New employee code of conduct proposed by Eastern

JJ Bullock, Editor-in-Chief

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Eastern’s general counsel Laura McLaughlin introduced a draft of a new university code of conduct for Eastern employees, which she said “puts a definition on professionalism at Eastern,” Tuesday at Eastern’s Faculty Senate meeting.

The proposed code states it establishes “guidelines for professional conduct by acting on behalf of EIU, including administration, faculty, staff and other individuals employed by EIU using EIU’s resources or facilities, and volunteers and representatives acting as agents of EIU.”

Eastern currently has no employee code of conduct which came to McLaughlin’s attention following incidents of “unprofessional behavior” earlier this year which prompted her to search for one.

McLaughlin said when there is no policy on how employees should behave in writing, it is hard to hold people to a certain standard.

The proposal’s opening statement says Eastern is “built around a common goal of excellence in a spirit of mutual trust. Mutual trust requires a culture of respect, civility and collegiality supporting EIU’s mission and shared governance.”

The proposal “mirrors” the employee code of conduct at the University of Illinois, McLaughlin said, while also indicating it is unusual for a university to not have an employee code of conduct.

The proposal also states that it is not an attempt to define what an employee “should and should not do,” but rather to “communicate EIU’s expectations of proper conduct and what professional conduct EIU values.”

Six items were listed in the code of conduct referencing what Eastern feels its employees should practice in “regard to professional conduct.” Those items include: Integrity, trustworthiness, respect, stewardship, compliance with state and federal laws and confidentiality in the protection of sensitive information.

The proposal itself was received well by the Senate members, Senate chair C.C. Wharram said he felt everyone was “on the same page” as far as seeing the need for a code of conduct at Eastern.

“It seems uncontroversial from my point of view,” Wharram said. “I think you could sort of tell based on what the responses around the table were. It seems like it’s odd that we didn’t have one.”

McLaughlin is seeking feedback on the proposed code, which she says can be emailed to her or delivered in person if someone wishes to remain anonymous.

Senate member Steve Brantley said he felt the proposal should include a statement that it does not intend to infringe on employee’s intellectual freedoms or academic integrity.

“One of the misgivings faculty might have is to make sure it doesn’t infringe on any kind of freedom of research or freedom of expression when it comes to opinions on matters and I think that is worth considering and probably would be worth mentioning in the code of conduct itself,” Wharram said.

The Senate also is beginning the process to temporarily replace member Teshome Abebe, who is currently on a sabbatical.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]