Preparing for A Final Discussion-San Diego State University

Because of efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19, a large university has, like many others, transitioned to online instruction for the foreseeable future. In-person classes are not prohibited, but the administration has strongly recommended against them. Because the semester was close to being over when the university transitioned its classes to online, finals are approaching.   This means that professors must choose from a number of less-than-ideal options for administering final exams.
Some instructors have given students the choice of an optional final, or canceled them altogether, basing their grade entirely on past work. Others have chosen to use an online service that monitors students while they take their tests in order to ensure that they do not cheat. The downside of this service is that it requires access to a computer with a webcam, a reliable internet connection, and access to a quiet, empty room. Those requirements pose a challenge for many college students, particularly those with fewer resources — and more roommates.
In consideration of this, another popular option is to require an online exam with a request for academic honesty as the only safeguard against cheating. No notes, books, internet or classmates are to be used when taking the final.  Based on conversations overheard on campus between classmates, many students think it is fair to assume that the vast majority of students will take advantage of the resources now available to them (i.e., notes, friends, the internet) in order to succeed. This will result in a much higher average performance than an in-person exam would, putting anyone who does not cheat at a disadvantage as any grading on a curve would hurt them.
Most students know that it is dishonest to cheat,  but they also want to maintain a high G.P.A., and it seems that those goals are in conflict with each other.
If you were one of these students, what sort of ethical reasoning would you engage in to figure how to approach the upcoming final?  I am looking to see you pick one type of ethical reasoning and  use that concept to discuss how you will take the final.
Overview of EthicsEthics Defined: Moral Philosophy (Links to an external site.)DeontologyEthics Defined: Deontology (Links to an external site.)The deontological class of ethical theories states that people should adhere to their obliga-tions and duties when engaged in decision making when ethics are in play. This means that a person will follow his or her obligations to another individual or society because upholding one’s duty is what is considered ethically correct. For instance, a deontologist will always keep his promises to a friend and will follow the law. A person who adheres to deontological theory will produce very consistent decisions since they will be based on the individual’s set duties.Deontology contains many positive attributes, but it also contains flaws. One flaw is that there is no rationale or logical basis for deciding an individual’s duties. For instance, a busi-nessperson may decide that it is his/her duty to always be on time to meetings. Although this appears to be something good, we do not know why the person chose to make this his duty. Sometimes, a person’s duties are in conflict. For instance, if the business person who must be on time to meetings is running late, how is he/she supposed to drive? Is speeding breaking his/her duty to society to uphold the law, or is the businessperson supposed to arrive at the meeting late, not fulfilling the duty to be on time?UtilitarianismPHILOSOPHY – Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1 [HD] (Links to an external site.)Utilitarian ethical theories are based on one’s ability to predict the consequences of an action. To a utilitarian, the choice that yields the greatest benefit to the most people is the one that is ethically correct. There are two types of utilitarianism, act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism subscribes precisely to the definition of utilitarianism—a person performs the acts that benefit the most people, regardless of personal feelings or the societal constraints such as laws. Rule utilitarianism takes into account the law and is concerned with fairness. A rule utilitarian seeks to benefit the most people but through the fairest and most just means available. Therefore, added benefits of rule utilitarianism are that it values justice and includes beneficence at the same time.Both act and rule utilitarianism have disadvantages. Although people can use their life experiences to attempt to predict outcomes, no one can be certain that his/her predictions will be accurate. Uncertainty can lead to unexpected results making the utilitarian decision maker appear unethical as time passes, as the choice made did not benefit the most people as predicted.Another assumption that a utilitarian decision maker must make concerns his/her ability to compare the various types of consequences against each other on a similar scale. But, comparing material gains, such as money, against intangible gains, such as happiness, is very difficult since their qualities differ to such a large extent.An act utilitarian decision maker is concerned with achieving the maximum good. Thus, one individual’s rights may be infringed upon in order to benefit a greater number of people. In other words, act utilitarianism is not always concerned with justice, beneficence or autonomy for an individual if oppressing the individual leads to the solution that benefits a majority of people.Still another source of challenge with act utilitarian decision makers occurs when an individual faces one set of variable conditions and then suddenly experiences changes in those conditions. The change in conditions may lead to a change in the original decision—being be nice to someone one moment and then dislike them the next moment because the situation has changed, and liking the person is no longer beneficial to the most people. In rule utilitarianism, there is the possibility of conflicting rules.Recall the example of the business person running late for a meeting. Suppose the business person happens to be the CEO, who may believe that it is ethically correct to arrive at important meetings on time as the members of the company will benefit from this decision. The CEO may encounter conflicting ideas about what is ethically correct if he/she is running late. Yet, the CEO believes that he/she should follow the law because this benefits society. Simultaneously, he/she believes that it is ethically correct to be on time for his meeting because it is a meeting that also benefits the society. There appears to be no ethically correct answer for this scenario.Virtue Ethics (Links to an external site.)Ethics Defined: Virtue Ethics (Links to an external site.)The virtue ethical theory judges a person by his/her character rather than by an action that may deviate from his/her normal behavior. It takes the person’s morals, reputation, and motivation into account when rating an unusual and irregular behavior that is considered unethical. For instance, if a person plagiarized a passage that was later detected by a peer, the peer who knows the person well will understand the person’s character and will judge the friend accordingly. If the plagiarizer normally follows the rules and has good standing amongst his colleagues, the peer who encounters the plagiarized passage may be able to judge his friend more leniently. Perhaps the researcher had a late night and simply forgot to credit his or her source appropriately. Conversely, a person who has a reputation for academic misconduct is more likely to be judged harshly for plagiarizing because of his/her consistent past of unethical behavior. One weakness of virtue ethical theory is that it does not take into consideration a person’s change in moral character. For example, a scientist who may have made mistakes in the past may honestly have the same late night story as the scientist in good standing. Neither of these scientists intentionally plagiarized, but the act was still committed. On the other hand, a researcher may have a sudden change from moral to immoral character may go unnoticed until a significant amount of evidence mounts up against him/her.(Courtesy of Larry Chonko, Ph.D. The University of Texas at Arlington)