In the wake of corporate scandals such as ENRON and World.com, Yale administrators have formalized the University’s ethical business policies.
The Yale University Standards of Business Conduct, spearheaded by Yale President Richard Levin, is a document outlining the ethical and legal values governing University business dealings. It formalizes the values to which the University has always subscribed by compiling them together in one document, Assistant Vice President and Controller Cary Scapillato said. He said the document re-emphasizes the responsibility of faculty and staff to act with integrity and morality.
The document addresses issues such as ethical conduct, conflicts of interest, individual responsibility, accountability and appropriate treatment of confidential information. The document also describes the consequences of the violations of these standards.
Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said the document makes clear the University’s ethical stance.
“There had been discussions among senior level managers about the desirability of collecting [policies] in one document that would not only make it convenient, but would demonstrate that all the policies preceded from a set of values,” Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said.
While the document itself is a new concept, the ideas within it are not foreign to the University’s faculty and staff, Scapillato said.
“It’s putting in words how we’ve operated in the past,” Scapillato said.
Yale has recently been faced with questions of financial ethics. Former Yale Berkeley Divinity School Finance Director Judy Stebbins, who was fired for her alleged involvement in misappropriating school funds, filed a lawsuit in New Haven Superior Court this September charging the Divinity School with breach of contract and slandering her reputation.
Robinson said while the Standards is not a direct result of Stebbin’s actions, the suit emphasizes the importance of the document.
“This isn’t a response to that situation, but that situation is a reminder that a statement such as this is a valuable thing to have,” Robinson said.
Spanish/Portuguese and engineering professor Mercedes Carreras, who teaches a class titled “Professional Ethics,” said the rules will help to make faculty members accountable for their actions.
“You cannot claim ignorance of the rules if there are [written] rules,” Carreras said.
The Standards follow a trend around the nation of an increasing awareness of business ethics, Carreras said.
“We all have to suffer the consequences of the unethical conduct of people on Wall Street,” Carreras said.
With the Standards comes a discussion of business ethics and practices, Robinson said. The document helps to bring University values into the open, she said.
“It provides a vehicle for identifying expectations in a number of areas,” Robinson said. “The policies are out there, they have existed, but this is a vehicle for identifying them and bringing them to the common attention of faculty and business managers. It’s a device for facilitating communication.”
Carreras said the creations of the Standards will improve the relationship the University has with faculty and staff.
“I think [the reaction is] going to be very positive,” Carreras said. “The fact that we have something written — means that the University has some concerns for these issues.”