Molly Mcguire ’18
On Sept. 21, President Kathleen McCartney sent out an email to the entire student body in order to announce the launch of the EthicsPoint program. President McCartney explained in her email, with the subject line reading “Supporting our commitment to ethics and transparency,” that this program is intended to supplement “our existing reporting options by providing students, staff, and faculty with a way to report concerns anonymously about illegal behavior, fraud, discrimination, bias and more.”
EthicsPoint is a third-party company and is already being used by institutions such as Amherst College, Tufts and Brown Universities. Members of the Smith community can find the link to the EthicsPoint program through the Smith website.
The Smith administration has made it clear that this program is not meant to replace the current system for reporting sexual assault, nor is it a 911 service for reporting emergencies. Rather, it is a way for students and staff to report instances of misconduct in a way that allows them to remain anonymous.
There are a wide range of policy violations that can be reported through the use of EthicsPoint. For example, the program was used this year at the University of Minnesota, to report that the wrestling coach was protecting members of his team who were abusing the prescription anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Smith still emphasizes the importance of students and faculty freely expressing their concerns with their peers or superiors when they suspect a policy violation has taken place. According to the Conduct & Ethics Reporting section of Smith’s website, “Smith is committed to an environment where open, honest communications are the expectation, not the exception. We want you to feel comfortable in approaching your supervisor or management in instances where you believe violations of policies or standards have occurred.”
However, through the use of this program, the administration has also accepted the fact that members of the Smith community may only feel comfortable placing anonymous reports of violations of the code of conduct. Thus, students may call the 24/7 EthicsPoint hotline, or submit an online form while remaining confidential.
In order to report a suspected policy violation using the hotline, participants in this program will be asked to simply describe the nature of the policy violation. If a participant decides to make a report online, they would have to fill out a questionnaire. After the report is submitted, an EthicsPoint official will contact the most appropriate member of the Smith administration, and an investigation may be held.
If a participant would like to identify themselves while using this program, they will have the opportunity to do so while they are filing the report.
Some reporters have questioned the use of EthicsPoint in schools. For example, Blake Neff of the Daily Caller News Foundation wrote an article in response to the University of Oklahoma’s implementation of the program titled, “Oklahoma U. Now Has A 24/7 Bias Hotline You Can Call For Hurt Feelings,” suggesting that the program may be abused by students for trivial matters.
Despite this, EthicsPoint and the Smith administration encourage students to make reports even if they are unsure if it is really worth documenting. On the FAQ page available on the EthicsPoint website, the company states that, “Many problems are uncovered as the result of concerns expressed by individuals who are not sure of the facts but are sufficiently troubled about how an activity or behavior may affect Smith.”