Ethics Charges Against BSW Students:
Principles and Case Examples
Norman H. Cobb, Penny Smith Ramsdell, and Ski Hunter
For more than two years, the social work program at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA), a state-supported university, has been implementing specific guidelines for evaluating students whose behavior or ethics seemed inappropriate for the social work profession. Before the guidelines were implemented, the social work faculty had grown pessimistic and cynical about the successful management of troublesome students. For example, when someone questioned the ethical nature of a student's behavior, the faculty and administration differed over various procedural and constitutional questions: What constitutes a fair hearing? What types of evidence are fair and required by law? How much due process is required to protect the rights of the student, the victim, and the faculty? What happens when the student in question threatens to sue? Who pays the legal fees?
After the school adopted a set of guidelines and procedures, three cases involving BSW students were evaluated and processed. Additionally, the legal staff of the university reversed earlier positions and came to the support of the social work program. As a result, the faculty was empowered to deal with troublesome students and regain their gatekeeping function. Following the twoyear experience, the procedures were refined. They are summarized below, and the three cases involving BSW students are reported.