Board of Regents review new code of conduct policy

by Brian Bakst

People who use University resources and facilities may be subject to a newly defined code of conduct if the Board of Regents approves it.
Regents briefly reviewed the code Thursday and are expected to pass the measure next month. Board of Regents Chairman Thomas Reagan said the board was pleased with the policy.
The code of conduct provides ethical expectations for University faculty members, civil service employees and administrators. Jim Infante, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said those expectations have always existed informally and the code of conduct policy simply documents them.
Students who are only taking courses would not be covered by the policy. Instead, they are covered by the student code of conduct that already exists.
The idea for the faculty and staff member code stems from interactions with external agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Infante said the agencies, which provide the University with millions of dollars in research grants, have established stricter guidelines in their definitions of scientific misconduct.
Vice President for Research Mark Brenner said the University has been under “special monitoring” by the NIH since August. The probationary status was implemented because of concern about how the University spends the millions of dollars it receives from the NIH annually.
Brenner and Infante wanted to draft a policy that went beyond conduct of research. “Rather than writing a code of conduct just for research, we wanted to address the University in general,” Brenner said.
The policy deals with issues of fairness, professional conduct, compliance with laws, authorship, data collection and acceptance of gifts. The section on fairness states that University members “must not engage in, nor permit, harassment and illegal discrimination.”
Regent William Hogan questioned the concept of “illegal discrimination.” Discrimination on the basis of sex, race, creed, or age would be considered illegal. Infante said authors of the conduct policy added “illegal” to the document because the University does discriminate in some instances. For example, it grants tenure to some professors, but not others. He said the University also is discriminatory in its grading. “We discriminate by giving A’s, B’s and C’s,” said Infante in a phone interviewy it at meeting.
The policy also emphasizes that individuals cannot accept gifts or money as part of their University activities. Money or gifts can be accepted through University channels, however, such as University Foundation donations.
In the case of research, grants must be spent in a way that is consistent with grant requests.
The author of the policy, Assistant Vice President for Research Frances Lawrenz, said punishments are not prescribed for violation of the policy.
“This policy is a statement of our aspirations,” Lawrenz said. “There are other policies that address unallowable behavior and consequences.”
Academic misconduct and conflict of interest policies, which contain punishments such as suspension or salary reduction, would be used if the code is not adhered to.
Lawrenz referred to code of conduct policies at Stanford, University of Iowa and University of Wisconsin when writing the University’s code. She also presented drafts to numerous organizations such as the Faculty Senate Research Committee and the Office of the General Counsel. “Everybody supports it,” Lawrenz said.