Penn State

Faculty Senate ethics committee looks to retool Penn State policy

Penn State’s ethics policies and procedures have been in the news since the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal and the subsequent commissioning of the Freeh report.

One of Freeh’s recommendations was a periodic review of university policies, with those procedures being tweaked or replaced as necessary.

On Tuesday, the University Ethics Committee brought up one of those policies to the University Faculty Senate for input.

The policy is listed as AD47. It went by a different name when it was first put on the books in 1986, but got its current moniker in 1996. What hasn’t changed is everything else. The policy serves as an ethical template, but not on a wide scale.

“It was originally faculty only, specifically professors,” ethics specialist Timothy Balliett said.

Now they want something more inclusive. Balliett envisions a policy that would cover all faculty, staff, administration and student employees, but the process is not being rushed. Instead, in the way of committees and large organizations, there is a goal of implementation for May 2015, with a proposed committee to weigh in and make recommendations.

That committee was part of the reason Balliett and compliance officer Regis Becker came to the senate to discuss the possible revisions.

They see a committee with input from all sectors, including three faculty members proposed by the senate, plus two staff members, a technical employee, a graduate student employee, an associate general counsel, someone from the Office of Research Protections and an administrator.

“Why a big policy for everyone?” asked Dawn Blasko, a senator from Penn State Behrend. She questioned why each group couldn’t make their own policies that would best fit their membership.

“We’re modeling best practice,” Balliett said. “We’re all held to one standard. ... It’s a powerful statement.”