UB launches EthicsPoint hotline for students, faculty and staff to report concerns
UB recently partnered up with EthicsPoint hotline, a third-party platform that allows students, faculty and staff to report ethical concerns anonymously.
Students, faculty and staff can access the hotline online or by phone to make an anonymous report. While a claim is being investigated, the anonymous party will be updated and communicated with about the status of the process. Some faculty members are in support of the hotline and believe it is the university’s responsibility to acknowledge the concerns of students and other faculty. Others believe the university can do more to ensure transparency.
Kara Kearney-Saylor, director of Internal Audit, receives all reports. She sends these reports to either UB President Satish Tripathi or specific departments equipped to handle the nature of the investigation.
“There was a decision about a year ago to start looking into an ethics hotline, a number of schools have implemented something similar,” Kearney-Saylor said. “There wasn’t something I know that precipitated this, there’s really been an emphasis in the last couple years.”
Kearney-Saylor said it’s important for people to know the EthicsPoint hotline is a secure, independent server and “truly" confidential. EthicsPoint is contractually prohibited from pursuing any identities, she said.
Kearney-Saylor said the hotline was chosen to enable faculty to report any potential wrongdoings including academic and financial misdeeds, among others.
The online hotline allows a user to create a username and password, which they may log in with to track the progress of their report.
Throughout the process, Kearney-Saylor is able to communicate online with the anonymous reporter in order to gain new information if necessary and to inform the person that their complaint is being addressed.
In the event that a report implicates President Tripathi, Kearney-Saylor said she would inform the SUNY Audit Committee.
If someone wishes to submit a complaint about Kearney-Saylor’s behavior, a different “back-up” individual will review the report, she said.
Kearney-Saylor will bring the report to various departments to begin investigating depending on the nature of the complaint. For example, a harassment or discrimination report might be sent to the Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, according to Kearney-Saylor.
Kearney-Saylor said faculty, staff and students have not sent any reports yet. She said the experience will be a “learning curve” and will look to improve the process as necessary in the future.
“Schools are decentralized, there’s a lot of different players on campus at all times and I think, you know, that it’s important to, one, demonstrate that we care about ethics and there’s a place for people to go and the other thing is I think that often times because we’re such a large university people don’t know who the best person to go to,” Kearney-Saylor said.
While the hotline is in its early days, Kearney-Saylor said she expects they will submit “general reports to the community” on what kinds of issues are being raised and how they are resolved.
“I think the establishment of an ethics hotline at UB is a great idea,” said Lorrie A. Metzger, an accounting and law professor in an email. “A hotline for reporting of unethical behavior, potential fraud, or violations to UB policies allows for individuals to feel comfortable coming forward as their identity will remain anonymous and the issue reported will remain confidential.”
Metzger feels as a state institution, using taxpayer funds, the EthicsPoint hotline is part of the university’s “fiduciary responsibility.”
Some faculty members have expressed concerns about hotline.
James Holstun, an English professor, said he thinks there are better measures for ensuring transparency. Holstun said the best way for the university to show they care about ethical behavior would be funding independent newspapers and appointing an official to investigate the complaints.
Martha McCluskey, a law professor and member of the SUNY Faculty Senate Ethics and Institutional Integrity Committee, said the hotline raises some concerns over which UB officials are involved and how the university addresses ethical questions in other ways, such as the hiring of deans.
Kearney-Saylor said she “appreciates their frustrations” but the hotline is an additional resource for the university. She said there are a number of local, SUNY and federal hotlines available.
“This is merely to provide one more outlet for individuals to turn when they feel that they cannot speak up,” Kearney-Saylor said. “We hope that we will be able to more quickly respond to and address concerns.”
Sarah Crowley is the assistant news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org