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Compliance and Ethics

Ethical Scenarios

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Topic Scenario
Employee Errors

Question: Margie finished a crucial assignment involving records last week but just realized her report had errors. She tells Jason that she will fix it before anyone notices. What should Jason do?

Answer:  Jason should tell Margie to speak to their supervisor about the problem right away, so it can be fixed with everyone being aware of the situation.  In case Margie doesn't tell their supervisor, Jason should tell him/her.

Remember, employees should never cover up their mistakes. 

Class Complication

Question:  Holly has been having problems getting up to go into work since she began taking night class. She's been making mistakes and going much slower than usual due to how tired she is. If Holly makes up her hours by staying after the workday is over, is it okay for her to go to work late on the days following her night class?  Is it okay for her to work slower since she is so tired?

Answer:  No, university employees are expected to attend work and be punctual.  Even if hours are missed, changes of schedules must only be done with supervisor approval.  There are specific rules that relate to time off, including vacation days, overtime, paid personal days, holidays, etc. In fact, local, state and federal laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) control pay and time practices.  As a worker at the university, Holly is expected to work diligently with efficiency and economy; and she is expected to make sure her personal life is not interfering in her work life. 

Timeframe Disclosures

Question: Natasha oversees making packets for incoming students. Another department on campus would like copies of the packets early and Natasha promised them that she would give them to the department, but she knows that they will not be ready. What should Natasha do?

Answer:  Natasha should guide the assumptions of other employees, students, and third parties practically and prudently to guarantee an optimistic working and learning environment. In this conundrum, Natasha should work alongside her supervisor and the other department to find a solution. 

Drinking At Work

Question:  Susan sees her supervisor and her co-worker coming back from lunch cleary drunk.  Should she report them?

Answer:  Alcohol and substance abuse is strictly prohibited. Susan must report the incident to Human Resources. She will be protected from retaliation by her supervisor and colleague since the school's policy can ensure her safety. 

Time Concerns

Question:  As she walks into work, Nadia notices that McKenzie is punching in her own time card as well as the time card of another employee. McKenzie is the employee who oversees time cards. Is McKenzie allowed to do this?

Answer: Work hours are a crucial asset to schools. Employees must punch in their own time cards and ensure that the time on the card is correct. When taking time off, employees must designate the type of leave such as sick leave or vacation days.  McKenzie cannot punch the other employees’ time card. 

Releasing Student Information

Question:  Elliot must access student files for his job, and he wants to help the students who are have issues; and he would like to give their information to a friend of his who provides tutoring.  He asks his supervisor, Nancy, if he can provide this information to his friend. What is the appropriate response from Nancy?

Answer: Student and staff information available to employees can only be used for legitimate purposes related to his/her job. These records are confidential; therefore, Elliot cannot give out student information nor use student information to recommend tutors for their benefit: that would be a misuse of student information and a possible violation of Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 

Workplace Relationships

Question: Over the last year, Pam has been working with Henry who is a graduate student intern in her office. Henry's internship will end in a couple of months, and he will no longer be reporting to her; therefore, Pam and Henry have decided to wait to start dating when she is no longer supervising him. Is this a potential conflict of interest?

Answer: Pam is obligated to report this to Human Resources because it is a conflict of interest to supervise someone with whom you have a personal relationship. She is his supervisor, and she does not want to give off an appearance of favoritism towards him. It does not matter if they are dating yet or not. 

Confidentiality Violation

Question:  Kathleen knows Josh who is a student at the university very well. Josh tells Kathleen that an employee in the Administration department has been violating the confidentiality policies of the university. What is best thing for Kathleen to do?

Answer: Kathleen should ask Josh to report the incident and report it herself to Human Resources. Any disciplinary action should come from the appropriate individual in charge and follow university policy.

Conflicts of Interest

Question:  A vendor has been frequenting the office and Cathy asks him how he got into contact with the university. The vendor admits that his wife works for the school and pushed his company in the right direction. What should she do in this situation?

Answer:  Cathy needs to discuss the information that she gained from the vendor with Human Resources. It is a conflict of interest for his wife to be involved in the contract. It is also inappropriate to give one company an advantage because of personal relationships. 



Conflict of Commitment

Question:  Casey, a faculty member, uses his graduate assistant to help him work on some personal consulting. Is this appropriate?

Answer:  No, this is an example of a conflict of commitment as the faculty member has a commitment with the university that requires that the faculty member focused on providing instruction and mentoring to the graduate student, rather than having the graduate student work on a consulting project that primarily benefits the faculty member personally.  

Contract Renewal

Question:  Andy is ready to renew a vendor’s contract with the university in his role as Library Collections Procurement Manager. Should he report this procurement action or renew the contract himself?

Answer: Andy must follow all university policies and state laws regardless of his employment title. Hence, he needs to notify procurement.  Keep in mind only certain people are allowed to sign contracts on behalf of USM.

IHL Board Policy No. 707 makes clear that no one other than the IHL Board, the Institutional Executive Officers, and those USM officials to whom contract signature authority has been specifically granted in writing by the USM President, is authorized to sign any contract, of any type, on behalf of USM.  Only certain individuals have such authority and signing a contract without such authority is grounds for disciplinary action, including termination, as well as personal liability.  See Our Office | Office of General Counsel | The University of Southern Mississippi ( 

Equitable Treatment

Question:  Thomas a professor is worried about what he should do.  He has two students who are often late.  One is a great student, and one is not.  He would prefer not to mark the student who is excelling late.  Can he do that?

Answer:  No, Thomas has an obligation to treat all students equally. If he marks one student late and takes point away, he must do that for each student. 

Emails and Privacy Expectations

Question:  Mason becomes very close friends with other faculty in the Political Science Department. From time to time, he will send them inappropriate and offensive email chains and jokes. He only does this because he is sure that they will not be offended by his messages. Is this appropriate?

Answer: There is no expectation of privacy when using school emails. Professors and students should watch what is said on school email accounts and computers. The emails could be forwarded to other individuals including university officials or other university personnel such as iTech.  Anyone who reads the emails may be offended.  Hence, his actions are not appropriate. 

Technology Procedures and Policies

Question:  As the new faculty member in the Political Science Department, Martin has been given a school computer. He's enjoying setting it up with everything for his classes, but he has a few questions about what he is appropriate or inappropriate for him to do with his school-issued laptop. Martin is using Canvas to communicate with his students. Which of the following should Martin remember while using Canvas?

Answer: Discussion posts should be closely examined to make sure all participants are appropriate. Grades must be kept confidential. Passwords are also confidential and should be kept private. 

Private Information

Question:  Nadine has constructed a new program to enhance outreach for potential new students. To whom can she show her new plan?

Answer: Information such as that which is in the plan is the University's information and should be safeguarded from disclosure: it is not common knowledge and release could harm the institution.  

Time Is an Asset

Question:  was asked to present at a conference due to her job at the university. What should she remember when attending the conference?

Answer:  Remember, time used while on a conference for which the institution is paying is a resource and should be spent wisely.  Document all expenses accurately to be reimbursed.