Reporting Wrongs with a Mouse and a Click
Published in TC Community
5Teachers College has launched a Web site and telephone hotline that provide faculty, staff and students a way to anonymously and confidentially report allegations of misconduct or fraud in areas ranging from finance and accounting to environmental health and safety.
The site and hotline were created in partnership with Portland, Oregon-based EthicsPoint Inc., which has developed similar reporting systems for educational institutions across the country, including Cornell University, Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania.
The development of the reporting system comes amid TC’s continuing efforts to promote safety, security and ethical behavior. Indeed, the site and hotline were not developed in response to any action or event, but instead are designed to be an additional resource for employees, one that draws on best practices and the latest in technology.
“I want to make it very clear that this service is a proactive measure rather than a reaction to any breach of conduct,” states TC President Susan Fuhrman in a letter to the TC community that can be found on the new site. “While I hope and expect that few of us will ever need to use the hotline, I am pleased that we can provide it and enable all members of our community to feel protected and empowered in upholding the College’s high ethical standards.”
Employees are still encouraged to speak with their managers first should there be an issue of concern, but if there is a need for anonymity, the new online site and hotline number provide an easy and effective way to report an incident. The new reporting system is specifically for issues related to finance, accounting, environmental health and safety. Existing reporting methods for such things as harassment and other grievances remain in place.
TC has been working with EthicsPoint for several months to tailor the portal for the needs of the College. As structured, the site gives users the option of calling the hotline number without having to identify themselves or simply filling out a report online. (The site is hosted on EthicsPoint’s server and thus is not part of TC’s Web site.) To file a report, users are given the option of clicking on either Accounting and Financial or Environmental Health & Public Safety.
From there, users have the option of clicking on a range of specific reporting areas that include everything from Conflict of Interest and Theft/Embezzlement to Student Safety and Unsafe Working Conditions. The online forms themselves ask users a number of questions and request various details about the incident.
Once the report is submitted, the system automatically issues the user a unique code, known as a “report key,” that the person can then use to log onto a secure section of the site after 10 business days to check if there are any follow-up questions or submit more information. Users can opt to remain anonymous throughout the entire process.
Any report submitted through the site automatically enters a centralized database and is then routed to appropriate personnel to investigate. The online system is robust enough that it can detect a potential conflict of interest of anyone who is responsible for investigating an incident and route the report to only those who are clear of any potential conflicts.
Currently, the site is in English but plans are underway to have it translated into Spanish. The site is located at https://secure.ethicspoint.com/domain/media/en/gui/22716/index.html and the hotline number is (888) 329-6420.