Ethics Policy

The University System of Georgia (USG) is committed to the highest ethical and professional standards of conduct in pursuit of its mission to create a more educated Georgia. Accomplishing this mission demands integrity, good judgment and dedication to public service from all members of the USG community.

While the USG affirms each person’s accountability for individual actions, it also recognizes that the shared mission and the shared enterprise of its institutions require a shared set of core values and ethical conduct to which each member of the USG community must be held accountable. Furthermore, the USG acknowledges that an organizational culture grounded in trust is essential to supporting these core values and ethical conduct.

The following Statement of Core Values and Code of Conduct are intended to build, maintain and protect that trust, recognizing that each member of the USG community is responsible for doing his/her part by upholding the highest standards of competence and character.

Applicability

The USG Ethics Policy applies to all members of the USG community. The USG community includes:

  1. All members of the Board of Regents;
  2. All individuals employed by, or acting on behalf of, the USG or one of the USG institutions, including volunteers, vendors, and contractors; and,
  3. Members of the governing boards and employees of all cooperative organizations affiliated with the USG or one of its institutions.

Members of the Board of Regents and all individuals employed by the USG or one of its institutions in any capacity shall participate in USG Ethics Policy training, and shall certify compliance with the USG Ethics Policy on a periodic basis as provided in the USG Business Procedures Manual. Cooperative organizations, vendors, and contractors shall certify compliance with the USG Ethics Policy by written agreement as provided in the USG Business Procedures Manual.

The USG Ethics Policy governs only official conduct performed by or on behalf of the USG. Violations of the USG Ethics Policy may result in disciplinary action including dismissal or termination.

Statement of Core Values

Every member of the USG community is required to adhere to the USG Statement of Core Values – Integrity, Excellence, Accountability, and Respect – that form and guide the daily work of the organization.

Integrity – We will be honest, fair, impartial and unbiased in our dealings both with and on behalf of the USG.

Excellence – We will perform our duties to foster a culture of excellence and high quality in everything we do.

Accountability – We firmly believe that education in the form of scholarship, research, teaching, service and developing others is a public trust. We will live up to this trust through safeguarding our resources and being good stewards of the human, intellectual, physical and fiscal resources given to our care.

Respect – We recognize the inherent dignity and rights of every person, and we will do our utmost to fulfill our resulting responsibility to treat each person with fairness, compassion and decency.

Purpose of the Code of Conduct

The USG recognizes that each member of the USG community attempts to live by his or her own values, beliefs and ethical decision-making processes. The purpose of the Code of Conduct is to guide members of the USG community in applying the underlying USG Statement of Core Values to the decisions and choices that are made in the course of everyday endeavors. Each USG institution must ensure that its institutional ethics policies are consistent with this USG Ethics policy.

Code of Conduct

We will:

  1. Uphold the highest standards of intellectual honesty and integrity in the conduct of teaching, research, service and grants administration.
  2. Act as good stewards of the resources and information entrusted to our care.
  3. Perform assigned duties and professional responsibilities in such a manner so as to further the USG mission.
  4. Treat fellow employees, students and the public with dignity and respect.
  5. Refrain from discriminating against, harassing or threatening others.
  6. Comply with all applicable laws, rules, regulations and professional standards.
  7. Respect the intellectual property rights of others.
  8. Avoid improper political activities as defined in law and Board of Regents Policy.
  9. Protect human health and safety and the environment in all USG operations and activities.
  10. Report wrongdoing to the proper authorities; refrain from retaliating against those who do report violations; and cooperate fully with authorized investigations.
  11. Disclose and avoid improper conflicts of interest.
  12. Refrain from accepting any gift or thing of value in those instances prohibited by law or Board of Regents policy.
  13. Not use our position or authority improperly to advance the interests of a friend or relative.

Interpretation and Sources

The Statement of Core Values and Code of Conduct do not address every conceivable situation or ethical dilemma that may be faced by members of the USG community. Members of the USG community are expected to exercise good judgment absent specific guidance from this policy or other applicable laws, rules and regulations.

Specific questions pertaining to the Statement of Core Values or Code of Conduct should be directed to a supervisor or other competent authority at the University System Office or at the institution’s office of Legal Affairs, Internal Audit, Compliance, Human Resources, Academic Affairs, or other appropriate office.

Overview

Each actively employed University System of Georgia (USG) employee, to include institutional employees, is expected to complete the USG Ethics Training and Certification within 90 days of their initial day of employment as a condition of employment. This training will typically be coordinated through the Office of Human Resources and Employee Relations. Additionally, the USG may require periodic “refresher” ethics training and related certification courses. In the event any employee refuses to complete any required Ethics training and certification, the institution shall follow the process as outlined below:

Employees

In the event an actively employed employee fails to complete USG Ethics training and certification or other required training the employee shall be subject to disciplinary action consistent with Board Policy up to and including termination. Upon initial failure to complete the training in accordance with the published deadline, the institution shall have 30 days to obtain the employee’s compliance with the required training and certification using disciplinary procedures consistent with institutional procedures and Board Policy up to and including termination. If the employee has not remediated the requirement within 30 days, then the disciplinary process outlined as follows shall be implemented. Nothing in the following process shall be construed as preventing the institution from taking measures it deems necessary to obtain compliance prior to the end of the 30-day period. Upon failure to complete the required training and certification, the immediate supervisor of the employee shall convene a meeting and issue a verbal warning. If the employee does not remediate this requirement within three business days of having received the verbal warning, the employee will be relieved of any supervisory (personnel) or budgetary responsibilities until such time as the employee successfully completes the training and certification.

In the event a tenured or non-tenured employee with faculty rank continues to fail to complete the training and certification, the President shall remove the faculty member for cause consistent with the policy and procedures outlined in Board Policy 8.3.9. If the faculty member is tenure-track, non-tenure, or part-time and/or adjunct and refuses to complete the training and certification, the faculty member shall also be subject to non-renewal of contract or non-reappointment.

All non-faculty employees shall have a total of 10 business days from the date of the verbal warning to complete the training and certification. If the employee still fails to complete the training and certification at the end of the 10 business day period, then the employee shall receive a final written warning and will be given 10 additional business days to complete the training. If the employee continues to fail to complete the training by the regular close of business on the 10th day after the issuance of the final written warning, then s/he shall be terminated.

The USG Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and/or the USG Chief Audit Officer may periodically require reports from institutions with respect to their completion of ethics certification and training requirements. These reports will periodically be summarized and presented to the Board of Regents’ Committee on Internal Audit, Risk, and Compliance.

Student Employees

Student employees shall be subject to the ethics training and certification requirements and associated disciplinary procedures as outlined in the “Employees” section above.

Alternative Delivery Methods

Georgia College may, with approval, choose alternative means to deliver USG Ethics Policy training and certification requirements. Alternative means for delivery of ethics training shall minimally include:

Training, e.g., discussion groups, classes, online training, seminars, convocations, etc., that addresses the tenets of the USG Ethics Policy and current USG ethics issues as defined in published guidance;

Review of the actual USG Ethics Policy; and,

A physical and/or electronic signature indicating understanding of and compliance with the USG Ethics Policy.

Scheduling of alternative delivery methods shall be consistent with the training deadlines established for completion of the USG Ethics Policy periodic training and certification requirements. Additionally, institutions shall enforce compliance with the alternative delivery methods as outlined under the “Employee” section above.

Institutions choosing an alternative means to deliver USG Ethics Policy training and certification requirements shall submit their proposed employee ethics training and certification program to the USG Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and the USG Chief Audit Officer for approval prior to the institution President approving an alternative delivery method.

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Updated March 3, 2011