This Code of Ethics is a statement of the ethical principles, values and behaviours expected of staff and students at The University of Western Australia. It flows from the following statement in the University’s Strategic Plan:
The University fosters the values of openness, honesty, tolerance, fairness and responsibility in social and moral, as well as academic matters.
The Code of Ethics is intended to assist staff and students to identify and resolve ethical issues that might arise during their employment or in the course of their studies. It is designed to guide them in their dealings with colleagues, students, the University, and local, national and international communities. The Code of Ethics puts forward a set of general principles rather than detailed prescriptions. It stands beside, but does not exclude or replace, the rights and obligations of staff and students under common law or legislation. The Code of Conduct then provides more specific information about the University’s policies, rules and expectations based on these principles.
The University is a complex organisation comprising diverse groups that have different relationships to one another. These may be relations of power and/or status. It is essential in such a community that all members recognise and respect not only their own rights and responsibilities, but also the rights and responsibilities of other members of the community and those of the University itself.
The University recognises that many of its staff are also bound by codes of conduct or ethics defined by learned or professional societies or groups. Staff may have multiple allegiances: to their disciplines or profession at national and international levels (the invisible colleges), to the academic profession, to the community at large and to the University. Staff and students may also have allegiances to particular religious or cultural traditions. It is recognised that these allegiances are not always in harmony. It is an obligation of a staff member or student to weigh the importance of these allegiances in each particular set of circumstances and to notify an appropriate officer of the University where such conflict does or may arise.
The Code of Ethics is based on three universal ethical principles. These are:
People are to be treated fairly – not discriminated against, abused or exploited. Justice is concerned with power sharing and preventing the abuse of power. In a just community all members can access opportunities that allow for their full participation in that community.
People should be treated as individuals with rights to be honoured and defended. Respect empowers others to claim their rights and to achieve their potential. Respect for the rights of other people is the basis on which individuals become members of a community and accept their social responsibilities to behave with integrity.
Membership of a community means that individuals not only have rights but also duties and responsibilities to others to act openly and honestly. Demonstrating respect for persons requires, for example, dealing with disagreements by reasoned argument rather than by using language (words, style and tone) that have the effect of inappropriately attacking or demeaning the listener.
The principle of taking personal and professional responsibility requires not only that people avoid doing harm to others but also that they exhibit courteous behaviour, upholding the standards expected of all members of the University community as part of achieving a common good. In so doing they are expected to protect the rights of others and respect the diversity of cultures and peoples. Those wellpositioned to assert their rights have a reciprocal duty to exercise care towards those who depend on them for their wellbeing. This principle involves stewardship of assets, resources and the environment. When a conflict arises between a staff member’s or student’s self-interest and duty to the University, the issue should be disclosed to an appropriate officer of the University. Wherever feasible the staff member or student should not play a role in decision-making that might be associated with that issue.
The Code of Ethics underpins a Code of Conduct that outlines the actions or procedures applicable to employees and students at The University of Western Australia for a range of specific ethical issues.