Ethical infractions like misuse of research funds or abuse of the teacher-student relationship can seriously tarnish an institution's reputation, said Internal Audit Manager Seth Kornetsky and Information Systems Audit Manager Pamela Jerskey. Even seemingly small lapses - padding the books occasionally for outside expenses, or taking home extra office supplies - can come back to haunt an employee, they said.
The speakers urged the approximately 40 employees in attendance to put their day-to-day actions on the job to the "Front Page of the Newspaper" test: Would they be comfortable seeing what they do in the office put in the newspaper for their families to see?
"Our objective is to convince employees of the importance Boston College places on sound business practice and ethics," Kornetsky said. "We like to pro-actively educate the campus community as to what their responsibilities are."
Internal Audit Director William Chadwick added that the seminar, now in its fifth year, is aimed more at fostering a positive environment on campus than at addressing specific issues.
The auditors said ethical breaches include misuse of official power to take advantage of a subordinate; providing false data; and taking major assets that belong to the University, like computer equipment.
Kornetsky and Jerskey touched on various aspects of University policy regarding financial accounting, such as the need to document all transactions in University records and the ban on keeping office-related bank accounts outside the University reporting system. They also cautioned faculty members against the potential conflict of interest involved in financial dealings with companies that may be affected by their research.
Jerskey warned employees of the potential dangers of lax computer security. She urged computer users to closely guard their passwords and personal identification numbers, and to close out their e-mail whenever leaving their desks to prevent unauthorized messages from being sent through their accounts.
"U-Buy transactions or e-mail messages initiated under your password or PIN number indicate that you are the originator, even if you did not actually send it," she said. "Therefore, you may be held accountable."
Employees also were shown a video offering scenarios of various ethical dilemmas that may arise in higher education. The episodes included a scandal over misuse of research funds, a department head who considers altering fiscal records so as to provide holiday bonuses to staff, and a worker who uses office supplies for his outside business interests.
When presented with ethical choices, Kornetsky and Jerskey said, employees should resist rationalizations such as "everyone else is doing it," or "that's the way it has always been done." Instead, they said, employees should recall Mark Twain's maxim, "Always tell the truth. That way, you don't have to remember anything."
For in-depth information about business ethics policies at Boston College, see the Internal Audit Department's Information Security and Control Awareness World Wide Web site.
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