Chapter 15 – Professional Ethics and Academic Responsibility

( President 5/73; Board of Regents amendment 1/19/94; 5/07; 10/09; 6/4/21)

Effective June 4, 2021, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version of III-15.6.

15.1 General

The basic functions of the University are the advancement and dissemination of knowledge, the development of critical intelligence, and the education of citizens and professional workers for the society of which the University is a part. 

The indispensable condition for the successful discharge of these functions is an atmosphere of intellectual freedom. Unless he or she is free to pursue the quest for knowledge and understanding, wherever it may lead, and to report and discuss the findings, whatever they may be, the University faculty member cannot properly perform his or her work. As a participant in an enterprise that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, the faculty member has a special interest in promoting conditions of free inquiry and furthering public understanding of academic freedom. 

Freedom entails responsibilities. It is incumbent upon the faculty member to accept the responsibilities which are concomitant with the freedom he or she needs. 

Those responsibilities are: 1) to students, 2) to scholarship, 3) to colleagues, 4) to the University, and 5) to the larger community which the University serves. To make these responsibilities operational, it is necessary that ethical and professional standards be adopted to guide faculty members in their conduct and that effective mechanisms be established to monitor and enforce compliance with these standards.

15.2 Responsibilities to Students

(Board of Regents amendment 1/19/94; Faculty Senate 12/95; amended 5/07)

As a teacher, the faculty member has the responsibility for creating in his or her classroom or laboratory a climate that encourages the student's endeavors to learn. The faculty member should exemplify high scholarly standards and respect and foster the student's right to choose and pursue his or her own educational goals.

  1.  The faculty member must make clear the objectives of the course or program, establish requirements, set standards of achievement, and evaluate the student's performance.
  2. The faculty member has the responsibility to meet classes as scheduled and, when circumstances prevent this, to arrange equivalent alternate instruction.
  3. The faculty member has the responsibility to teach courses in a manner that is consistent with the course description and credit published in the catalog and with the announced objectives of the course. He or she must not intentionally interject into classes material or personal views that have no pedagogical relationship to the subject matter of the course.
  4. In order to facilitate student learning, faculty members should present the appropriate context for course content. While challenge is essential to good teaching, challenge is ordinarily most effective when students are adequately prepared to deal with course materials. On controversial issues within the scope of the course a reasonable range of opinion should be presented. When the faculty member presents his or her own views on such issues, they should always be identified as such. Wherever values, judgments, or speculative opinions constitute part of the subject matter, they should be identified as such and should not be offered as fact.
  5. The faculty member owes to the student and the University a fair and impartial evaluation of the student's work. Such evaluation should be consistent with recognized standards and must not be influenced by irrelevancies such as religion, race, sex, or political views, or be based on the student's agreement with the teacher's opinion pertaining to matters of controversy within the discipline.
  6. Every student is entitled to the same intellectual freedom which the faculty member enjoys. The faculty member must respect that freedom. Restraints must not be imposed upon the student's search for or consideration of diverse or contrary opinion. More positively, the faculty member has an obligation to protect the student's freedom to learn, especially when that freedom is threatened by repressive or disruptive action. The classroom must remain a place where free and open discussion of all content and issues relevant to a course can take place. While students remain responsible for learning class material and completion of course requirements, faculty should respect reasonable decisions by students, based on their exercise of their own intellectual freedom, not to attend part or all of a particular class session.
  7. The faculty member has obligations as an intellectual guide and counselor to students. He or she has a responsibility to be available to students for private conferences. In advising students, every reasonable effort should be made to see that information given to them is accurate. The progress of students in achieving their academic goals should not be thwarted or retarded unreasonably because a faculty member has neglected his or her obligation as advisor and counselor.
  8. Faculty members are expected to hold regularly scheduled office hours and otherwise be reasonably available for appointments with students. Faculty members teaching online courses or those not located on campus may use electronic communications in lieu of office hours.
  9. The faculty member should conduct himself or herself at all times so as to demonstrate respect for the student. He or she should always respect the confidence deriving from the faculty-student relationship.
  10. The faculty member must avoid exploitation of students for personal advantage. For example, in writings and oral presentations, due acknowledgment of their contributions to the work should be made.
  11. In order that students can make knowledgeable choices about whether to take a particular course, it is the faculty member's responsibility to provide, on the first day of class, a course syllabus, in either electronic or paper format, containing the following information:
    1. the instructor's name, office, office hours, and contact information (a valid email address and a telephone number, if available). If the instructor is a teaching assistant, the syllabus should also include the course supervisor's name, office, office hours, and contact information;
    2. goals and objectives of the course;
    3. course content and schedule of topics;
    4. list of readings and/or other anticipated course materials;
    5. expectations for attendance, assignments, and examinations;
    6. dates and times of any examinations scheduled outside of class time;
    7. grading procedures including whether plus/minus grading will be used;
    8. statement on the availability of accommodations for students with disabilities;
    9. resources for obtaining additional help, such as tutors or teaching assistants;
    10. any changes in information about the course from that which appears in official University notices, such as the General Catalog or MyUI; and 
    11. a statement describing what forms of electronic communications, if any, will be employed for student contact and the expectations for typical response times. Reference should be made to University policy, which specifies that students are responsible for all official correspondence sent to their standard University of Iowa email address ( (Privacy considerations, such as federal law, may apply when using an address other than the standard University email address. The University provides guidance for acceptable etiquette when utilizing electronic communication technologies.)
  12. At the beginning of each course, students should be informed of departmental and collegiate complaint procedures and services of the Office of the University Ombudsperson. Complaints should be initiated at the faculty or departmental level. If a complaint cannot be resolved at the departmental and/or collegiate level, students may file a formal complaint utilizing the procedure specified in II-29.7.

