You are on page 1of 8

Jacob Fuerst


My Code of Ethics
Ethics Term Paper
By Jacob Fuerst

When it comes to ethical decision making, my personal code of ethics has been
steady but not static. Many of the principles I’ll describe have been prevalent in my life
without me having acknowledged their existence. Others, though, were taught to me by
my parents at a young age, like managing conflict nonviolently and maintaining
harmony among all people. However, other guiding principles in my life, like being
responsible, timely, and honest have been developed and strengthened during my stay
here at DePaul. In fact, much of my ethical code has been reinforced through my work
and struggles as a student and writing tutor at DePauI’s writing center. Working with
one particularly demanding writer at the writing center necessitated a Potter Box on
which I furthered developed my ethical decision making. What I found was that one of
the most important ethical codes I live by may well be the ability to enact good judgment
in all situations. My ethical code of conduct when making ethical decisions relies on four
foundations: responsibility, honesty, harmony and good judgment; without these
foundations, I would not be as successful or consistently ethical as I am today.
As a perfectionist myself, one of my longest-standing ethical foundations is to be
responsible and timely in all aspects of my life. This is actually cemented in the Public
Relations Society of America’s “Code of Ethics Pledge,” where responsibility is
immediately named as an important code of conduct on which PR professionals should
rely on (“Public Relations”). Without this guiding ethical basis, I would not have a 3.9

Jacob Fuerst

GPA and would not have been in control enough to apply to be a writing tutor at
DePaul, where I have tutored for two years now. Maintaining responsibility at all times,
to me, means doing homework and outside work far ahead of time. It also means
scheduling myself and writing things down to make sure nothing falls through the
cracks. This is because a lapse in my own personal responsibility could leave others
frustrated, angry and in need of services I failed to provide . My ethical code here has
particular importance to the concept of moral duty to clients, because writers at the
writing center should be the main focus of my work as a responsible tutor (Christians
20). If I fail to comment on a students’ draft in the time allotted, that student may have to
turn in a paper without the helpful comments I was supposed to supply. Oftentimes,
students submit drafts to the writing center the day that the assignment is due; if I’m
irresponsible and do not comment on the draft, the student misses the opportunity to
have someone check their work at all. Having an overload of work and stress often
stands in my way when being responsible – that’s why I write everything down in my
phone calendar, which alerts me about important events . Responsibility on all fronts,
both schoolwork and at work, is a critical foundation in my personal code of ethics.
The second code of ethics I live by, especially as a communications major and a
writing tutor at DePaul’s writing center, is to give credit where credit is due – to uphold
honesty and identify those that I use to support my arguments, opinions and overall
ideas. Without the concepts and theories of both scholars and fellow employees, I
would not have such a strong grasp on the field in which I work. I adapted this particular
code during my tenure as a student in the public school system and in college, where


Jacob Fuerst

honesty has always been critical to my success. My freshman year writing teacher
instilled in me the enduring notion that everything – absolutely everything – needs to be
honest and that credit should be given where it is due. This ethical code relies on moral
duty to both colleagues and society (Christians 20). My colleagues and future
colleagues in the communication field provide me with endless sources of information
on which I write many papers for school, and society deserves to know where receive
the information I use in such texts. In this way, I adamantly disprove of plagiarism. John
Carroll University’s website outlines many of the negative effects of plagiarism and
dishonesty: “When a student plagiarizes, that person loses the chance to develop skills
which make for a productive life,” (“The Effects of Plagiarism”). Mill’s principle of
utilitarianism is applicable here. While it might benefit me to pretend I wrote something –
perhaps making me appear smarter or more inventive – it benefits the public at large
much more to know where information is actually from. The public is thus provided with
a way to do further research into something I’ve written and further acknowledges the
many authors I’ve drawn information from. Kant’s principle is also appropriate: if I can’t
plagiarize and be dishonest, neither can anyone else. My ethical code here demands
my own honesty and academic integrity in hopes that others will follow the same
Much of my ethical code also rests with the idea that all people should live in
harmony with one another – that violence is never the answer, and that non-violence is
always more proactive in solving conflict. This ethical guideline has been passed to me
directly by my parents in my childhood. I was an angst-filled child growing up; my


Jacob Fuerst

temper often stood, and sometimes still stands, in my way in maintaining non-violent
conflict. I often took out my anger on walls, doors, and by slamming keyboards until they
broke. I even broke my hand by punching a wall with a stud behind it. This behavior was
immediately addressed by my parents while I was in middle school, both of whom are
extremely non-violent. I remember them both coming into my room to explain that
violence solves nothing – that feelings of anger during conflict or frustration can only be
rectified non-violently. As I grew up, I kept applying that lesson to my educational and
professional career. In fact, the Wall Street Journal itself has a written “conflict of
interest” agreement between employees (Perez-Pena). This demonstrates that in the
professional world, where conflict arises frequently, disagreements should always be
resolved through words. I apply the same notion to my present life. It’s not always easy
to uphold, however; sometimes a driver is so asinine that it makes me want to scream,
or my roommate continuously does things we’ve agreed not to do, like leave garbage
everywhere or leave dirty plates in the sink. In these situations, I enact Aristotle’s
“golden mean” to guide my actions in the midst of conflict. Aristotle believes that people
should meet in the middle; “if we are generally prone to one extreme, we ought to lean
toward another this time,” (Christians 11). This means that when I’m feeling violent or
extremely angry, I should instead meet in the middle of my emotional spectrum and
respond with tact. Likewise, I should meet in the middle in regards to what the other
person, the source of my anger, is doing in an attempt to understand their motives . In
doing so, I can create a harmonious situation in which conflicting sources understand
one another and can potentially reach an amiable conclusion through words.


