student Affairs by careful presentation and documentation in original reports. If an assessment report has been altered, intentionally or inadvertently, to the degree that its meaning has been distorted, staff shall make reasonable attempts to correct such distortions and/or to insist that Student Life Studies authorships be removed from the product.1
Relationships to the Practice of Assessment
- Staff should take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed. They should honestly acknowledge the work of and the contributions made by others.1
- Student Life Studies staff should strive to uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, best practices, and mission of the Student Affairs profession. 1
- Staff should reflect integrity, responsibility, and honesty to provide an accurate representation of self, others, and the department.
- Staff should contribute to the knowledge base and share with colleagues their knowledge related to assessment practice, assessment results and ethics. They should seek to contribute to the profession of Student Affairs literature and to share their knowledge at professional meetings and conferences. 1
- Staff shall take appropriate measures to discourage, prevent, identify, and correct unethical conduct of colleagues when their behavior is unwittingly or deliberately in violation of this code or of good general practice in assessment and research. Staff who believe a colleague has acted unethically in assessment should talk to the colleague when feasible. 1
4 Adapted heavily from Texas A&M University Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects