Friday, April 28, 2017

Join the Ethics Center for a play and discussion of Queen at the Victory Gardens Theater on May 10th!

Join the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions to watch the play Queen  at the Victory Gardens Theater on Wednesday, May 10th at 7:30 pm. Following the play (run time about 90 minutes), we will take part in a discussion at the theater. Those of us still deep in conversation may adjourn to the Red Line Pub later to continue sharing thoughts and ideas.

All are welcome! 

If interested, please email Kelly Laas at

Synopsis of the play: PhD candidates Sanam and Ariel have spent the better part of the last decade exhaustively researching vanishing bee populations across the globe. Just as these close friends are about to publish a career-defining paper, Sanam stumbles upon an error in their calculations, which could cause catastrophic damage to their reputations, careers, and friendship. Now, Sanam is confronted with an impossible choice: look the other way or stand by her principles and accept the consequences?

Location: Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 North Lincoln Ave. Chicago IL 60614

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sports, Coaching, and Ethics

Sports is an area especially affected by ethics because there is an assumed, but not always upheld, end-goal: fair competition. There is also a great deal of money that goes into a small number of sports, putting enormous pressures on subverting this goal. Fair competition can be squandered by the organizing bodies, social attitudes, players and coaches. Examples include the historical race-segregation in baseball, falsifying age to compete in the Olympics, players taking performance-enhancing drugs, and players taking money to throw a match. A more recent example is showcased by the ongoing investigation of North Carolina NCAA team, whose players allegedly took fake classes to meet the GPA requirements for student athletes. In these ethical situations, what responsibilities fall to the coach, and what obligations does the coach have?

The Australian Sports Commission code from 2006 offers a list of guidelines for coaches of junior athletes. For instance, coaches should not yell at players for a mistake or for not winning, they should give all players fair time to play, make sure all equipment and facilities are safe, and cannot make inappropriate contact with the players. Lastly, the coach is tasked with respecting each person’s dignity and rights. The American Football Coaches Association code from 1992, meant for adult players, does not explicitly ban yelling or relationships. Instead, it does note that a coach must be respectful of others’ views, must only act within their realm of expertise, and must try to avoid causing harm to players or others. Furthermore, it states that relationships may occur but it requires these relationships to not affect the coaches’ objectivity.

The Canadian Curling Association’s Code of Ethics from 2010 also gives a brief list of statements a coach is intended to follow. They are expected to follow the rules of the sport, respect players from both teams as well as officials, and to uphold the spirit of the rules. These statements contain no mention of dealing with conflict of interest.

What are your opinions about sports and ethics? There are many more codes to explore at Ethics Codes Collection to see which codes may contain them.

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Importance of Ethics in Counseling

Many of us may know the basic ethical boundaries in counseling such as confidentiality - a therapist won’t disclose personal details except in cases where they are required such as when the client has serious intent to harm themself or others. However, due to the nature of the relationship as very personal, powerful, and impactful, there are many more things to be concerned about like if and when to use diagnoses, what type of therapy to use or recommend, etc.

The Code of Ethics given by the American Counseling Association (ACA) is one of the more in-depth codes of ethics I have seen, boasting nine sections that cover topics from the therapist’s relationship with other professionals to the process of making ethical decisions. In addition to these topics, the core ethical principles are outlined from the outset such as autonomy, nonmaleficence, fidelity, and others. In fact, under the teaching and training section, counselors are instructed to continually educate their students in ethics because it is so crucial in this field.

From this code, the importance of continual self-improvement is also shown; therapists are encouraged to keep professional relationships with others in order to improve their own counseling services. They are required to educate themselves with current standards in the field to best serve the client. Finally, if their client can benefit from therapies they are not experienced in, they should inform their client so they are able to make the informed decision whether to pursue that option further.

The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s (BACP) Ethical Framework is similar in structure and length to the ACA’s code. It first gives principles and values of counseling as a whole and then gives specifics for topics such as quality of care, trust, training, research, etc. One difference between the two codes is that the BACP also lists the aspirational and personal moral qualities for counselors such as empathy, sincerity, and courage. Each of these qualities relates to giving the best services they can to a client. Curiously, the BACP does not touch on the use of diagnoses.

Given the era of technology we now live in, some counselors offer services over the internet instead of in-person if for whatever reason an in-person meeting is unfeasible or undesirable. The National Board for Certified Counselors released a code in 2005 called The Practice of Internet Counseling. Forms of internet counseling may be email, chat, or video. There are specific things to keep in mind when giving counseling through the internet rather than in-person: maintaining secure interactions, making sure you are conversing with the right person and not someone else using their account, and talking about the possibility of misunderstandings due to lack of visual and/or tonal cues.

Are there areas of counseling you were surprised these codes of ethics did or did not include? If they weren’t, they may be in other codes not mentioned from the Ethics Codes Collection.

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Advertisements: How far can they go?

Advertisements: How far can they go?

 Are advertisements harmless entertainment such as those we enjoy during the Super Bowl, an inescapable but morally permissible annoyance, or manipulative and potentially harmful? Many of us would recognize that advertisements can influence us. Because of this influence, there laws in place to prevent certain types of advertisements. Two large issues in advertising is the accuracy of the statements given, as well as protections for children.  And when these laws are broken, lawsuits follow - such as one person who sued over the misleading ad campaign claiming that red bull gives you wings.

What do various ethical codes say about advertising? The Advertising Standards Authority of New Zealand code illuminates some of the morally questionable practices - first and foremost, an advertisement cannot mislead or deceive. This is not only an ethical standard but also a legal one in many countries. They then list different criteria that ads must follow, one being that an ad must be identifiable as an ad. That is, you must be able to tell what is and what is not an advertisement. The importance of this point is that, according to Brucks, Goldberg, and Armstrong in a 1986 study, you need to know you are consuming an ad to use cognitive defenses. If you know you are consuming an ad, then you can appropriately assume it is biased and persuasive and respond accordingly. If you do not know you are consuming an ad, then you may make false assumptions and be more likely to buy into whatever the ad is selling, figuratively and literally. This becomes especially important when dealing with children. Brucks, Goldberg, and Armstrong estimate that children can know the intent of ads by age seven, but cannot fully process and defend against them until age eleven. Due to the more vulnerable nature of children, there are many more regulations protecting them, varying in each country.

In concordance with the Advertising Standards Authority of New Zealand code, many other codes carry the requirement of non-deceiving, such as the Canadian Marketing Association’s code and the American Marketing Association’s code. The Canadian code also touches on children’s rights - ads are not supposed to urge children to ask their parents to purchase items. Marketers can also not accept purchases from children without parents consent. There is an emphasis not only on young children but also on teenager’s rights not to be exploited due to their lack of maturation and knowledge. The other two codes mentioned do not give any specific recommendations or cautions for marketing to children or teenagers.

What ethical issues do you think advertisements may pose? Are they answered by any of the above-mentioned codes? There are many more at the Ethics Codes Collection.

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ethics of Birdwatching

Birdwatching. A lesser-known hobby that does not seem to raise many ethical issues.  Turns out, organizations even have a code of ethics for the hobby! Take the Brookline Bird Club. They take their hobby, and implications that we may not have realized existed for it, very seriously.

The Brookline Bird Club points out the dangers of disturbing birds in their natural habitat, and lays out guidelines for how to best avoid harming them. They even account for the changes in season, and the difference in behavior of different species. They also care for keeping the environment healthy, including a recommendation to stay on designated paths in parks and woods, so as to not trample anything growing there. Also interestingly, they specifically tell their members to behave politely around others to not create a bad name for the group. While many organizations have similar codes, it’s interesting to see that a hobby like bird watching could have something like this too!

The American Birding Association code has similar ethical requirements - to ensure the welfare of birds in their own environments. It also gives details on what to do if you want to attract birds to other environments. If you set up a simple bird feeder, it’s important to also keep in mind a few things. You don’t want the food and water to be contaminated so make sure to keep it clean. You also don’t want to lure birds to predators, so keep the cat away!

However, they also have the specification of helping new members in their own groups. This code has many more specific examples of scenarios, and also recommends being willing to teach others. They claim that the knowledge and experience you gain should be freely shared among the group. Who would have thought people would get so dedicated about something like finding rare birds?

There is plenty more information where that came from, and it can all be found in the links provided. More interesting ethical codes exist on the Ethics Codes Collection website, so feel free to look around!

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell and Tabitha Anderson

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Should Journalists be Impartial?

Recently, Lewis Wallace was fired for republishing a blog article that he was ordered to take down. Lewis is a radio journalist for the National Public Radio show Marketplace, and also writes a blog on Medium. On his blog, he declared “neutrality is impossible for me, and you should admit that it is for you, too.” Marketplace’s ethics code requires impartiality, or remaining neutral and not interjecting your own opinion on a subject. They are required to avoid being political, not only in their pieces but also in their lives; they cannot go to rallies, donate to candidates or publicly support a candidate. This is designed to take away their partiality, or at least, the appearance of partiality. Few, I suspect, would argue that they don’t have opinions. Is Lewis right and is it impossible for these opinions not to spill over in some way?

The traditional view of impartial journalism is globally influential. The Media Ethics Charter from the Journalists Trade Union in Poland’s requires journalists to report on different viewpoints and to report independent of one’s own views. Similarly, the Media Alliance Code of Ethics from Australia disallows personal beliefs to influence the journalists reporting.

How much does impartiality matter? It affects more than just a particular newscaster or author; it affects the entire institution and the public’s perception of them. The New York Times’ code on Ethical Journalism states as its first introductory point that news must be covered “as impartially as possible.” It’s overarching goal is to protect the reputation of the New York Times. Thus the appearance of impartiality matters as it serves to protect an institution’s reputation. However, despite the widespread dedication to impartiality in journalism, many people will look at any given news source and say they are “liberal” or “conservative.” Different takes on this could include: news sources are not being impartial enough, there is an inherent limit on our ability to be impartial, or people's perception of these sources as partial is wrong.

Can impartiality even truly exist? A different way of presenting news is to embrace partiality and to acknowledge it. Journalism can still seek the truth and make clear distinctions between fact and opinion while also having opinions. The Journalists’ Ethics Codes from the National Association of Hungarian Journalists declares that journalists can both have and express their opinions; they can be openly partial. However, it makes clear that these opinions should not discolor the facts of the news such that the audience misinterprets them.

Is this modality of news presentation better? Should we acknowledge our biases and openly admit them, or should we strive to remain neutral and present both (or more!) sides of any given case? And on the point of different sides, must an exact opposite view be found for a larger issue and given credit, even if it is only held by an extreme minority? (Such as the 3% of scientists who deny climate change, and often have clear personal motive towards promoting oil industries.)

Feel free to add your own comments and peruse for more sources on journalistic ethics. There are many more interesting ethical codes on the Ethics Codes Collection website.

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell and Tabitha Anderson

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Ethical Representation in Media

Many of us have experienced the annoyance when that “type” of character pops up again: the dumb blonde, the bumbling husband, the trophy wife, the emotionally-repressed action hero, and so on. We may think of them as mere harmless caricatures or traditional stereotypes, but the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) see it as potentially harmful. To them, there is risk not only in the way people are portrayed, but who is (or is not) portrayed at all. The CAB’s Equitable Portrayal Code from 2008 elaborates on how radio and television ought to portray people in a harmless way.

The CAB’s concern with equitable portrayal is partially influenced by the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television, which conducted research looking specifically at the portrayal of ethnocultural and Aboriginal groups. They found three areas of concern: stereotyping groups, portraying groups of people inaccurately, and portraying groups of people people in an unbalanced way. The CAB Persons with Disability report had similar concerns regarding the portrayal of persons with disability.

