This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Simpson seeks code of professional conduct for faculty

Published: September 30, 2004

Contributing Editor

Saying he was disturbed by a couple of internal matters that have come across his desk outlining "less than professional behavior on the part of faculty members," President John B. Simpson recommended to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee yesterday that UB develop a "written, well-understood code of professional conduct" for the university community.

"We should have a clear, articulate and clearly understood outline of what is to be expected, what is professional behavior," he told FSEC members. "Ideally, it would include eight to 10 points of how we expect people to behave."

Faculty Senate Chair Peter Nickerson, professor of pathology, said an ad hoc committee already is being formed to address the issue.

In response to questions from members as to whether the rules would be directed at faculty alone, faculty and staff, or possibly include students, Simpson said that while the ad hoc committee would determine who such a code would apply to, he is asking for "a statement of some small number of principles by which we could live as a community," one that projects "a sentiment, a point of view as to how we behave in the main."

"The opposite of that would be thinking about this in a legalistic, formal sense," he added.

Loyce Stewart, director of the Office of Equity, Diversity and Affirmative Action, said there is no code of conduct currently in existence.

"We do not have what you would call a code of conduct and the president is talking about more or less a code of civility, just to reinforce ethics," Stewart said. "He is not talking about making a code of conduct that would include sanctions. It's just a reminder that this is the way that you should behave ethically, decently."

The FSEC also heard from the UB Diversity Committee's sexual orientation subcommittee, which asked for help in increasing "awareness, education and support of diversity issues," especially those affecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students. Currently, the committee offers several programs for students, faculty and staff that aim to expand awareness of UB's LBGT student population.

Ellen Christensen, director of health education and human services and Diversity Committee co-chair, noted the group's "Safe Zone Programs" have the same goals in mind as Simpson's earlier call for a general code of ethics. "We also want to increase respect and dignity for all faculty, students and staff," she said.

Frank Carnevale, director of health services and student wellness team coordinator, added that the committee directs its efforts to protect students "when civility doesn't work" and to offer guidance as to "how we can as a community behave."

Among the items the Diversity Committee uses to promote its programs is a "safe zone sticker card" that faculty and staff can display in offices and workspaces to inform students and others they are in an area where they can speak freely without fear of discrimination.

In response to Carnevale's request for ideas on how best to "get the word out" about diversity programs, FSEC members suggested that the Diversity Committee contact specific professors in every department to encourage their participation and set up presentations for several departments at one time.

C. Carl Pegels, professor of management science and systems in the School of Management, noted that most faculty members may be too busy to attend the programs, which range from one to three hours in duration, and suggested the group distribute written materials or use a Web site to convey information to faculty.

Simpson applauded the Diversity Committee, but expressed frustration and dismay that such discrimination exists in a university setting. "I think what you're doing is good, it's important, and frankly, it's surprising to me that you are here," Simpson said.

The FSEC also discussed a report of the senate's Student Life Committee, which seeks ideas for helping UB commuter students become more involved in nonacademic activities and programs on campus.

Approximately 72 percent of all UB students commute; among undergraduates, 62 percent, or about 11,000, are commuter students.

Paul N. Balzano, student affairs director for the undergraduate Student Association, said commuting is a "most difficult" experience for these students, many of whom have time to attend only classes on campus. "They're like the ghosts of UB, if you will," he said. "They live at home, they have jobs, and they miss out on their university career, their university experience."

He noted that SA has at least 120 clubs for students, adding "It would be a huge help if faculty would take time to support those clubs."

The meeting's final discussion concerned a memo from the SUNY chancellor asking each of the system's campuses "to come up with a policy on how it is going to deal with issues of hazing and more severe incidents or convictions," and whether such incidents should be part of a student's permanent records.

Nickerson said the Faculty Senate and president's office will work together during the current academic year to address the issue.