Editor’s Note: Bob Brandt has just celebrated his 10th anniversary as Walden’s ombudsperson, where his role is to be an advocate for fairness. He has worked for more than 40 years in student affairs at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Ohio Wesleyan University, and most recently, Macalester College, before coming to Walden. He currently lives with his partner in St. Paul, Minn., where he is involved in the community as a board member of two non-profits. Bob also enjoys the arts, reading and fantasy football. His undergraduate and graduate degrees are from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln.
Criterion Two—Integrity: Ethical and Responsible Conduct. The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.
Our responsibility, as the Criterion Two subcommittee, is to demonstrate through the assurance argument that the university not only operates with integrity and ethics but also that its actions are transparent to all. The five core components of Criterion Two are specifically related to (1) operations of the university, (2) autonomy of the governing board, (3) how the university presents itself to students and the public, (4) academic freedom, and (5) ethics in research and acquisition of knowledge.
Integrity and Ethics
Integrity and ethical conduct are embedded in and guide everything we do at Walden. They underpin research and discovery and guide our learners to effect positive social change as scholar-practitioners.
Walden’s website is a primary example of the university’s commitment to transparency and dissemination of information. Through the website, prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, and the public have ready access to information regarding academic programs and university policies and procedures.
The Walden University Student Handbook, which is posted on Walden’s website, provides guidance on many policies, including student expectations and responsibilities, tuition, academic progress, and grading. Walden also actively promotes academic integrity and has instituted the appropriate boards and positions to review any concerns that might challenge the integrity of its constituents’ work and ideas. The Code of Conduct, the role of the ombudsperson, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and academic freedom are addressed in the Student Handbook and other university publications available to the public.
The Demonstrating Accountability, Transparency, and Assessment (DATA) information on our website is another example of how we measure progress and report the findings. Every year, we survey our students, alumni, and faculty to assess the value of our online degree programs, the learning outcomes they yield, and the impact of the Walden experience. By sharing this information publicly, we help current and prospective students make more informed decisions about where to pursue their educations.
This information, along with the student and faculty handbooks, the Walden website, and the academic catalog, is updated and vetted regularly to provide the most current and transparent information for our learning community. In addition, information about Walden’s institutional and programmatic or specialized accreditations is made public through the website.
Integrity Through Research
In our assurance argument, we also demonstrate that Walden students are reinforced in learning responsible and ethical research practices through faculty and support services, including the Center for Research Quality, the Center for Student Success, the Writing Center, and the library, as well as through academic programs.
In particular, the Center for Research Quality ensures the integrity of the entire research process for capstones, from committee nomination to approval by the chief academic officer. An ethics review and approval by the Institutional Review Board is required for all student, faculty, and staff research conducted under the auspices of the university. Additionally, the appropriate boards and committees are available to oversee and challenge any studies and research that do not meet those standards.
Walden takes seriously its responsibility to investigate allegations of research misconduct, which includes data fabrication, data omission, data falsification, misrepresentation of results, misrepresentation of researcher credentials, plagiarism in research documents, and any other action (or lack thereof) that falls short of professional conduct of research. For example, the university makes use of the electronic-text-matching-system, Turnitin, to detect plagiarism in student submissions. Not only does the Code of Conduct address the integrity of student and faculty work, but procedures for policy exceptions and academic appeals are also clearly defined.
The Criterion Two subcommittee found examples of integrity and ethical conduct throughout Walden’s operations, from the university’s Board of Directors—which carries out its work through committees overseeing academic affairs, finance, and governance—through our institutional leadership, faculty, and student support staff.
Do you have any other examples or suggestions to add? If so, please share your comments, questions, or thoughts with Pathway to HLC Excellence at HLCFeedback@waldenu.edu.