The Irony of Ethics: (De)Coding the Lived Experience of Women and Minority Faculty




Reybold, L. Earle

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SciEdu Press


What does it mean to ‘be’ an ethical faculty member? A number of scholars point to legal and moral issues, aligning ethics with professional codes and regulated by institutional policy. From this perspective, being ethical is a matter of knowing and following the professional rules—the goal is to avoid certain actions. On the other hand, others question this objectivist approach and position faculty ethics as an experience, a fusion of personal and professional histories that include disciplinary training, socialization to the profession, and—especially—the specter of faculty rewards such as tenure and promotion. This article explores these competing perspectives in a qualitative meta-synthesis of data collected across studies of faculty identity, professional epistemology, and academic ethics. This analysis concentrates on 116 interviews with women and minority doctoral students and faculty members conducted between 1999 and 2012, a subset of more than 200 interviews I conducted during this timeframe. All interviews were initially coded using constant comparative analysis. For the meta-synthesis, I chose to apply an elaborative coding technique that juxtaposes data with the ethics literature related to chilly and alienating climates, cultural taxation, and the snare of faculty rewards in higher education. This (re)analysis allowed me engage in a formal dialogue between local theory and scholarship, resulting in six sub-themes: ‘real’izing, acting out/in, toiling, serving, aligning, and diverging.



Academic ethics, Faculty identity, Professional epistemology, Discrimination, Qualitative meta-synthesis


Reybold, L. Earle, “The Irony of Ethics: (De) Coding the Lived Experience of Women and Minority Faculty.” International Journal of Higher Education 3(2014): 92-105. DOI: 10.5430/ijhe.v3n2p92