15.3 Responsibilities to Scholarship

The faculty member's responsibilities to scholarship derive from the University's commitment to truth and the advancement of knowledge. Furthermore, society has a vital stake in maintaining the University as an institution where knowledge can be sought and communicated regardless of its popularity, its political implications, or even its immediate usefulness. The faculty member has an ethical responsibility both to make full appropriate use of that freedom in his or her teaching and research and to guard it from abuse. More specifically: 

  1. A faculty member is committed to a lifetime of study. Although no one can know everything, even about a limited subject, he or she must constantly strive to keep abreast of progress in his or her field, to develop and improve his or her scholarly and teaching skills, and to devote part of his or her energies to the extension of knowledge in his or her area of competence. 
  2. The faculty member has the responsibility of being unfailingly honest in research and teaching. He or she must refrain from deliberate distortion or misrepresentation, and must take regular precautions against the common causes of error. 
  3. In order to maintain or increase effectiveness as a scholar, a faculty member may find it advantageous to assume certain obligations outside the University, such as consulting for government or industry, or holding office in scholarly or professional societies. Such activities are appropriate in so far as they contribute to his or her development as a scholar in his or her field, or at the very least, do not interfere with that development. On the other hand, acceptance of such obligations primarily for financial gain, especially when such activities may be incompatible with the faculty member's primary dedication as a scholar, cannot be condoned.

15.4 Responsibilities to Faculty and Staff Colleagues

(Amended 10/09)

The faculty member has obligations that derive from common membership in the community of academics. The faculty member respects and defends the free inquiry of others and avoids interference with their work. The faculty member refrains from personal vilification; threatening, intimidating, or abusive language; or conduct that creates a hostile work environment. The faculty member acknowledges contributions of others to the faculty member's work. When asked to evaluate the professional performance of another, the faculty member strives to be objective. In the exchange of criticisms and ideas, the faculty member should show due respect for the rights of others to express differing opinions. However, vigorous debate and criticism are not to be viewed as a lack of respect.

15.5 Responsibilities to Institution

The faculty member's primary responsibility to his or her institution is to seek to realize his or her maximum potential as an effective scholar and teacher. In addition, the faculty member has a responsibility to participate in the day-to-day operation of the University. Among the faculty member's general responsibilities to the University, the following may be particularly noted: 

  1. When a faculty member acts or speaks as a private person, he or she should make clear that his or her actions and utterances are entirely his or her own and not those of the University. 
  2. The faculty member must never attempt to exploit his or her standing within the University for private or personal gain. The faculty member may, on appropriate occasions, cite his or her connection with the University, but only for purposes of personal identification. The faculty member must not permit the impression to prevail that the University in any way sponsors any of his or her activities. 
  3. University facilities, equipment, supplies, and other properties must never be used for personal or private business. 
  4. A faculty member has the duty to ensure that the regulations of the University are designed to achieve the University's goals as well as being in accord with the principles of academic freedom. Recognizing the importance of order within the institution, the faculty member observes the regulations of the University, but in no way abdicates his or her right to attempt to reform those regulations by any appropriate orderly means. 
  5. Effective faculty participation in the governance of the University promotes academic freedom and the goals of the institution. Each faculty member should take part in his or her institution's decision-making processes to the best of his or her ability and should accept a fair share of the faculty's responsibility for its day-to-day operation. 
  6. During periods of disturbance or high tension on campus, a faculty member should take reasonable steps to prevent acts of violence and to reduce tension. 
  7. Subject to the requirements of this statement and other institutional regulations, a faculty member determines the amount and character of the work and other outside activities he or she pursues with due regard to his or her paramount responsibilities within the University and primary loyalties to it.

15.6 Responsibilities to the Community

(Amended 6/4/21)

Effective June 4, 2021, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

As a member of the community, the faculty member has the rights and obligations of any citizen. These include the right to organize and join political or other associations, convene and conduct public meetings and publicize his or her opinion on political and social issues. However, in exercising these rights, the faculty member must make it clear that he or she does not speak for the University, but simply as an individual. The faculty member does not use the classroom to solicit support for personal views and opinions.