Academic journal article College Student Journal

Undergraduate Faculty and Student Perceptions of the Ethical Climate and Its Importance in Retention

Academic journal article College Student Journal

Undergraduate Faculty and Student Perceptions of the Ethical Climate and Its Importance in Retention

Article excerpt

This study examined faculty and student perceptions of the ethical climate of a College of Education within a midwestern metropolitan university and its perceived importance in the retention of students within undergraduate academic programs. The Undergraduate Ethical Climate Index was used to survey 281 undergraduate students and 37 faculty members within three academic programs in the College of Education. Faculty members rated faculty to student interactions and relationships significantly more positive than students. Both faculty members and students perceived the ethical climate to be an important to very important factor in the retention of students within undergraduate academic programs. Based on the results, recommendations were made for enhancing the ethical climate of undergraduate academic programs.

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A humane learning environment, which is characterized by a positive ethical climate, enhances undergraduate student retention (Heverly, 1999; Hyman, 1995; Volkwein & Carbone, 1994) and moral development (Jennings, Nelson, & Patens, 1996). Undergraduate students grow morally during their years at a university (Jennings et al., 1996). The direction of this growth is influenced by the intellectual and social environment of the institution: Yet, there is a lack of empirical data about a university's ethical climate and behavior (Counelis, 1993). The assessment of the ethical climate would enable university personnel to pinpoint areas that need improvement and focus activities in those areas to enhance the institution's ethical climate and undergraduate student development and retention. This study examined faculty and student perceptions of the ethical climate of a College of Education within a midwestern metropolitan university and its perceived importance in the retention of students within undergraduate academic programs.

Ultimately, faculty members and students are responsible for establishing a humane learning environment (Banning, 1997; Brown, 1985; Heverly, 1999: Hyman, 1995; Linksz, 1990; Wilcox & Ebbs, 1992). In Heverly's (1999) study, returning students gave significantly more positive responses than non-returning students to the following items: "college advisors are helpful, my instructors show respect for me as an individual, and my instructors seem concerned with my success" (p. 8). To assess the ethical climate of undergraduate academic programs, this study examined faculty to student, student to faculty, and student to student interactions and relationships through the application of five ethical principles (Brown & Krager, 1985). The ethical principles include respect for autonomy or respecting the right of an individual to act independently, nonmaleficence or doing no harm to others, beneficence or benefiting others, justice or treating others fairly, and fidelity or being loyal and trustworthy (Kitchener, 1984, 1985).

The research questions posed by this study included: 1. What are undergraduate faculty and student perceptions of the ethical climate in a College of Education within a midwestern metropolitan university? 2. Is there a difference between undergraduate faculty and student perceptions of the ethical climate within academic programs? 3. Is there a difference between undergraduate faculty and student perceptions of the importance of the ethical climate in the retention of students within academic programs?

Method

The methods used in this study represent a replication of the methods used in a previous study conducted with graduate students and faculty members at the same university (Schulte, in press). Thus, some of the information contained in the method section of this study is also found in the previous article by Schulte (in press).

Design and Subjects

The study used a survey procedure to collect information from undergraduate students and faculty members at a midwestern metropolitan university. …

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