How To Develop a Code of Ethics for Your Student Government
In 2009-10, Santa Clara University’s student government partnered with the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics to create a document that provides clear, positive statements of ethical behavior and reflects the core values of the community. From the process, a helpful How-To Guide was developed. Although it speaks specifically to the experience of ASGSCU, the guide can be adapted to account for the particular needs of your student government and provides a helpful starting point for the development of a code of ethics.
Start Thinking About a Code:
A Helpful Place to Begin
1. Why would you like to create a code of ethics? What is your goal? Is the document intended to regulate behavior, set guidelines, or define purpose?
2. Does your organization have a mission or vision statement? Both are useful in guiding an organization’s actions, formulating its code of ethics and values, and defining the organization’s purpose.
3. What values are important to your organization? (See our Values section for more information)
4. What structure will best suit your needs? Many ethics codes begin with an aspirational introduction, outlining ideals the organization hopes to live up to. A list of values, rules, or principles then follows, which members are expected to behave in accordance with. Will your ethics code focus on values or outline specific behaviors?
5. Are certain principles or values of greater importance than others? It may be useful to list those values at the beginning of the code, giving them natural priority.
6. Will the new code be enforced, and if so, how?
7. What groups will you involve in the creation of your code? Students inside the organization, outside the organization, other groups on campus, faculty, staff, alumni?
8. How will you involve these groups? Survey, focus groups, individual or large group interview, debate?
9. How will the code be publicized and embraced as a foundational part of your organization? Will it be included in trainings, retreats, or initiations? What can be done to keep the code present in the organization’s daily activities?
10. How will your code be revised and kept relevant? Should it be reviewed every year, every five years, every ten years?