How Important is Your Campus’s Ethics Program?

The Importance of Having an Ethics Program

Posted by Shelley Kilpatrick on 10 March 2016 |

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campus ethics programIn March of last year, Syracuse.com reported that an audit on Upstate Medical University found that a $33 million fund lacked rules to prevent its abuse and was largely controlled by an official with a conflict of interest. After the allegations came to light, the university created a new position to design a framework that will educate employees on ethical practices.

Also a month later, the University of Minnesota faced its own ethics troubles. According to the local news outlets, a psychology professor was beginning a new study, and instead of waiting for the federal government to approve his paperwork, he falsified the documents.

And it wasn’t the only ethical hot water that the University of Minnesota was in. Earlier in the year, there was conflict of interest regarding a drug trial.

These stories illustrate the need for higher education institutions to pay greater attention to ethics programs—just as private businesses do.

Ethics Programs and Codes of Conduct

Since the 1990s, businesses all over the globe have been investing in corporate social responsibility (ethics) programs—including developing formal codes of conduct. These codes help to govern the behavior of employees to ensure they make legal—and ethical—decisions.

These same guidelines are also useful at higher education institutions. And many colleges and universities already have their own codes of conduct. However, a study from the Journal of Business Ethics concluded that college and university codes of conducts could benefit from the following improvements:

  • Greater emphasis on preventing financial, scientific and academic fraud
  • More inclusion of the faculty in the process
  • Establishment of a proper process for implementation of the code

Creating A Culture of Ethics on Campus

it’s not enough just to have a code of conduct, it’s important to create an ethical cultural on campus. For example, James Keenan SJ, Canisius Professor of Theology at Boston College, stated in The Conversation, a source of news from the academic research community, “Simply put, the American university does not hold its employees to professional ethical standards because it has not created a culture of ethical consciousness and accountability at the university.”

He makes the argument that while colleges and universities teach courses on business ethics, they themselves have not committed to creating a culture of ethics on campus—partly because of the one directional accountability.

Keenan comments, “For all the compliance, accountability and collaborative models that university faculty teach in their ethics courses to physicians, nurses, managers and lawyers, the university itself remains averse to developing any true accountability structures.”

What’s are the Next Steps?

First, higher education institutions need to ensure their codes of conduct provide detailed guidelines on how to make ethical decisions. The codes should cover a variety of topics. For example:

  • Applicable laws: fraud, cybersecurity, unlawful harassment, bribery,
    conflicts of interest, etc.
  • The school’s commitment to ethics and creating a culture of honesty and integrity
  • The behavior expected of faculty, staff, administrators and anyone else associated with the university
  • The consequences of unethical behavior, and ways to report unethical behavior

Once the code of conduct is finished, the next step is to communicate it to the campus and the third parties that work with the institution. This is something you can do with ethics training. The training should help to emphasize the university’s commitment to creating a culture of ethics.

Finally, it’s important to make ethics a high priority. Campus leaders need to follow the code of conduct and make the commitment to investigate and punish any wrongdoing.

By creating a sound ethics program, your university should reduce the chances of an ethical violation. To learn more about our ethics training for higher education institutions, schedule a demo today.

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