Jacob Fuerst

An overarching element of my ethical code is in enacting good judgment at all
times. It is fitting that good judgment should follow my previous ethical foundations, as it
is necessary in being responsible, being honest and being harmonious with others . The
National School Public Relations Association, or NSPRA, has a code of ethics that
asserts that good judgment should be enacted when releasing information and when
dealing with confidential material (“Code of Ethics”). I can honestly say that good
judgment, especially regarding sensitive material, has been taught to me through my
work as a writing tutor. As a tutor, I often deal with text that another student does not
want others to see or hear. I learned to maintain good judgment in these situations –
perhaps the two of us don’t read their draft allowed, which is standard practice at the
writing center. In maintaining good judgment, I must understand what comments may
sound too harsh when providing written feedback. This is often a barrier to my success,
because sometimes a piece of writing is so bad that I have a hard time responding
positively. This means that I use judgment to decide how to phrase certain concerns or
issues so as not to degrade or talk down to a writer. I was also taught as a tutor not to
appropriate the work of others, which means I should not tell them what to do . Thus, I
must use good judgment when asserting a change in a writer’s text; I was taught to use
words like “consider” and “try this” when talking about change. My ethical code of
practicing good judgment was particularly pertinent to one student I tutored last fall .
Starting in the autumn of 2013, I tutored a student with severe Asperger’s
syndrome, and good judgment was critical to my ethical decision making during
conferences. He would get worked up over nothing; he’d yell at me for tapping the table


Jacob Fuerst

or just for nothing at all. I used judgment to combat every situation he faced me with. I’d
make sure we were always by an electrical outlet, so he could charge his laptop while
we conferenced – this made him feel more comfortable. I’d consistently ask if I could
touch his laptop so he would not get worked up. Moreover, I’d email his teaching aid,
Paul, when I felt that the student needed more help than I could provide . This is
because the student would often come in with work he expected me to do for him, which
I then decided to do a Potter Box on in an effort to maintain good judgment, a staple of
my ethical decision making. The description of the situation is that a student with a
learning disability wants me to do his work for him – plagiarism, essentially. This
situation arises frequently between this student and me. I value my code of ethics – my
responsibility, honesty, harmony and judgment – but I also value helping others,
especially those with special needs. Moreover, I value my integrity as a writing tutor and
as a student at DePaul. I further value skill-building techniques in learning as well. In
thinking about principles, I applied Kant’s – if one person cannot do it, no one should be
able to. Ultimately, this is how I decided not to do the student’s work in this situation,
thus assigning my loyalty to academic integrity. Just because the student had special
needs did not mean that he should be allowed to have others do his work for him . I did
consider Aristotle’s golden mean – to meet in the middle, understanding that the student
had special disabilities and was unlike other students – but not even Aristotle could
rationalize my thinking into helping another student cheat. In this way, I avoided doing
his work for him. I also learned to judge how much I could really help a student with a
learning disability. This kept me grounded, kept our appointments productive, and

Jacob Fuerst

allowed me to say “no” when the student wanted me to write his words for him . My
ethical code of preserving good judgment was critical to our appointments and was, in
large part, taught to me through my work at the writing center as a whole .
Good judgment is one of the four ethical guidelines I rely on in making ethical
decisions, particularly because the other three – responsibility, honesty and harmony –
all require an unbiased, proactive and permanent dedication to good judgment at all
times. If I’m to be responsible and timely at all times, I must enact judgment in doing
work ahead of time to overcome stress and a lot of work. Upholding honesty, especially
academically, is also crucial to my code of ethics because it’s been ingrained in my
brain throughout the educational system I’ve been a part of . I further believe that
harmony and non-violence are crucial when facing conflict, and I’m ethically bound to
maintain such harmony, especially because my parents taught it to me at a young age .
Furthermore, good judgment is a pillar of my ethical code because without it, I would not
have the clarity on which to handle things with tact. The philosophies of Kant, Mills and
Aristotle play a role in my ethical code, specifically when handling obstacles that stand
in the way of upholding my ethical code. Taken together, my ethical code has benefitted
me as a student, as a writing tutor and as a regular person in everyday life, too. I feel
that I can make a difference in the ethical landscape of the world in front of me if I
maintain my own ethical code when making decisions.


Jacob Fuerst

Works Cited
Christians, Clifford, Mark Fackler, Kathy Richardson, Peggy Kreshel, and Robert Jr.
Woods. Media Ethics Cases and Moral Reasoning. 9th ed. Pearson Education,
2012. Print.
"Code of Ethics." National School Public Relations Association. 2014.
Perez-Pena, Richard. "Wall St. Journal Gives an Ethics Green Light to a P.R.
Executive's Column." New York Times.
"Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Member Code of Ethics." Public Relations
Society of America. <
"The Effects of Plagiarism." John Carroll University.