Harassment in Universities: Part of the Curriculum?

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on March 5, 2015

Misconduct 101 Taking Place in Room 201 – Don’t Forget Your Notebook

Harassment in Universities

Universities and colleges are often held in high esteem of professional and ethical behavior. But ultimately, these bastions of learning are no different from any other organization that can experience fraud, schemes, scams and every other bad behaviour.

Over the past years, incidents like sexual harassment, discrimination, gifting, vendor kick-backs and collusion have tarnished many university reputations. We’ve seen in the media lately the harm done by the University of Dalhousie dentistry students.

Given that fundraising and development are essential components of most university operational plans, ensuring that proper policies, tools and training are in place is of outmost importance to protect the sustainability of these institutions.

However, there are precautions and strategies that can be put into place to both detect fraud earlier and prevent it from happening altogether. Fraud detection is usually uncovered by a tip. stock graphic stack of books

Whistleblowers Are the Number One Way to Detect Fraud.

Having a system that allows a person to anonymously report an incident is the first important line of defense. Having a system that allows multiple reporting methods is even better. Hotline, web portal, email, fax and yes snail mail – all empower an individual to make that first leap of faith and report what they know.

Leaders Create the Culture of Integrity.

Ensuring that the tone at the top encourages employees, students, volunteers to come forward is also key. Having the right tools in place, but not the environment to support those tools, is a recipe for non-compliance. From the President of the University through management and faculty, it is key that the culture support an environment of integrity, respect for others and transparency.

Consistent Code and Policies.

Clearly written Codes of Conduct and policies that are consistent are important for the universities employees to understand and comprehend the expectation of behavior and adherence to those codes.

University Harassment Training.

Training, training, training. We speak to this a great deal with our clients. Training is a necessity that can not be overlooked. Lunch and learns, staff meetings, yearly reviews, are all opportunities to revisit the Code of Conduct. Discuss potential ethical dilemmas and ensure employees know the university’s position on ethical behavior.

And when problems do arise, it is imperative that management reacts quickly and deals thoroughly with the situation. Small issues can gain momentum if they are not addressed, and can certainly develop into something seemingly uncontrollable. If perpetrators believe there are no negative outcomes to the unethical behaviour they are participating in, that behaviour will continue at the university’s expense. Prompt enforcement of policies can inhibit much larger issues down the road.

Let’s get misconduct out of the curriculum.

eBook: 5 Steps to Create a Whistleblower Culture