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Feb. 23, 2015

University implements new ethics and compliance tool

By Abbey White

Cleveland State University has launched an anonymous online tool for reporting institutional ethics and compliance issues.

Through a partnership with Ethicspoint, students, faculty and staff can now use the confidential system to detail abuses by individuals, programs, offices and departments in adherence to laws, regulations and university policy, as well as issues of integrity.

In addition to this new tool, campus community members can continue to use the procedures already in place to report misconduct, which can range from sexual harassment and plagiarism to intellectual property infringement and sabotage.

This includes directly notifying their supervisor, university program administrator or the Office of University Compliance about problems that are academic, financial, athletic or medical in nature.

For many years, Cleveland State has also had an anonymous telephone system in place. This method uses a live operator to handle reports of potential misconduct relating to research, information technology, safety and human resources.

Unlike the older reporting procedures, the anonymous online form operates separately from Cleveland State’s website, hosted on servers owned by Ethicspoint. It can be most easily accessed through the “Anonymous Reporting” link on the Office of University Compliance’s webpage.

Rachel King, chief compliance officer at Cleveland State, says the new tool should increase the likelihood that individuals uncomfortable with the university’s present reporting methods will disclose a problem.

“Most people will report their concerns directly to a faculty member or administrator, but some feel more comfortable being able to make an anonymous report,” King said. “It is important to have an effective way for members of the university to report any situations or conduct that they are concerned about.”

In spite of the tool’s primary purpose, individuals are not required to remain anonymous when using it.

“All reports that are received through EthicsPoint will be investigated,” King said. “In general, the reports come to me and I assign them to the appropriate office depending on the nature of the report. If a person provides contact information when they make a report, the investigator may contact them directly. If the person does not provide their contact information, the investigator can follow up with them through the EthicsPoint system by posting a question.”

The introduction of the online tool follows the implementation of several recent ethics and compliance policies put in place by the university and its board of trustees.

“Last year, the board of trustees officially adopted a whistleblower protection policy to prohibit retaliation against anyone who makes a good faith report of wrongdoing. The board also adopted a conflict of interest statement for trustees and employees which encapsulates the Ohio ethics rules,” King said.

It’s policies such as these – and Cleveland State’s new anonymous online tool – that will strengthen the university’s ability to meet necessary requirements and regulations by preventing, catching and addressing even more ethics and compliance issues that occur, but that are simply not being reported.

“The anonymous reporting system signals that the university is interested in addressing the concerns of all community members,” King said. “When a person identifies themselves in a report, it makes it easier for the investigator to follow up, but we would rather receive the report anonymously than not at all.”

At the end of the day, King said the new tool will only aid the work the Office of University Compliance already carries out.

“There is no downside to using the anonymous system,” King said.