Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Ethical behavior should be encouraged at universities

WorldCom, Enron and Imclone are only a few of the
multi-billion-dollar corporations accused of fraud and betraying

At UW-Madison, a number of students were accused of cheating on
an accounting exam last spring. Last week, at least one student in
a political science class was suspected of cheating.

The central failure in all these instances is a total disregard
for ethical principles.


Ethics is a trait you would hope administrators not only have,
but also would promote through example. Unfortunately, this is not
the case for UW administrators Assistant Dean Consuelo
Lopez-Springfield and Letters & Science Advising Director Neil

The UW Pre-Law Society officers signed a two-year contract with
a national corporation that gave both benefits to the company and
the Pre-Law Society. Any contract has issues that must be examined
before that contract is signed.But once both parties have legally
signed the contract, these issues are moot — they must honor the

However, despite the legality of the contract, Mr. Richardson
and Ms. Lopez-Springfield not only disagreed with the contract, but
also actively encouraged the breaching of this contract by Pre-Law
Society officers.

In fact, according to Richardson, “Contracts end when one party
breaks them.” This is a sentiment that Lopez-Springfield, the
University’s pre-law adviser, did not disagree with.

This idea should be both offensive to those in and considering
the legal profession — not to mention just factually wrong.

If a person or party enters a legally binding contract and then
breaks the contract before its term has expired, this is considered
a breach of contract. A breach of contract does not automatically
void the contract. If a breach occurs, the party in breach is
legally responsible for financial damages in civil court and would
usually still be required to honor the contract.

Getting away from the legal issues, what messages are these two
administrators sending to students? Advocating students to break a
legal contract because they disagree with it, when it was properly
signed, is both incredibly authoritarian and promoting poor ethical

Sadly, when the issue of ethics was raised, Richardson’s
response was, “I don’t care about ethics.” A quote that really
exemplifies why cheating in the business world, at universities and
across the country, has been a growing problem — because few
people care.

Instead of promoting unethical behavior, all administrators and
advisers must take the high road by educating students, not lying
and not claiming loopholes that do not exist. Maybe telling the
Pre-Law officers that contracts are over when one party breaches
the contract is what these administrators truly believed, but, if
this is the case, maybe they need to consult attorneys before
trying to force students to do something wrong.

Unfortunately, this story of disappointing behavior by one of
these administrators does not end here — in fact, it only worsens.
Within a few weeks of the initial meeting between these two
administrators and PLS officers, one officer needed a document
signed for a law school application, certifying this student was in
good standing.

This form was not a letter of recommendation, just a
certification of enrollment and status. This is the type of duty
that deans are expected to perform on a regular basis — assisting
students is actually one of the reasons the University pays

However, when this student approached Assistant Dean
Lopez-Springfield, she denied the student’s request for a signature
because she apparently felt some of the officers had mistreated her
at the last meeting (even though this student probably said no more
than 10 words total at the meeting).

Was this student’s request denied because of a lack of good
standing? Of course not — this student had the forms signed by the
registrar’s office without problem. Apparently they were even

Evidently, the $73,893 Dean Lopez-Springfield is being paid by
the University this year does not include assisting pre-law
students, even though one of her duties is “pre-law adviser.” PLS
officers and Lopez-Springfield had an ideological difference and a
disagreement over the interpretation of the law, yet this
particular dean decided to take a grudge against a group of
students over a non-academic issue and hold it against a student in
the academic setting.

At best, this behavior by Dean Lopez-Springfield is immature and
irresponsible; at worst, it is malfeasance that should include some
form of discipline by senior UW administrators.

The unprofessional and ethically lacking behavior exhibited in
both of these situations should not be considered acceptable to
students or the administration. One of the reasons for ethical
failures is that those in leadership positions fail to set an
example for the rest of society. Hopefully these two examples
represent the exception and not the rule; otherwise people should
expect to see many more WorldComs and Imclones in the
not-too-distant future.

Matt Modell ([email protected]) is a senior
majoring in journalism and political science. He is also the
finance director for the Pre-Law Society.

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