Penn State scandal prompts Penn admins to clarify ethical guidelines

The University has fielded multiple inquiries about how it would respond to a similar scandal

· November 22, 2011, 12:19 am   ·  Updated November 22, 2011, 1:33 am

In response to the ongoing scandal at Pennsylvania State University, Penn administrators have clarified the ethical and moral principles they expect members of the University community to hold.

On Friday, Penn President Amy Gutmann, Provost Vince Price and Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli released a statement on Penn’s values.

In the statement, they said that “amid the grief that we all feel for the victims [of the Penn State scandal], we think it is important … to reflect on our University’s deeply held values, and our determined commitment to ensure an environment of ethical, honorable and legal conduct in every aspect of our campus life.”

Among other things, Gutmann, Price and Carnaroli discussed the importance of adhering to the University’s Principles of Responsible Conduct — a document that lays out expected standards of behavior at Penn. Vice President for University Communications Stephen MacCarthy wrote in an email that the Principles “form the underpinning of Penn’s policies across the whole range of University activity.”

For Carnaroli, Friday’s statement represented an opportunity to reiterate the University’s expectations for its community and make people aware of the resources that are available to them.

He said the University has fielded “multiple” inquiries from various student and staff groups across campus about what measures Penn has in place that would protect itself from a situation similar to what has unfolded at Penn State. As a result of these inquiries, he said the statement was a means of “responding to the potential anxiety out there.”

Gutmann, Price and Carnaroli also discussed Penn’s “215-P-COMPLY” program — a confidential phone and internet-based hotline through which individuals can report violations of Penn’s policies.

According to Carnaroli, the phone hotline receives an average of 20 to 30 reports of policy violations per year.

Data on the usage of the program’s online version — launched March 2009 — was not available, he said.

Institutional Compliance Officer Linda Yoder, who works closely with both the reporting service and the Principles of Responsible Conduct, explained that the help line exists “because the federal sentencing guidelines require an [educational] institution to have a way for employees to anonymously report any compliance concerns.”

“Penn wants to provide employees, students and patients [in the University’s Health System] with tools to encourage the reporting of compliance concerns,” she added.

Yoder explained that, within Penn’s Principles of Responsible Conduct, “there are policies that pertain to everyone” at the University. Examples of policies addressed in the Principles include guidance on sexual harassment in the workplace and appropriate research conduct, among many others.

She added that every anonymous tip about an alleged violation of Penn’s policies leads to a follow-up investigation.

“We have the mechanisms as well as the procedures in place to assist when faculty, staff and students encounter a problem,” Gutmann, Price and Carnaroli said. “It is essential for everyone in the Penn community always to do things the right way — which we should all recognize as being the Penn way.”

SEE ALSO

Penn State’s far-reaching scandal
Timeline: Penn State sex abuse allegations timeline
Samantha Sharf: We go to Penn, but we are Penn State

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