In the next two weeks, faculty will have the opportunity to voice their opinions on a new document that lays out specific standards of ethical conduct.
In an effort to ensure that the University’s published statements fully reflect its focus on ethical conduct, University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak convened an Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Standards of Conduct in May 2014 to draw up one centralized code of faculty conduct. Formerly, many of these standards were articulated in the Faculty Handbook, but others were not explicitly stated, Salovey and Polak explained in an email to University faculty last week. From now until Feb. 16, faculty will have the chance to provide thoughts or suggestions on the draft document, with the option of commenting anonymously.
“Faculty, like all members of the Yale community, are responsible for adhering to the highest ethical and professional standards,” Salovey and Polak said in the email. “Whereas many of these standards are stated explicitly in the Faculty Handbook and other records of University policy, others are not articulated in any Yale document. As a result, the University’s published statements do not fully reflect our shared commitment to the highest ethical standards.”
The draft document currently features three sections — Teaching and Training Standards, Scholarship and Professional Standards and Standards in Respect to Colleagues and the University. Each section explains the general ethical principle that guides it and also provides examples of conduct inconsistent with the principle.
Deputy Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity Stephanie Spangler said the plans for this committee have been in the works for some time.
“While there was no specific catalyst for the creation of the committee, the president, provost and members of the faculty have been aware for some time of the importance of having an explicit and unified set of standards that fully reflects our shared commitment to the highest ethical practices,” Spangler said.
Trumbull College Master Margaret Clark, who chaired the committee, said the creation of the document is still ongoing.
According to the email sent by Salovey and Polak, faculty feedback will be used to determine what changes should be made to the standards before they are published in the Faculty Handbook. Spangler added that the committee will consider all faculty input before making further recommendations.
Divinity School Professor Harry Attridge, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, said he and his colleagues consulted several sources while drawing up the document, including some internal to Yale and some outside references. The document includes material from many different texts, including the University Policy on Freedom of Expression, the American Association of University Professors’ Statement on Professional Ethics and Yale’s Policy on Teacher-Student Consensual Relations.
In addition to drawing from many sources, the committee is composed of a diverse array of faculty members, including representatives from the provost and general counsel’s offices and faculty from the Schools of Medicine, Management and Forestry. According to Attridge, this collection of diverse perspectives will be beneficial for constructive dialogue.
According to faculty members interviewed, the development of this document is a positive change, although some expressed reservations about its comprehensiveness or whether it will uncover any new ideas.
“The draft statement seems well thought-out and carefully crafted,” anthropology professor Richard Burger said in an email. “I imagine that guidelines such as these are useful to put down on paper although I believe that none of them will come as a surprise to the faculty.”
History professor Patrick Cohrs said he believes this is generally a good procedure, though he does not know how many faculty members have had the chance to look at it yet.
Attridge said laying out the expectations is a good idea, given that currently, there is clarity in some areas but not in others.
However, three professors said that while they think the document is a good idea, they have not yet given their opinions.