Ethics hotline doubles number of reports

By Jaime Winston, Staff Writers

With a new ethics hot line system, anonymous ethical questions from U staff and faculty have more than doubled, said Randy Van Dyke, assistant vice president for auditing and risk services at the U.

EthicsPoint, based in Portland, Ore., manages the U’s hot line, which is dedicated to reporting unethical practices on campus. Since the U started using EthicsPoint services two years ago, reports have doubled.

“Prior to that time, we administered a hot line internally,” Van Dyke said. “But we changed to EthicsPoint because it was becoming standard practice to outsource this type of arrangement in the wider business community.”

The hot line shouldn’t be a staff member’s first choice if the issue can be solved by contacting management, Van Dyke said.

“That’s the most direct way of resolving problems,” he said.

According to the U’s Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct, personnel are expected to treat others impartially, refrain from harming U property and resources, protect confidential material such as student records and abide by state, federal and NCAA regulations.

Van Dyke said some of the violations he has seen reported as head of Internal Audit include concerns about the use of U resources, relationships between an employer and employee and favoritism in hiring decisions.

Despite the new system’s increased interest, many staff and faculty still don’t use it because they haven’t heard of it.

Carolan Ownby, a professor of undergraduate studies, said she’s never heard of the hot line before. She said it sounds like an interesting idea for certain situations but has no experience with it.

Van Dyke said they are trying to spread word about the hot line through articles and other advertisements.

The system would also be useful to faculty because the U strives to make the system completely anonymous.

Only an investigator and the person who filed a report through the hot line would be able to access report information, said Bill Piwonka, senior director of marketing for EthicsPoint. They would also be able to communicate with one another anonymously through EthicsPoint’s Web site.

The hot line provider does not investigate a report when it receives one, but sends it to U officials or an outside agency, such as a law firm, for an impartial investigation. When the ethical violation is also a crime committed on campus, it could be sent to U Campus Police.

Sgt. Arb Nordgran of the U’s Department of Public Safety said U employees should call U Police directly if they are a victim of a crime, have seen a crime in progress or need immediate assistance. Civil disputes would need to be taken to other entities, such as EthicsPoint, he said.

However, Nordgran sees a potential for people to use the anonymity the hot line provides improperly.

“There’s always going to be people who are going to call up and abuse the system,” he said.

EthicsPoint was originally intended to be used by U employees, but because the reports are anonymous, students might use it as well, Van Dyke said.

Dean of Students Annie Nebeker Christensen said students can bring their ethical issues to her.

“Students call if they’ve been accused of cheating or if they think someone has plagiarized a paper they’ve done,” Christensen said. “Our work involves really listening carefully and talking to students about their options and what may be the best way to address it.”

However, Christensen said her department can’t always provide anonymity if the issue involves immediate health or safety risks. She also encourages students to go to their professors, heads of departments and resident advisers with ethical concerns.

[email protected]