We just don’t see certain groups represented enough, and when we do, that representation can color our view of them because it is the only exposure we might have of a certain type of person. Conversely, some groups are overrepresented, but portrayed in a negative or stereotypical way. In the 1990 Sex Role Portrayal Code for Radio and Television, they comment that “Canadian broadcasters recognize the cumulative effect of negative and inequitable sex role portrayal. . .” In other words, these pervasive cliches can negatively affect us. It is not always the result of one movie or commercial, but the overall context of movies or commercials that paint broad strokes and stereotypes can affect. If we saw just as many smart blondes as dumb blondes, and just as many bumbling husbands as effectual ones, would the negative effects of these stereotypes be diminished?

To give another real-world example: many people critiqued the American Oscars for being inequitable regarding its representation of races. This code appears to be unique to Canada and not many others adopt a similar stance on the issue. In light of the Oscars, America might also benefit from being held to an ethical standard like this.

So how does the CAB’s Equitable Portrayal Code combat these issues? Avoid portraying stereotypes, avoid negatively portraying people based on their status (race, sex, religion, disability, etc), and avoid using sexist language. What effect do you think something like this could feasibly have on negative stereotypes against various groups of people? There might be much debate over these topics, but these are important questions to be asking. Check out the rest of the code for yourself to see what you think!

There is plenty more information where that came from, and it can all be found in the links provided. More interesting ethical codes exist on the Ethics Codes Collection website, so feel free to look around!

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell and Tabitha Anderson

Monday, January 30, 2017

How to be an Ethical Astrologer

Did you check your horoscope today? Have hope for the fate that hides in the stars? There’s something about astrology that catches many people’s attention, whether it is genuine belief, or simple fun. There are all sorts of different types such as daily horoscopes, which vary from honest to satirical, and personality-based advice. Sometimes, you can find ones that tell you what kind of supervillain archetype your sign is. There are also in-person astrological readings, which you may assume can only be found at festivals for a quick buck -- but there are many professional astrologers, and they hold themselves to that.

In fact, there are several Codes of Ethics that astrologers hold themselves to. These codes act as guidelines that all astrologers are expected to follow -- and they may be more stringent than you expect!

The American College of Vedic Astrology Code of Ethics provides a clear definition of an astrologer’s work, in case you need a refresher.

An astrological consultant is one whose services include discussion of an astrological chart in order to (1) help individuals recognize their strengths and talents, (2) provide insight into life challenges 3) elucidate patterns of growth and development, (4) encourage self-knowledge, (5) suggest the life purpose, (6) reveal periods of challenge and opportunity, (7) explore the meaning of a particular experience or phase of life, or (8) provide guidance as to timing or decisions with regard to a particular course of action, such as financial and business decisions, prasna and muhurtha.

Other codes elaborate (and differ!) on what astrologers can and cannot do. In the Avalon School of Astrology Code of Ethics, astrologers cannot make astrological comments on public figures. This is intended to keep astrological work focused on willing clients and to maintain the reputation of the Avalon School.

By contrast, the American Federation of Astrologers (AFA) Code of Ethics does not hold this requirement. They do, however, specify that any astrological reading done on someone must only be informed by the charts and the correct location, year, month, etc. unless the client is explicitly informed that alternative methods were used.

One of these alternative methods is specified in the American College of Vedic Astrology Code of Ethics; things such as tarot and even just plain intuition are considered outside sources. The client must be informed if any information the astrologer gives them doesn’t come from the charts.

Of the codes mentioned, the American College of Vedic Astrology Code of Ethics is by far the most thorough of the astrology codes in the Ethics Codes Collection. It has guidelines on how to market, what to advise clients in, and what credentials are needed to call yourself an “astrologer.” They even have a subsection explaining the guidelines to doing predictive work in general, like divination. They advise giving clients continuums of meanings, so that they do not feel trapped in one outcome, and ban diviners from calling themselves omniscient or infallible in their predictions. They also ban giving “dire warnings” or predictions that are meant to cause fear in the client -- they specify that all negative readings must be balanced with positive, equally probable, readings.

There is plenty more information where that came from, and it can all be found in the links provided. More interesting ethical codes exist on the Ethics Codes Collection website, so feel free to look around!

The Ethics Code Collection is managed by the Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions. Look forward to a new and improved website come September!

Written by Alice Amell and Tabitha Anderson