Monday, January 22, 2007

New York State officials should take a lesson from Albany-area colleges

In stark contrast to the handling of impropriety in the Legislature, when there was evidence of an ethics problem at Albany-area Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Professor Linda Layne took swift action to deal with the issue. She is pushing for an honor code at the school after discovering a student cheating on a quiz in – get this – her ethics class. Similarly, Union College just received a grant that would give professors a stipend for incorporating ethics lessons into their curricula.

However, just as legislators inevitably push back against new ethics proposals, the Times Union reports that students at RPI and Union College are skeptical about the need for ethics education and tougher enforcement. Along with many legislators, the students feel that they simply don’t have a problem.

These protests seem to be misguided. It turns out that, according to a study by the Center for Academic Integrity, “70 percent of students acknowledge some cheating on most campuses.” Yet schools with honor codes see about one-third to one-half the amount of serious test cheating experienced by schools without a similar ethics policy.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the same improvement in state government?

We think it’s time for lawmakers to take a page from Professor Layne’s book and adopt tools to curb ethics violations and encourage fair and decent conduct. It’s time for lawmakers to pass legislation that would create a single agency with enough teeth to effectively oversee ethics in all aspects of New York government.

Categories: General, Government Ethics

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