Legal and Ethical Issues in Student Affairs

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Legal and Ethical Issues in Student Affairs The case of arturo By Luz Maria Borjon May 2, 2000 Class Discussion Guide Synopsis A new Student Affairs professional loses his job as the Assistant Director for a University Outreach program. It was determined that he exhibited a lack of professional competence in supervising his staff, leading to a problem that jeopardized the integrity as well as the future funding of the program. Additional Factors to Consider 1. The University Outreach program is
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  Legal and Ethical Issues in Student AffairsThe case of arturoBy Luz Maria BorjonMay 2, 2000 Class Discussion Guide  Synopsis A new Student Affairs professional loses his job as the Assistant Director for a UniversityOutreach program. It was determined that he exhibited a lack of professional competencein supervising his staff, leading to a problem that jeopardized the integrity as well as thefuture funding of the program.  Additional Factors to Consider  1. The University Outreach program is currently under evaluation by the U.S.Department of Education as well as a public interest research group entitled Mathematica. This particular group has been contracted by the government in order to satisfy Congressional concerns over the funding of public education which hasrecently been the target of political criticism. Many of the senior student affairs administrators arekeenly attuned to the political tone in Washington D.C. after the threat to dismantlethe Department of Education a few years ago as well as the trend toward decreasedfunding for federally funded programs. There is growing political support in thisclimate of increased accountability for education across the board, for the idea thatmany services could best be handled by private-public ventures rather than thegovernment dolling out grants to the universities and colleges. Mathematica recently published a report attacking the effectiveness of one of the mostestablished of the national federally funded outreach programs that targets first-generation and low-income college bound students.2. Art first began an investigation the day after the trip. He explained to Maricruz what hehad been told by Lisa. He revealed that Lisa had told him about the incident because he felt that everyone should be accountable for what they say. Maricruz became very upset that people were hurling accusations at her and began to cry.She blamed Art as well as the other Student Advisor for not defending her when the boys disrespected her during the campus tour. She resigned her position andstormed out of the meeting.3. When Maricruz “wrote-up” Will and Jimmy, they were promptly disciplined and givendetention by the Principal. The boys blamed the whole incident on Maricruz (and therebythe outreach program itself) for being discriminatory against them and accused her of having a sexual relationship with Johnny. They repeated the story to their parents whocontacted both the Principal and Art. (It snowballed at this point).  4. When Art met with his immediate supervisor as well as the officer from the U.S.Department of Education, they determined that he should be put on administrative leaveto reconsider his capability to perform his job. During this time, a committee woulddecide how best to resolve the situation. Art eventually resigned.2  Issues and Rules There are four main issues to take into consideration in this case. The rules that apply areUnited States laws or professional standards as well as institutional codes. The distinctionis that laws are applicable to the population in general while the standards and codes areapplicable only to the profession and the institution.1. ProfessionalismThe Assistant Director must consider the integrity of the program at all times, constantlyrelating his actions to the goals of the program. Congruency with word and deed isultimately the way in which the goals will be met and affects the way in which others willview the program. His conduct was especially critical at this time that the program wasunder review by the Department of Education for continued funding.A.  Professional Standards : according to the National Association of StudentPersonnel Administrators Standards of Professional Practice; the AmericanCollege Personnel Association’s Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards ;and TRIO Professional Standards and Guidelines (for educational opportunity programs that receive federal funding) the Assistant Director is responsible for  performing his duties with high levels of professional competence and judgment.2. Student and Staff DevelopmentOne of the Assistant Director’s duties is to provide training and ongoing staff development to the college students who work as paraprofessional peer advisors. TheAssistant Director serves as their mentor as well as their supervisor. The objective of the program is to promote the educational and experiential development for the collegestudents as well as the high school students. If there are issues such as the perception of favoritism or crossing working boundaries, the Assistant Director should address theseimmediately.3  A.  Professional Standards : the organizations representing the profession clearlyoutline student development as the foremost obligation of Student Affairs professionals. This situation represents a bad experience for all involved thatcontributes negatively towards the developmental progress of all the studentsinvolved. The foremost tenet of ethical behavior outlined by ACPA in particular is that professionals should act to benefit others as well as “do no harm”.3. Accountability and ManagementThere have been increasing demands of Education across the board, from elementary to post-secondary colleges and universities, to be more accountable to the public and thestudents that it serves. At the college and university level, this translates into studentaffairs practitioners having to defend their programs and services to faculty as well aselected officials who approve the state and federal budgets. Outcomes are extremelyimportant and if the program is perceived to be mismanaging resources (including humanresources) and possibly unethical behavior. In addition, the people that direct these programs have to be aware that they are under scrutiny.A.  Professional Judgment  : as part of his normal duties, the Assistant Director is incharge of the daily operations and outcomes of the program. However, when the program is in a funding review, best practices and procedures should be at anoptimum. TRIO program standards specifically state that the programs must “bestructured purposefully and managed effectively to achieve their stated goals.4. Dual RelationshipIf there is a romantic relationship of any kind between the high school student and thecollege student intern then this constitutes a dual relationship. It is the job of the collegestudent intern to represent the University to the high school students. A romanticrelationship violates the boundaries required of that type of helping relationship as wellas policies set by the University and codes of conduct adopted by the professionalorganizations. When one student represents the University as a service and information provider then that student has a duty to help those that he/she serves. Dual relationships4
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