A Case of Academic Misconduct: Does Self-Interest Rule?
31 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2010 Last revised: 31 May 2010
Date Written: January 10, 2010
This paper presents an unusual case of academic misconduct. The case is unusual in that the students did not act on their own; rather the instructor initiated and facilitated the academic misconduct. As a result of the instructor’s actions, the students in one section of a management accounting course were able to achieve significantly higher grades than their peers enrolled in other sections. A preliminary analysis of the case suggests self-interest rules. It appears the students were aware that the instructor’s behavior was unethical yet they chose not to report it. Further, despite the manner in which they achieved their grades, a significant portion of the students complained when their grades were reduced (upon discovery of the academic misconduct).
While the case is about academic misconduct, the case shares similar characteristics with many of the recent high profile accounting manipulations and helps us understand why the people who were aware of the manipulations chose to do nothing. We argue that given the right social environment, despite knowing what ethics and the law expects of them, people will act unethically and convince themselves that their self-serving behavior is permissible. For accounting educators, it raises the fundamental question – “If self-interest rules, how can we ensure future accountants act with integrity and put the public interest first?”
Keywords: academic misconduct, ethics, accounting education, public interest
JEL Classification: M14, M49, A20
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation