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Professional Integrity and Conduct Policy

Overview & Rationale

The School of Professional Psychology (SOPP) is committed to professional excellence and to the highest standards of professional integrity and professional conduct of students. As detailed in the School’s policy on Comprehensive Evaluation of Student Competence under the SOPP Academic Policies and Procedures, professional integrity and professional conduct are cornerstones of professional competence and, for this reason, are fundamental to evaluating the competence of students. Departures from professional integrity which, herein, will be referred to as instances of professional dishonesty, are evidence of student incompetence. Similarly, departures from professionalism or professional conduct which, herein will be referred to as instances of unprofessional or unethical conduct, are evidence of student incompetence. At minimum, students must recognize the importance of, and demonstrate the ability to conduct themselves honestly and with integrity, and in a manner that reflects the standards of the profession of psychology. Moreover, students must demonstrate an ability to comply with and accommodate to legal codes governing the profession, professional standards and professional ethics.

All members of the SOPP community have a responsibility to foster an atmosphere conducive to professional excellence, professional integrity and professional conduct at SOPP. When an instance of professional dishonesty or unprofessional or unethical conduct on the part of a student is suspected or brought to light, it is the responsibility of Faculty, staff and administrators to address the issue as one of student competence. As with all other instances when student competence is called into question, Faculty, staff and administrators have an ethical and legal responsibility to serve as gatekeepers to the profession and must take timely and reasoned action to address and resolve the issue.

Guidelines for professional conduct

It is the expectation of the Faculty that students will conduct themselves in accordance with the ethical standards of the profession as established by the American Psychological Association. These are provided in the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (hereafter referred to as the Ethics Code, 2010). A copy of the Ethics Code and related materials can be found at http://www.apa.org/ethics/code/index.aspx. During SOPP’s Fall Convocation, students entering the School of Professional Psychology take an oath which is a public affirmation of their identification with the profession and their pledge to adhere to the Ethics Code.

Students are advised to read the Ethics Code carefully, to consult it whenever questions arise about some aspect of their conduct, and to seek out Faculty, supervisors or administrators for clarification of any part of the document that they do not understand. Students should also take note of the fact that the ethics code encompasses personal problems and conflicts that may interfere with professional effectiveness, adherence to governmental laws as well as relevant institutional regulations, and behavior that might compromise the fulfillment of professional responsibilities or reduce the public trust in psychology or psychologists.

A second source for guidelines and standards related to professionalism and professional conduct is The Ohio Psychology Law and Rules Governing Psychologists and School Psychologists. Copies of the Law and Rules along with citations to related statutes can be found online at www.psychology.ohio.gov.  The Law and Rules set forth explicit requirements relative to the psychological supervisory relationship and the professional conduct of individuals in the role of supervisee for psychological work or psychological training.  Sections of the Law relating to supervisory relations, titles to be used by unlicensed persons, and professional conduct (Sections 4732-13-01 through 4732-17-03) are especially relevant.  Students should also consult the SOPP policy entitled Student Professional Identification Statement for appropriate titles to use (see the Clinical Training section on the SOPP web site).  Students are expected to adhere to SOPP policies and the Ohio Law and Rules governing psychologists in all professional roles and settings.

Professional integrity

Professional integrity is one aspect of the broad domain of ethical and professional conduct as it was discussed above. Because SOPP is a training program, it is important that students understand some of the manifestations, in training settings, of lapses in professional integrity, otherwise referred to as professional dishonesty. 

Professional dishonesty is broadly defined as any act that reflects a lack of probity or honesty in any professional setting or professional role. Acts of professional dishonesty reflect an attempt to deceive, or actual deception of another or others. Acts of professional dishonesty may be either acts of commission or acts of omission.

A brief listing of actions that constitute professional dishonesty is provided below. No attempt has been made to provide an exhaustive list of such actions. Instead, the list below represents some of the more common types of professional dishonesty. Finally, many acts of professional dishonesty could be categorized in more than one of the types of dishonesty presented below, as these are overlapping and not discrete categories.

Cheating

Any use of external assistance during an examination in any professional setting, including a take-home examination, will be considered professional dishonesty unless expressly permitted by the instructor or supervisor. Some examples include the following: communicating with another student during an examination; copying material from another student's examination; allowing another student to copy from one’s own exam, using notes, tables, diagrams or other resources during an examination unless expressly approved by the instructor or supervisor, submitting materials, a paper, or report written by or obtained from another as one's own (see also Plagiarism below).

Fabrication

Any intentional falsification or invention of academic or research data, data associated with teaching records, client records or client care, falsification of financial or billing information, falsification of treatment or assessment results or falsification of citations in a professional report, presentation or publication will be considered a violation of professional integrity.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the appropriating and subsequent passing off of another person's work as one's own.  If the work of another is used, acknowledgement of the original source must be made using APA style.  If another's words are borrowed in whole or in part and merely recast in the student's own words, proper acknowledgement must, nonetheless, be made. This is not only true for formal, scholarly written assignments, but also for professional reports including psychological assessment reports wherein text from computerized or other published interpretive sources cannot be used without appropriate citation.

