Doing the right thing

Survey gauges students' ethics

Survey gauges students' ethics

June 14, 2007|by JULIA COPLEY

HAGERSTOWN - Do you think people who lie and cheat get ahead in the world?

What if you were undercharged at a restaurant? Would you say anything?

If you found an iPod, would you keep it?

Results of a recent survey of area college students suggest that, for many questions, around 80 percent of the 228 college students who responded would do the right thing.

But on almost every question, about 15 percent to 20 percent of those responding to the survey by seven Hagerstown Community College students unabashedly declared their self-serving inclinations.

For two of the questions, a majority of answers indicated tolerance of unethical behavior.

The students conducted the unscientific survey as a final project for a business class at HCC. They were graded on how professionally they both administered the survey and presented their findings to the class.


The professor of the class, Loretta Thornhill, said she was more or less expecting the results.

"I was a little disheartened, but not very surprised," she said.

The survey was conducted with 228 students. It presented 15 real-life ethical dilemmas, and asked respondents for yes or no answers. The survey was conducted unscientifically, with most of the student administrators simply asking classmates to fill out the survey.

Results included:

· Fifty-five percent of respondents said they wouldn't notify a waiter if they were undercharged.

· Fifty-four percent of those younger than 20 who responded said they would keep an iPod if they found it.

· Ninety-three percent of respondents said they wouldn't cheat on a significant other.

· Eighty-four percent said they don't buy alcohol or cigarettes for minors.

· Nearly one-third, or 32 percent, said they felt that people who lie and cheat get ahead in life.

What do the results suggest about this generation of young people compared to their predecessors?

Area residents questioned about the matter were divided in their opinions.

John Borelli, 53, of Clear Spring, said that he was irresponsible and careless as a youngster, but "as I got older, I got more ethical."

He said people's thought processes change as they age and they learn they have to "work for it, and respect people."

Jordan Lessig, 20, said she believes that young people these days find it easier to be naughty.

"Parents have less of a hold on their kids" than in previous generations, and today's youths have higher material expectations than those in earlier decades, she said.

Paula Cook, 50, of Mercersburg, Pa., said she didn't worry too much about college students' ethics.

"With age comes wisdom," she said. By the time she encounters them in the workplace, she figures they'll have shaped up, she said.

Maleka Collins, 16, said she believes that the ethics of today's young adults are looser.

"We're more laid back than previous generations," she said. "They were like, you have to look a certain way, dress a certain way, and we're like, life's a party."

Thornhill said she doesn't believe this generation is less ethical overall than its predecessors.

"I don't really know, but my gut feeling is that it's about the same," she said.

Andrew Schnebly, 18, said he thinks the current young-adult generation isn't less ethical than previous generations. Morals, he said, don't come from peers.

"It depends on the person, on the way they were raised," he said.

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