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 (2019), 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 only accept assignments requiring competencies they have unless they can effectively obtain knowledge or collaborate with those who have the necessary competencies prior to conducting the assessment. 1
- Student Life Studies staff will possess appropriate knowledge of relevant theories, literature, and philosophies on which to base informed professional practice.2
- Each staff member has the responsibility for lifelong learning to develop his/her own professional skills, knowledge, and performance to keep abreast of changes in the field. 1, 2, 3
- Student Life Studies staff will approach all requests for assessment assistance recognizing and minimizing person biases, respecting individuals, and striving to gather evidence fairly and accurately.1,3
- 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 assessment, data collection, and data analysis processes. 1
- After a project is initiated, staff will clarify with the client and/or major users the purposes, expectations, strategies, and limitations of the assessment.
- Special attention will be taken to recommend assessment techniques and designs that are appropriate to the purpose of the project.
- 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.
- Staff will accept responsibility for the competent execution of all projects and will indicate individual and/or office authorship, as appropriate, on all reports.
- 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, 3
- Staff will ensure that all reports/presentations of projects are complete and professional. Information will be clearly communicated to, and contextualized for, decision makers.1, 2
- 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.
- 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/read-the-belmont-report). Staff will maintain current Collaborative Institutional Training Institute (CITI) training through Texas A&M’s Institutional Review Board.
- 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 policies, rules, and procedures 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/humans/human-research-protection-program) or ensure that the client does before conducting the research.
- Student Life Studies will apply all reasonable means to secure data1 and documentation 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-saps.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. 2
- Student Life Studies recognizes the impact of assessment on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access efforts. Staff will promote fairness, dignity, and welfare for all.3 Staff will disaggregate data, as appropriate, to examine similarities and differences among groups.
- 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 in such a manner as to reasonably prevent loss, unauthorized access, or divulgence of confidential information, including following FERPA guidelines.1
- For every project, staff will make every effort to communicate factual information while maintaining privacy and confidentiality throughout the process.2, 3 (See client communication template for specific practices.)
- Staff will ensure that all participants are informed 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 or mandatory reporting requirements. Any limits to confidentiality should be made clear. For information about public information requests see http://rules-saps.tamu.edu/PDFs/61.01.02.M0.01.pdf. (See internal process document for specifics.)
- 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.
- Staff and others working with data analysis (e.g., practicum students and participants in content analyses) will sign a confidentiality agreement after taking the Student Life Studies online training.
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 recognized student organizations.
- Staff will follow Texas A&M University rules and Texas A&M System policies related to equal educational and equal employment policies.
- 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.
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.
- Student Life Studies staff should strive to uphold and advance the values, ethics, knowledge, best practices, and mission of the student affairs profession.
- Staff should contribute to the knowledge base and share with colleagues their knowledge related to assessment practice, assessment results, and ethics.1 They should seek to contribute to the profession of student affairs literature and to share their knowledge at professional meetings and conferences.
- 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 and/or report the behavior through appropriate channels. 3
Revised: 7/19 /17