Misrepresentation

Misrepresentation refers to the representing of oneself, or another person or entity in a way that is incorrect, improper or false. Moreover, misrepresentation occurs when one fails to correct an inaccurate, improper or false representation made about oneself by another person or entity. Common types of misrepresentation include inaccurate, improper or false representations of one’s student or trainee status, licensure status, prior or current areas of professional expertise or professional limitations.

Quarterly & annual review of professional integrity & conduct of students

Misrepresentation refers to the representing of oneself, or another person or entity in a way that is incorrect, improper or false. Moreover, misrepresentation occurs when one fails to correct an inaccurate, improper or false representation made about oneself by another person or entity. Common types of misrepresentation include inaccurate, improper or false representations of one’s student or trainee status, licensure status, prior or current areas of professional expertise or professional limitations.

Procedures for confronting professional dishonesty, unprofessional or unethical conduct

It is the responsibility of each member of the SOPP community to uphold the standards of professional integrity, professionalism and professional conduct and to confront and question instances when professional dishonesty, unprofessional or unethical conduct is suspected.  To have knowledge of professional dishonesty, unprofessional or unethical conduct and not confront it places students, Faculty and administrators in violation of the Ethics Code, which explicitly assigns psychologists and trainees the responsibility to monitor peer conduct and confront dishonest, unprofessional or unethical behavior.

The Ethics Code grants the same latitude in dealing with situations of known or suspected professional dishonesty, unprofessional or unethical conduct.  If the violation is of a minor nature and seems to have resulted from lack of sensitivity, knowledge or experience, Faculty or students may elect to deal with the situation informally by discussing the behavior in question with the offending student.  The goal in this kind of intervention is to educate and heighten sensitivity to the dishonest, unethical or unprofessional nature of the behavior.  Alternatively, the student or Faculty may choose to bring the incident to the attention of either the Associate Dean.

Making a formal charge of professional dishonesty, unethical or unprofessional conduct with the Associate Dean is an appropriate initial action when the violation does not seem amenable to an informal corrective action or if the violation is of a more serious nature.  It is also possible for students or Faculty to employ both informal and formal approaches.  For example, a Faculty member or student who intervenes informally in an instance of suspected professional dishonesty or unethical or unprofessional conduct and is not satisfied with the results of that intervention may decide to proceed to formal action.

Faculty or students who are unsure whether to intervene informally or formally (or whether they are obligated to take action at all) are urged to seek counsel and advice from a Faculty member, the Associate Dean and/or the Director of Clinical Training.

Consequences of professional or enethical misconduct

The maximum penalty that can be imposed independently by a faculty member or supervisor is failing the student for an examination or other assignment. Additional penalties imposed by the Faculty following a hearing include, but are not limited to, failing the student in a course, practicum or internship, failing the student on the professional dissertation or CCE, placing the student on probation or leave from the program, requiring specific remedial actions on the part of the student, or terminating the student from the program.

Emergency suspension

The Associate Dean may impose an emergency suspension when a student's behavior constitutes a grave breach of professionalism or professional ethics, when such behavior places other people's welfare in jeopardy or threatens to disrupt the educational process of the School or University. Students placed on emergency suspension will not be permitted to participate in any of the School's activities, nor will they be allowed to take examinations or submit papers or other course work without written permission from the Associate Dean. Emergency suspensions will remain in effect until the Faculty has conducted a hearing, or a majority of the Faculty have agreed on an alternate course of action.

Procedures for dealing with formal charges of student professional dishonesty, unprofessional or unethical conduct

Formal allegations of professional dishonesty, or unprofessional or unethical conduct will be dealt with by the Associate Dean as described in Section B of the SOPP’s Grading and Remediation Policies.

Appealing faculty decisions to the dean

A student who believes that new information has come to light that was not presented in the hearing, but that bears directly on the issue that was the focus of the hearing may appeal the Faculty’s decision to the Dean. Similarly, a student who believes that the outcome of the Faculty hearing reflects lack of due process or other gross violation of student rights may appeal the Faculty’s decision to the Dean. The mere fact that the student dislikes or disagrees with the decision does not constitute grounds for an appeal. The student must submit the appeal including clear and explicit reason(s) for the appeal, in writing, to the Dean.  A written petition must be presented to the Dean within seven working days of receiving the letter notifying the student of the Faculty's decision.  The Dean will review the relevant documents and other information and the student will be informed, in writing, of the Dean's decision within 30 days of receipt of the appeal.  Failure of the student to appeal within the allotted time renders the Faculty's decision final.

The Dean's decision is final in all instances except when the decision by the Faculty and/or the Dean is to terminate the student from the program.  In instances of termination, and only in these instances, the student has the option of appealing the Dean's decision directly to the Provost of the University.

Appealing the dean’s decision to the university provost

A clear and explicit written petition must be presented to the Provost within seven working days of receiving the letter notifying the student of the Dean's decision.  The Provost’s decision is final.  Failure of the student to appeal within the allotted time period renders the Dean's decision final.

Adopted by the Faculty 17 February 2010; updated 21 August 2012